Egypt's senate discusses climate change threat to Alexandria after dire warning from UK PM

Gamal Essam El-Din , Monday 20 Dec 2021

The Senate – Egypt's consultative upper house – devoted a full session on Monday to discussing the impact of climate change on Alexandria and the country's Mediterranean coast following a warning from British PM Boris Johnson that Alexandria could disappear.

Egypt s Environment Minister Yasmin Fouad speaks before the Egyptian Senate, 20 December 2021. Egyptian Ministry of Environment

The senate's discussion was held upon a request submitted by senator Walid El-Tamami and supported by 25 senators.

El-Tamami said the COP26 Climate Summit, held in Glasgow, Scotland between 31 October and 12 November and attended by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, rang alarm bells about climate change and its negative impact, which could lead to the disappearance of three cities, one of which is Egypt's Alexandria.

"A statement by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in this respect has caused a state of anxiety among all Egyptians, particularly the people of Alexandria and other Mediterranean cities like Marsa Matruh, Damietta, Rosetta, Port Said, and Al-Arish," said Al-Tamami.

In a speech before the COP26 summit, Johnson said "when the temperature rises only 4 degrees, we will say goodbye to entire cities, which are Miami, Alexandria, and Shanghai, they will all sink underwater."

Al-Tamami asked that Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly explain the measures the government intends to take to deal with the impact of climate change and protect Egypt's Mediterranean cities, particularly Alexandria.

El-Tamami said the selection of Egypt, as representative of the continent of Africa, to host the 27th round of the climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2022, should prompt the government to face the challenge of climate change and its expected impact on Mediterranean cities, water resources and agricultural production in Egypt.

"Some international studies warned some years ago of the danger threatening Alexandria city as a result of rising sea levels due to increased temperatures caused by climate change," said Hossam El-Khouli, the representative of the majority party Mostaqbal Watan, adding that "there should be measures on the ground in Egypt to protect the historic city of Alexandria." 

The governor of Alexandria, Mohamed El-Sherif, said in a statement a few days ago that "the city has been exposed to torrential rains and floods since 2015 and this is increasing every year, leading to huge waves with storms."

In response, Minister of the Environment Yasmin Fouad said, "Not all public speeches on climate change are correct, and I think they just aim to ring alarm bells."

According to Fouad, there are two scenarios for the disappearance of Alexandria.

"The first [scenario] is that some parts of the city will sink, and the second is that Alexandria will not sink," said Fouad, adding that "the science says Alexandria will not sink, not to mention the Egyptian government has formulated a clear-cut plan for addressing climate change and protecting Alexandria."

Fouad also revealed that more than EGP 7 billion ($445 million) have been allocated over the past five or six years to implement protection measures at Egyptian beaches, particularly those of Alexandria.  

"We are also implementing an early warning system and drafting plans to address any potential negative impact of climate change on Mediterranean and Nile Delta cities," the minister said.

"Climate change could cause severe drought or severe floods, not to mention that high temperatures could spread epidemics and pandemics," said Fouad.

The minister said that climate change has already begun to adversely affect Egypt.

"We have begun to see huge quantities of rainfall, we see in a few hours a whole winter's worth of rainfall, not to mention the change in temperatures and the time of floods, and shortages in crop production," said Fouad.

The minister also revealed that since 2019 Egypt has been preparing to host the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh.

Speaker of the Senate Abdel-Wahab Abdel-Razek said the discussion request submitted by Senator El-Tamami on climate change and Environment Minister Fouad's response to questions will be part of a report to be prepared by the Senate's Energy and Environment Committee.

"We will continue discussing climate change until we prepare a comprehensive report on this highly important issue ahead of the COP27 summit in Sharm El-Sheikh," Abdel-Razek said.

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