The cabinet has agreed to produce guidelines for environmental sustainability standards that will be integrated into the state’s plans for sustainable development, it was announced this week.
Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Said said the announcement brought the country one step closer to its transformation into a green economy. Decrees had been issued for various ministries to form teams to be trained in integrating environmental standards into their projects, she added.
Al-Said said that sustainability standards would be factored in when allocating budgets for projects, with the move accelerating Egypt’s progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and related international commitments and making it one of the first Arab countries to integrate the green economy into the state budget through so-called “green budgeting”.
Incorporating sustainability standards into the state’s economic and social development programmes and Egypt’s Vision 2030 would help to preserve resources for following generations, Al-Said explained.
The environmental sustainability standards will be considered in the 2021-22 budget. Priority will be granted to projects that follow the new environmental guidelines, and the assessment of investment projects will be conducted according to sustainability standards, she added.
Green initiatives will be launched in coordination with the ministries concerned, and periodical reports will follow up on progress in implementing the new standards.
Al-Said said that there were 691 green projects in the 2020-21 budget at an estimated cost of LE447.3 billion, 15 per cent of which, or LE36.7 billion, came from public investments, with a stated goal of doubling the allocations in the next budget.
Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad said the cabinet’s approval of the environmental sustainability standards would help to spread a culture of sustainability and expand on integrating environmental dimensions into existing plans.
She said green investments targeting protecting natural resources from pollution and depletion, such as clean energy, recycling, and treating waste water, were being increased, and such green investments would improve Egypt’s competitiveness on the Environmental Performance Index by increasing such public investments from 15 per cent this year to 30 per cent in the next.
Green projects are development and service-oriented projects that take account of their effects on natural resources and increase the efficiency of their operations, she added.
The world was rearranging its priorities owing to changes resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic, Fouad said. In Egypt, the ministries of environment and planning collaborated to lay out a vision for Egypt’s transformation towards a green economy to increase the country’s investment opportunities, raise the competitiveness of local products, generate more job opportunities, and bring to a halt losses resulting from environmental deterioration, she added.
She said green projects helped to ensure the preservation of natural resources and biological diversity, reducing pollution, raising the efficiency of public spending, and increasing revenues. They also helped to increase competitiveness in production, rationalise water consumption, optimise benefits from non-conventional water resources, ensure the optimal utilisation of waste in safe and environmentally friendly means, and diversify energy sources to new and renewable resources.
Fouad cited as examples of green projects environmentally friendly industrial complexes, the development of canals, water desalination plants, treatment plants for medical waste, and solar energy projects.
The Ministry of Environment was providing the technical support for guidelines to integrate environmental factors into development projects and programmes to train public-sector executives in implementing and operating green projects, she said.
This was in tandem with the Ministry of Planning’s efforts to integrate sustainability standards into project evaluations, in addition to finding solutions to problems that could stand in the way of expanding projects across different sectors.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 12 November, 2020 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly