COP27: An opportunity and a responsibility

Azza Radwan Sedky
Sunday 31 Oct 2021

The 26th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 26) is scheduled to take place between 31 October and 12 November 12 2021 in Glasgow, England.

In a year’s time, Egypt will follow the same pursuit when it hosts the 27th session (COP27) in Sharm El Sheikh. No doubt it is an opportunity and a responsibility combined. 

The COP is the decision-making body responsible for monitoring and implementing the United Nation’s framework on climate change. It unites the 197 nations involved, and it meets yearly to discuss the implementations accrued and to assess the progress made. During the Conference, countries report back on how much emission reduction each has committed to in the hopes of limiting and mitigating greenhouse gas emissions towards the ambitious net-zero by 2050.

Many of the COP conferences were milestones in themselves. The first COP conference was held in Berlin in 1995; the Kyoto Protocol was signed in Kyoto, Japan, during COP3, in 1997; and the first international climate agreement, the Paris Agreement, was signed in COP21, in Paris in 2015.

The Paris Agreement established a legal and binding obligation, where countries and their governments agreed to work to keep the world’s average temperature below “rising to 2°C,” preferably to keep it below 1.5°C and report back every five years. The first five years came up in November 2020, but due to Covid-19, it was postponed to November 2021. This is why COP26 is important since it is the first time after Paris that countries will converge and report on whether they have been able to strengthen their commitment to climate change or not.

COP26 comes at a vital juncture in history, after a summer of scorching unparalleled heat, catastrophic floods, and devastating wildfires. Jeff Tollefsos in Nature considers the conference momentous, as “20,000 people from 196 countries—including world leaders, scientists, and activists—will soon converge in Glasgow, UK, for the most anticipated United Nations climate summit in years.”

As far as the location of the Conference of the Parties (COP) is concerned, it is rotated amongst the different regions every year. The country chosen takes over the presidency of the Conference of the Parties (COP) and hosts the Conference. And it is Egypt’s time to shine as the host of COP 27.

The responsibilities involved are immense. First, the host country follows the COP protocol set by the United Nations. The UN’s handbook, How to COP, subtitled “Handbook for Hosting United Nations Climate Change Conferences,” sets the protocol and refers to all the steps that the host country must pursue. It prefaces the information by saying, “Host countries will need to appreciate the scale of the undertaking: success calls for a coordinated, cooperative effort on a national scale,” which is a fair assumption. The handbook also emphasizes the importance of early planning and working closely with the UN Climate Change Secretariat throughout the planning process.

Another important requirement in the host country is that it be classified as a “safe country,” and that it has a developed a network of transportation, aviation, communications, and hotel rooms at various levels to accommodate the large number of participants. Moreover, vital facilities such as security, hospitals, vaccination centres, etc., be available Undoubtedly, these are givens that will be followed impeccably by the Egyptian conference leaders.

During the conference, Egypt will speak for all Africa and must present to the world how it is leading the African countries towards a better environment. Although Egypt’s chairmanship of the African Union ended in 2019, it continues to focus on Africa, with various development projects, and the potential to supply Africa with COVID-19 vaccine. In September Egypt announced its plan to manufacture one billion doses a year of the Sinovac vaccine, and in the process be able to provide Africa with much of its needed vaccine supply.

COP27 is a responsibility for sure, but it is also an opportunity like no other. And the onus lies on the collective effort of all Egyptians to show to the world how Egypt is handling climate change.

More importantly, it is indeed an opportunity to make Egyptians aware of how climate change will affect Egypt. Egypt is vulnerable to the risk of climate change including the potential for flooding along the north coast as the sea rises, the potential for droughts with shortage in water resources caused by lack of rain and hotter weather.

Egypt must exhibit to the world how it has developed and strengthened its climate change campaign and policies. Mega projects are underway to generate solar and wind energy, and to protect sea erosion. Awareness campaigns to rationalize water consumption and lining streams to save water waste, and using modern irrigation systems to save wasted water are all in the works. Hundreds of buses powered by electric power are being built in the hopes of improving air quality, and, soon, Egypt will manufacture the electric cars (E70), with expected production to reach 50,000 cars per year. And in October 2020, the World Bank approved a $200 million project for Egypt to improve air quality, combat climate change and reduce emissions of air pollutants and global warming. And all new cities are considered smart cities that are eco-friendly and greener. 

It is also an opportunity to cultivate amongst Egyptian the notions of climate change: how precious water is, what happens to the Nile when it is encroached upon and swamped in waste, and why we should all realize what is happening to the planet.

In 2022, the world will be watching demanding Egypt rise to the moment.

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