Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri passed on the presidency of the UN Climate Conference to Sultan Al-Gaber, president-designate of the 28th session of the Conference of the Parties to the Climate Change Convention (COP28) in the UAE this week.
The handover, occurring during the opening session of the COP28, was held in the presence of the Egyptian delegation from the ministries of the environment and foreign affairs, as well as representatives from over 198 countries and international organisations. Egypt assumed the presidency of the COP27 in November 2022 in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh.
Egypt’s Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad, also coordinator and ministerial envoy for the COP27, said Egypt is committed to building on the outcomes achieved during the previous COP through close collaboration with the UAE presidency of the COP28 to advance the negotiations and new initiatives.
These efforts include activating the Loss and Damage Fund announced in Sharm El-Sheikh last year, working towards the new collective goal of climate financing, and promoting the Nature-Based Solutions Initiative (ENACT), launched in partnership with Germany during the COP27 and involving the participation of nearly 30 countries.
In addition, Egypt joined the Methane Challenge, with the Ministry of Petroleum compiling a list of projects requiring funding to reduce methane emissions in oil and gas production.
Fouad pointed to the challenge of securing funding to support adaptation efforts in the developing countries, estimated at $160 billion annually. However, the current financing for adaptation efforts amounts to only $22 billion per year, she said.
The funding required to fulfil the commitments of the developing countries until 2030 is set at $6 trillion, with the current annual financing not exceeding $100 billion.
To implement the energy transformation, she said, there is a need for $1 trillion annually, and to achieve carbon neutrality $4 trillion is needed.
Experts estimate a gap of $2.5 trillion in climate financing, exacerbated by the debt crisis facing the developing countries due to external factors. This places additional constraints, escalating financing costs, and more complicated access to loans on them, Fouad said.
She stated that the Egyptian Pavilion at the COP28 has showcased Egypt’s efforts to expedite climate action and translate ambitions into action.
It has spotlighted the crucial theme of voluntary carbon markets in the Global South, exploring their pivotal role in driving sustainable development and resilience.
Another event has delved into innovative solutions for cities grappling with the challenges posed by climate change, green infrastructure, sustainable transportation, and the development of policies to reshape urban landscapes.
In his address at the COP28, President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi urged all countries to adopt measures to address the economic repercussions imposed by the climate crisis, which incurs trillions of dollars in costs annually for the global economy.
Among the pivotal measures he emphasised is the expedited activation of mechanisms to tackle debts in developing countries, including those in the middle-income bracket, through the development and expansion of debt-swap mechanisms for development.
Al-Sisi called on all nations to join the Sustainable Debt Alliance Initiative launched by Egypt in collaboration with the UN Economic Commission for Africa. Additionally, he urged all countries to align with the Bridgetown Initiative, proposed by the prime minister of Barbados.
This initiative aims to waive additional fees imposed on the developing countries by international financial institutions and to accelerate the restructuring of the international financial system. The objective is to facilitate the mobilisation of additional financing for climate change actions, distinct from the funds allocated for development and poverty eradication.
The focus should be on employing soft financing tools, such as grants and soft loans, to address the challenges posed by climate change effectively, Al-Sisi said.
He stressed the need for an international response to the challenges associated with financing adaptation and addressing climate-change related losses and damages. He emphasised the need to quadruple adaptation financing and to activate innovative financing mechanisms while avoiding their transformation into constraints on the developing countries.
Ali Abu Senna, CEO of the Egyptian Environmental Affairs Agency, highlighted the dangers of climate change for the world’s ecosystems. He referred to the Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) regarding the crucial role of young people in addressing climate change and constructing a sustainable future.
He said that the report recognises young people as change-makers, innovators, and drivers of climate action. Their significant contributions include raising awareness, developing inventive solutions, and mobilising communities.
Magdi Allam, Secretary-General of the Union of Arab Environmental Experts, warned against the repercussions of natural disasters related to climate change. Addressing these challenges is imperative to prevent further losses of agricultural areas, he said, adding that hurricanes have led to alterations in certain countries’ coastlines.
Although Africa’s greenhouse-gas emissions account for only four per cent of the global total, the continent, together with South America, is bearing a heavy toll from climate change.
He acknowledged Egypt’s role in pushing for a compensatory mechanism for losses and damage, although disagreements persist regarding the specific details of this mechanism. The COP28 is set to decide when and where the Loss and Damage Fund will be formed and who will preside over it, Allam added.
Emad Al-Din Adly, chairman of the Arab Office for Youth and the Environment and an expert in environmental and sustainable development, said that the rich nations bear 80 per cent of the responsibility for emissions. These countries should take decisive action to curb their emissions such that the critical temperature limit of 1.5 degrees Celsius more than the pre-industrial period is not breached, he added.
Adly noted that it is unreasonable for the highly industrialised nations to insist that the developing countries, which are resource-poor and emit less, commit to emission reductions. These less-affluent nations lack the means, particularly technological, to significantly reduce their emissions, he said, and action to reduce global emissions must rest with the wealthy industrialised nations.
The developing countries, facing the consequences of climate change, are in dire need of the financing promised by the Loss and Damage Fund, Adly said. The responsibility to finance and support this Fund lies with the developed nations.
Adly pointed out that global temperatures have increased by approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius and in the Arab region 1.3 degrees Celsius. Progress towards limiting temperature increases to 1.5 degrees Celsius, reducing emissions, and allocating adequate financing for the developing countries has been slow, he said.
What Egypt needs the most are adaptation projects, particularly in the agricultural sector for food security, Adly said. Challenging circumstances marked by a decline in per capita water availability due to population growth, climate change, and issues related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) make adaptation projects even more crucial, he added.
Rising temperatures exacerbate crises in agriculture, especially in the Delta and coastal areas, necessitating projects aimed at adapting to these changes, Adly said.
He noted the need to bolster the role of civil society institutions that lack resources, stressing that this is a shared responsibility and includes laws, incentives, and access to financing opportunities.
A collaborative approach is necessary to ensure the effectiveness and impact of civil society in addressing critical issues, especially those of climate change, Adly concluded.
* A version of this article appears in print in the 7 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly