2021 Yearender: Green transformation

Ahmed Kotb , Friday 31 Dec 2021

Egypt has been speeding up its green transition while also preparing to host next year’s COP27 meeting on climate change.

Egypt, climate change
Egypt is implementing projects to enhance its ability to adapt to climate change

Countries around the world are stepping up their transition to clean energy and green economies to face the threats of climate change and achieve sustainable development.

A report issued in August by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis” was a wake-up call for immediate action to avoid what the report described as the “catastrophic warming” of the planet as a result of climate change driven by increasing carbon emissions.

The 3,500-page report warned of more extreme weather events, including extended heat waves, droughts, floods, and higher sea levels that will affect people living in coastal areas. It highlighted the urgent need for nations to accelerate plans to decarbonise and transition to renewable energy resources.

The UN Conference of the Parties on Climate Change (COP26) meeting that took place in the Scottish city of Glasgow in November also saw promises by world leaders to end deforestation by 2030. Trees play an important role in absorbing carbon dioxide, a driver of climate change, and forests act as carbon sinks, a term used to describe an area that absorbs large amounts of carbon emissions.

More than 100 countries, including the US and the European Union, signed the Global Methane Pledge, which aims to slash emissions of the powerful greenhouse gas by 2030. More than 40 countries also agreed during COP26 to shift away from coal and limit the burning of the fossil fuel to reduce global temperature rises.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has said that the full implementation of all the net-zero pledges made at COP26 and the Global Methane Pledge by signatories will limit global warming to 1.8 °C by 2100.

In 2015, 197 countries signed the Paris Agreement that aimed to keep global warming below 2 °C, and to aim for 1.5 °C in order to avoid a climate catastrophe. Countries have to keep cutting emissions and reach net zero by 2050 in order to achieve that goal through radical changes in industry, transport, agriculture and construction.

Egypt is also drawing up plans to help to save the planet, and during the COP26 meeting Yasmine Fouad, Egypt’s minister of environment, announced the launch of Egypt’s National Climate Change Strategy 2050, with five main objectives including cutting the emissions of various sectors to maintain sustainable economic growth, promoting the use of renewable energy sources, producing energy from waste, and using alternative energy forms like green hydrogen.

As Egypt prepares to host the COP27 meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh in 2022, Fouad explained that the country’s strategy will enable it to support the goals of Vision 2030 and effectively address the effects and repercussions of climate change by adopting a flexible, low-emissions approach, as well as improving the efficiency of thermal power plants and transmission and distribution networks.

The strategy also aims to protect natural resources and ecosystems, preserve state resources and assets from the effects of climate change, improve infrastructure, implement risk-reduction concepts, and establish early warning systems, she said.

It requires improving the infrastructure for financing climate-change projects and the promotion of scientific research, technology transfer, knowledge management, and awareness to combat climate change, Fouad said.

According to the strategy, innovative financing tools such as green bonds will be utilised alongside conventional financing instruments such as soft loans and grants from multilateral development banks. A national verification system will be established to monitor all forms of climate action.

Egypt launched green bonds worth $750 million in late 2020, one of the first countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to finance green projects, especially in the field of clean transportation.

Climate finance, or the money provided to help poorer countries cut emissions and protect themselves from climate-change impacts, is a debated issue at every COP meeting since the developed countries have failed to meet their promise to mobilise $100 billion in climate finance annually by 2020 to help the developing nations cope with mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The IPCC has said that between $1.6 and $3.8 trillion are needed annually for the transformation of energy systems alone between 2016 and 2050.


But even before Egypt launched its National Climate Change Strategy at COP26, it was already implementing projects to enhance its ability to adapt to climate change.

These include projects to protect Alexandria and the northern coastline from rising sea levels, rehabilitating and cultivating 1.5 million feddans of land to achieve food security and compensate for land degradation and the erosion of the Nile Delta, in addition to modernising traditional irrigation methods and improving the efficiency of water resource use, and wastewater treatment and reuse projects.

Climate-related challenges, Minister of Planning Hala Al-Said has been quoted as saying, pose significant risks to water, agriculture, and food security in Egypt.

Despite its low contribution to global greenhouse-gas emissions, estimated at about 0.6 per cent of total world emissions, Egypt’s transition to renewable energy and a green economy has been fast-tracked and become one of the integral parts of the country’s comprehensive development plans, including the National Hydrogen Strategy, the National Water Resources Strategy, and economic incentives to promote green transformation.

One development in Egypt’s transition towards green energy was President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi’s directive in July to prepare an integrated national strategy for the production of hydrogen in the light of the growing international interest in this green fuel. Egypt signed several agreements in 2021 to develop its green hydrogen industry.

Green hydrogen is hydrogen fuel created by using renewable energy instead of fossil fuel. It is said to enable energy-intensive industries to become more environmentally-friendly.

Egypt’s National Hydrogen Strategy is currently being prepared. An action plan is being written as well as studies exploring opportunities to localise the hydrogen industry in Egypt. The Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy has announced that green hydrogen will be an important alternative for energy production in the coming years and will be part of the country’s energy mix.

According to the Ministry of Planning, about 30 per cent of investment projects for fiscal year 2021-22 are planned as green projects, up from 15 per cent in the 2020-21 fiscal year.

Egypt’s portfolio of eligible green projects amounted to about $2 billion by the end of 2020, of which 16 per cent are in the field of renewable energy, 19 per cent for clean transportation, 26 per cent for water and sanitation, and 39 per cent in the field of pollution reduction.

All this helped Egypt advance from 26th place in 2020 to 20th place among the world’s top 40 markets in the Renewable Energy Country Attractiveness Index (RECAI) for 2021.

Egypt’s 2035 energy strategy aims to generate 61 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy, 31 GW of which are from solar energy, while concentrated solar power will constitute 12 GW and the remaining 18 GW will come from wind energy. One GW equals 1,000 megawatts (MW) of power.

According to Mohamed Shaker, Egypt’s minister of electricity and energy, the total installed capacity for renewable energy as of the end of 2021 will amount to 6,378 MW, representing about 20 per cent of total generated capacity, a target that was intended initially to be reached by the end of 2022.

“It is expected that the installed capacity of renewable energy will reach about 10,000 megawatts by the end of 2023,” he said.

According to the ministry, the increase in electricity production from renewable sources contributed to the saving of more than 750,000 tons of oil equivalent during fiscal year 2020-21, in addition to avoiding emissions of more than 2,230 megatons of carbon dioxide.

The implementation of the Benban Project, which houses more than 32 solar energy projects from photovoltaic cells, with a total capacity of about 1,465 megawatts, as well as giant wind farms with a capacity exceeding 1,500 megawatts, has resulted in the growing confidence of global companies in investing in Egypt, said Mohamed Al-Khayat, head of Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority (NREA).

All these renewable sources of energy are aimed at increasing the contribution of clean and renewable energy to more than 42 per cent of total generated capacity in Egypt by 2035.

The sun shines in Egypt for between nine and 11 hours a day, and the wind speed in some areas reaches 10 metres per second, such as at the Zafarana Wind Farm in the Gulf of Suez. This makes Egypt one of the top countries most suitable for solar-energy applications.

The energy sector represents about 13.1 per cent of Egypt’s GDP, according to government data.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 23 December, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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