INTERVIEW: Countries must raise their aspirations to deal with climate change: Shoukry

Alaa Thabet , Tuesday 4 Oct 2022

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry spoke to Ahram Editor-in-Chief Alaa Thabet in an interview, saying that countries must raise their aspirations if the effects of climate change are to be confronted.

Sameh Shoukry   Alaa Thabet
Egypt s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry during his interview Alaa Thabet editor-in-chief of the Al-Ahram Newspaper. Photo courtesy of Egyptian Foreign ministry Facebook page.

 

Shoukry said he hoped the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which is set to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh 6-18 November, would crystallise pledges into practical measures on the ground.

Shoukry, who is also president-designate of COP27, said developing countries cannot fund measures to face the climate change crisis alone, especially considering the big industrial countries are responsible for 85 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

He also spoke about the Russia-Ukraine war, affirming Egypt’s stance calling for a comprehensive political process in order to solve the crisis and stop military escalation, and pointed out that Egypt has exerted much effort in this respect.

Ahram Online: First of all, to what extent did the Russian-Ukrainian crisis affect the 77th session of the UN General Assembly? How did this crisis cast its shadow on the biggest international organisation in the world?

Sameh Shoukry: The 77th session of the UN General Assembly was held after three years of hiatus, due to the coronavirus pandemic.

We paid huge attention to the new session with a number of important messages that were important to convey, whether in bilateral meetings or through Egypt’s speech addressing the General Assembly.

The current tensions played a role in the sessions due to the Russian-Ukrainian crisis, which has had severe repercussions, especially on developing countries.

The talk was always focused on the necessity that developed countries and countries concerned with keeping international peace and security take heed of this crisis’ repercussions on developing countries and the pressures emanating from it, especially in the field of food and the inflation and downturn in the world’s economy as well as the rising energy prices.

All these matters are strong pressures on developing countries after the coronavirus pandemic. Its direct effects on the peoples doubled after the Russian-Ukrainian crisis. Thus, it has become the international community’s duty to carry its responsibilities and contain these crises after several international changes took place with the advent of the 21st century.

There was an ambition that international relations be built on cooperative bases, on globalisation and on development, not on bickering and antagonistic policies.

In fact, we highlighted this important characteristic during the last UN session, since competition outside the system of international rules makes way to a high degree of international polarisation.

This in turn has its effects on the developing countries, putting them in an uncomfortable situation so that they cannot focus their efforts on development and deal with all parties in order to achieve their interests.

It was also vital that we asserted the importance that the international community should return to relying on the rules of international legitimacy embodied in the UN Charter and numerous decisions.

These rules should be applied without selectivity and double standards.

We do not call for applying these rules to some crises and developments while ignoring them on other issues. A number of forces demanded that the system of international rules be applied without duplicity or attempting to bend them in order to serve certain political interests.

All this, in fact, comes under the title of reforming the UN system and extracting it from the methods controlling it, especially the stagnancy engulfing the Security Council. This council, with its rules and mechanisms, has become unable to carry out its responsibilities in keeping peace and security.

AO: What are the most important points that Egypt raised during the UN sessions to solve the Russian-Ukrainian crisis?

SS: Since the beginning of the crisis, Egypt has called for a political solution and his Excellency President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi is exerting huge effort with both President Putin and President Zelensky to contain the crisis and pushing towards a political diplomatic path. [The goal is] to reduce the devastating effects of the military conflict that is causing people to suffer and which has had an impact on different developing countries, especially regarding food security and pressing economic situation.

Egypt has moved heartily in this respect within the Arab League and formed the Arab Contact Group, which has visited Moscow and met the Ukrainian foreign minister in Poland. When I participated in New York, I met once again Minister Lavrov, focusing on what Egypt can do in the light of its strong relations with both Russia and the Ukraine or through activating the Arab Contact Group.

Egypt has offered all the help it can in order to exit this crisis and launch a meaningful political process considering the interests of both parties and sidestepping military action, especially since the current situation has become dangerous. The escalation must be reduced along with its repercussions.

AO: The countdown to Egypt’s hosting of the climate summit has started and the foreign ministry has turned into a beehive of preparation. What are the most important points on the Egyptian agenda that will be presented during the upcoming summit?

SS: Climate issue is an existential issue. The effect of what we have witnessed recently, represented in the floods that swept Pakistan and the unprecedented rise in summer temperatures in Europe and the USA and other severe natural phenomena, are all renewing warnings that were launched in recent years from scientists and those concerned with climate changes, whether in Paris or in Glasgow.

From the outset, when it was decided that Egypt will host the next climate summit, we intended it to be the beginning of executing the commitments mentioned in the Paris and Glasgow conferences. This is based upon a vision that the international community should close ranks in addressing this problem by reducing carbon emissions and enhancing adaptation to the devastating effects of climate change.

Throughout last year, Egypt has made several contacts in order to stimulate countries to raise their aspirations in order to achieve more through adaptation or reduction as well as by working on overcoming the funding gap, especially from the developed countries towards the developing countries.

Developing countries cannot face climate change without being provided with funds to deploy modern technologies and to adapt to the effects of change. Developing countries in general and the African countries in particular have contributed no carbon emissions worth mentioning in comparison with the big industrial countries and the G20 countries, which are responsible for about 85 percent of the world’s carbon emissions.

In spite of this, developing countries and African countries in particular have started to take a series of measures in this context, being aware of the importance of joint efforts in addressing the dangers of climate changes.

But this demands needed funds to attract investment in the field of new and renewable energy and introduce modern technologies to reduce their emissions.

Egypt hopes that the 27th climate summit ends with practical measures to help developing countries meet these commitments.

It is also hoped that this summit will become a window to open a serious discussion about these measures and witness the crystallisation of these beginnings in order to put a framework for dealing with the issue of losses and harms in an objective way.

AO: In the context of funding, Egypt has demanded the donor countries donate $100 billion in order to address this issue. What was the response?

SS: The $100 billion objective was approved in Copenhagen and that was a proof of trust and good faith between developing and developed countries. However, until now this commitment by developed countries has not materialised. There is a real deficit in reaching this funding, but we hope that this commitment will be met during the COP27 sessions.

As a matter of fact, it is an essential commitment for building confidence and it is a very humble amount in the face of the challenge, for we need enhancement and we also need to strike a balance between the available funding for softening the effect and the funding for adaptation.

All these issues were raised during the informal ministerial meetings held in Berlin, Copenhagen and Stockholm. The Egyptian delegation has been engaged in consultations throughout the year through virtual media with all the important negotiating groups.

We hope that there is a political will among all countries in order to continue to deal with this issue with the degree of seriousness it requires.

We are reckoning with geopolitical tensions entering the negotiating table. We warn against this since the climate issue is an issue that should be dealt with through closing ranks in the international community and must be isolated from any geopolitical problems and these problems should not be taken as a pretext on going back on commitments and backing off from previously attained progress in the climate change and the emissions issues.

AO: Egypt is exerting a huge effort in order that the summit succeed, but this has not stopped attacks that sow suspicion. How do you see this matter?

SS: On the organisational level, we have been persevering in our work for months and the higher committee headed by the prime minister is working day and night.

His Excellency the President has held a number of meetings with all the concerned ministries, whether to check on the organisational sides or to raise objective issues. [He is also checking in] on the efforts that Egypt exerts to enhance its capability to adapt and in softening the effects.

On the organisational level, there are diligent efforts to transform Sharm El-Sheikh into a green city that will attract new and renewable energy, whether in hotels and resorts or in means of transport. [There are also efforts to] raise the city and conference centre’s efficiency, which will receive huge numbers of visitors whether presidents or heads of participating delegations and civil society and the private sector.

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