‘We should not kill the 1.5 °C target on African soil:’ Egypt’s lead negotiator at COP27

Ashraf Amin , Monday 31 Oct 2022

"I do not think we should be killing the 1.5 Celsius climate target on African soil while Africa is among the most impacted continents by climate change," Ambassador Mohamed Nasr, the lead negotiator of Egypt’s COP27 presidency, said during a webinar on Climate Change that was held on Thursday.

Ambassador Mohamed Nasr


The 2022 UN Climate Change Conference (COP27), which is set to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh 6-18 November, will focus on scaling up and implementing an on-the-ground transition through the delivery of financing, technology and political commitment for clean energy and sustainable development, added Ambassador Nasr, who is also the director general of climate change, environment and sustainable development at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affair.

The webinar was organised by Al-Ahram and moderated by MP Dina Abdel-Karim.

It featured the participation of panel of 20 science journalists from France and Francophone African countries.

Panel: How will Egypt speak out for Africa in COP27?

Ambassador Mohamed Nasr: From the Egyptian presidency’s point of view, our approach is on three fronts. Firstly, to ensure that climate issues are still at the top of the global agenda. Secondly, to follow up and ensure the cycle for implementation without rounds of pledging. We are focused on moving forward on-the-ground concerning implementation at the scale that was requested by COP26 in Glasgow. Thirdly, we are bringing forward the specificities of developing countries and in particular African countries.

In this part we are very cognisant and making sure that is reflected in the presidency program with respect to the global context. Africa has a critical status as it is the second most impacted region by climate change, according to science, but also because Africa has a lot of potentials regarding mitigation and livelihood.

Unfortunately, with the increasing interest and support for climate change during the past decade, Africa has been left behind. If we look to the numbers, Africa has only attracted about two percent of the global investments in renewable energy in the past 10 years. 600 million Africans do not have access to energy. 900 million do not have access to clean cooking. Several African countries are not attractive for investment in climate projects. With the many risks that Africa is facing, the cost of finance is very high. In addition, African governments are paying up to five percent of their GDP to deal with adaptation, according to the Economic Commission for Africa and the African Union.

That is why we are trying at the presidency to bring Africa to the table, not only for the discussion but to have Africa as a cross-cutting item in all the thematic days.

Panel: What are the main initiatives that Egypt will bring during the discussions?

MN: Africa is responsible for only four percent of global emissions, but the continent is very much impacted and has a big potential, not only in industry and energy generation, but in being able to achieve a just transition.

Ensuring that a fair share of the finance will be directed to Africa will be part of the discussions in the COP.

For sure, Africa is the least polluting continent, but in the Paris Agreement every country has to do its fair share and to adopt changes to its development model. The international development model is now under reconstruction.

We all agree economic development should be carbon neutral or have a very low carbon impact, but there is no agreement on the pathways and this is the challenge we are facing now.

How can we define the pathways, understanding that we have different starting points, different needs, and different historical responsibilities? For example, the carbon budget is a topic of discussion that we are hearing about from a lot of scientists. The question is, should we share the carbon budget fairly or should we include the historic responsibility of many countries who were responsible for the carbon emissions?

Our focus now is to push for a just transition agenda to allow for adaption and ensure social and economic development. We hope that our African negotiators with the presidency will be able to take moves forward not only for Africa but also globally.

Panel: How has the presidency acted to include more stakeholders and civil society, especially from Africa, in this COP?

MN: When we analysed civil society participation, it was very clear that the majority of civil society groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) who would participate were from the global north. Only a very limited number from Africa were participating, and just one NGO was from Egypt and the Middle East.

In that respect, we worked with the secretariat of the COP and we applied criteria to allow for flexibility for one-time accreditation.

Through this we added more than 40 NGOs from Africa and Egypt to take part in the blue zone [negotiations, alongside government delegations and other observers]. We worked on the inclusion process with the secretariat, the African negotiators and our colleagues in different African countries to give African NGOs the chance to to have their voice heard in the discussions.

Aside from this, we are having regular engagements with different civil society groups and NGOs.

Panel: How will the presidency address the problems of vulnerable communities?

MN: This is a two-tier subject.

First, we are working hard in the negotiations on the loss and damage issue to make funding mechanisms available to the most affected countries by climate change.

Secondly, we are also working with financial institutions to allow quick funding for loss and damage.

We are also working with stakeholders to see the success stories and what is happening in the different supporting schemes for loss and damage. We hope after these negotiations to reach a mechanism for loss and damage funding.

Panel: What about climate finance, which represents the central component of the conference?

MN: Usually, climate finance is the most difficult part of the negations. We have pledges and we hope they will be fulfilled. We will ensure that the discussions on climate finance deliver on-the-ground projects and proper shifting from planning to implementation.

We are also keen to bring discussions on adaptation projects, which have always been left behind. 60-70 percent of the climate finance goes to mitigation projects, which are revenue generating, while less than 30 percent of the funding goes to adaptation projects.

We need to increase funding for adaptation projects and to put forward the proper instruments for adaptation specially because they are not a revenue generating activity and that is why they are not attractive to the private sector.

Panel: Is the 1.5 Celsius warming limit cited in the Paris Agreement still applicable or should we consider a new standard?

MN: I do not think we should be killing the 1.5 °C target on African soil as Africa is among the most impacted continents by climate change. We should keep pushing for the 1.5 °C pathway.

The challenge here is that we have been planning over many years and we now need to see how much we have done on the ground. How much we have received? Are the outcomes what we expected? Without answering those questions, we will not be able to make a clear assessment. Science has answered that we are not on the right track as the global community on mitigation, adaptation, climate finance and many other aspects.

Our question in this COP will be how can we rectify that? We will push for appropriate financing and a more transformative, adaptative agenda, and we hope that the parties will collaborate to keep the 1.5 °C limit a reality.

The COPs are accumulative activities over the years that take time. Unfortunately, climate change will not wait for us to fix our problems. This should be a clear message to take us forward. Hopefully, by the end of COP27 we will reach an agreement that puts us on the right track to adopt a just transition.

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