Glasgow is preparing to host 197 countries in the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in November amid international fears of the devastating repercussions of climate change. It is imperative, the world agrees, the conference comes up with decisive recommendations.
Meanwhile, Egypt is gearing up to host COP27 next year.
One of the current challenges is to hold global warming to below 1.5°C, said the UK government’s climate chief Alok Sharma, who is leading COP26. Sharma told the media that carbon emissions should be reduced by 45 per cent by 2030. The $100 billion industrial countries pledged to pay towards this end are no longer enough, he added, pointing out that trillions of dollars are needed annually for this purpose.
In any case, the industrial countries paid only $79 billion. Three-quarters of the sum in 2018 was paid in the form of repayable loans, which puts more chips on the shoulders of poor countries.
The world is pinning high hopes on COP26, especially amid the coronavirus challenges and countries’ demands to work on zero-emission measures, said Yasmine Fouad, the Egyptian minister of environment. Egypt and the UK co-chaired a coalition on climate adaptation and resilience at the 2019 Climate Change Summit, called for by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at the 74th session of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York.
The issue of resilience and adaptation is of utmost importance for developing countries, given that they are the most affected by the impact of climate change. Seven initiatives on resilience and adaptation have been prepared and they are ready to be implemented once the funding is available. The most important of these is the African Energy Initiative announced by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, Fouad said.
She stated that Egypt had taken several steps to mitigate the effects of climate change, such as the interactive map that identifies the areas most vulnerable to climate change threats to prevent urban expansion. The minister of water resources and irrigation is also working on the same path, she added. Egypt acquired a $34 million grant to build dams in Rosetta, Kafr Al-Sheikh, and the North Coast to meet the challenge of increases in sea levels. Fouad said COP27 will be a good opportunity to receive more funds to counter the dangers of climate change.
Egypt has put in place criteria to choose the COP27 Climate Action Champion, a person who is responsible for mobilising stronger and more ambitious climate action, Fouad stated. The country is also encouraging the business community to do more for the environment while incentivising investment in the field. It is also applying mechanisms to attract the private sector to chip in. The prime minister is the head of the National Council of Climate Change, she noted.
A national strategy for climate change and another for adaptation have been drafted, the private sector, youth, and civil society are taking part and innovative measures to confront climate change repercussions have been taken, she added. The link between climate change, biodiversity, and desertification was one of the important points that Egypt was keen to highlight during its presidency of the COP14 of the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Furthermore, Egypt is pursuing its efforts to support the African continent in climate negotiations and the Paris Agreement, and to come up with the two African initiatives for adaptation and renewable energy, Fouad said, noting that the African initiative for renewable energy is an ongoing project.
The minister stated that Egypt is expressing its appreciation for the African Union and African Commission for their support of Egypt in holding COP27 — Egypt being the representative of Africa. The country is well aware of the challenges Africa is facing to reduce carbon emission, she said, pointing out that COP27 is a chance to support African demands and to help the continent acquire the needed funds to implement adaptation plans.
At COP26, Egypt will present its success story in expanding in renewable energy, Fouad continued.
Emadeddin Adli, head of the Egyptian Forum for Sustainable Development, said civil society organisations always seek to partner with the government in efforts to combat climate change. There are many models, activities, and initiatives that are implemented in cooperation with the government to protect the environment and avoid the negative effects of climate change, he added, stressing that Egypt is determined to effect radical transformation on the issue of climate change.
Egypt and Africa’s carbon emissions are estimated at less than five per cent of global emissions, the majority of which are produced by the US, Japan, and Europe, Adli said. Emissions affect the world’s water and food security so Egypt places great priority in adapting to climate change, which may cause a number of challenges, such as drought as a result of the lack of rain — and water in general with the increase in population — the increase in the salinity of the earth, and the rise in sea level, which affects a large part of the Delta and agricultural lands, he explained.
Magdi Allam, advisor to the World Climate Programme and secretary-general of the Union of Arab Environmental Experts, said temperatures are expected to rise by 1.5°C by 2025. Developing countries are paying the price of Europe’s industrial progress, Allam said, adding that the periodic meetings on the climate change agreement, to which Egypt and a large number of countries are signatory, submit annual reports on climate change.
River deltas are witnessing a rise in sea water levels following the melting of ice in the Arctic, which increases the salinity of agricultural lands and water, resulting in water logging, Allam said, explaining that 20 per cent of Egypt’s Delta coasts have been affected by the rise in sea level and the increase of water salinity. A $300 million project by the Coast Protection Authority and the Ministry of Irrigation is being implemented to counter erosion and the rise of Mediterranean Sea water above the Delta surface.
It is expected that sea levels will rise above ground level by 50cm the world over in the near future, Allam warned.
It is taking Egypt $30 billion to fix the irrigation system in Egypt and counter climate change repercussions, he stated, pointing out that Egypt spent $750 million to deal with the effects of climate change.
Industrial countries “heated the surface of the earth and the atmosphere and created a hole in the atmosphere that is difficult to mend,” Allam stated. “The only solution is to reduce carbon emissions that are produced by 20 leading industrial countries. The European Union is the only committed bloc. The US, China, India, and Russia are still producing emissions that increase global warming.”
Ahmed Kamal Abdel-Moneim, executive director of the Environmental Compliance and Sustainable Development Office at the Egyptian Federation of Industries, said the office and federation are taking part in COP26. The office will hold an event on 3 November, on the sidelines of the summit, with representatives of the private sector, to present their success stories.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 28 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly