Egypt launched its first national dialogue on climate change in the Red Sea resort city of Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday as part of its preparations for hosting the UN Climate Change Conference COP27 in November.
The dialogue was held on the same day Earth Hour is observed, with Egypt using the occasion to announce its National Climate Change Strategy 2050. Linked to the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, the strategy promotes sustainable economic development and climate governance.
Opening the dialogue, Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad said Egypt considers COP27 a conference for action, not pledges, and that it was essential the conference identified actions that can mitigate the repercussions of climate change.
Protecting the planet is the responsibility of everyone — individual citizens, the media, clerics, civil society, women, and young people — and Egypt is focused on raising awareness about the effects of climate change, helping people to help in the cause by rationing their use of water, energy, and resources, said Fouad.
Reviewing Egypt’s efforts to address climate change, Fouad stressed the importance of seawater desalination and wastewater reuse projects, schemes designed to protect the Nile Delta and to use renewable energy, and environment-friendly energy sources. She highlighted progress on the Benban project, a $2 billion solar park in Aswan where 30 solar power plants will eventually generate 1.5 GW of electricity.
Though Egypt’s greenhouse gas emissions comprise less that one per cent of the global burden, Fouad underlined that climate change, from seasonal weather changes to wildfires, represented a reality on the ground in everyone’s lives and everybody must be part of the solution.
Khaled Fouda, Governor of South Sinai, spoke about efforts in recent years to develop Sharm El-Sheikh’s infrastructure the better to allow the city to host international environment-related conferences.
Work is progressing around the clock to turn Sharm El-Sheikh into a green city and decrease its emissions, he said. The city has received 300 electric buses in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, built a garage on an area of 100,000 square metres with electric vehicle chargers in cooperation with the Ministry of Transport, is working to convert 800 taxis to run on natural gas, replace 150 microbuses with new vehicles fuelled by gas or electricity, and is developing stations to include natural gas and electricity chargers.
The city is also cooperating with the ministries of tourism and environment to put in place regulations for hotels covering solar energy use, and is working to increase the number of green spaces, including a model garden in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, and another garden near King Salman University.
Plots of land have already been allocated for the building of two solar energy stations, with a third planned for the Nabq area. Together, the stations will produce 20 MW.
Nazeer Ayad, Secretary-General of Al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy, said Al-Azhar was working to educate people about climate change at mosques, schools, institutes, and universities, and promote practices to reduce the threats. Al-Azhar is also publishing articles in its magazine to spread awareness about the importance of prioritising ways to tackle climate change.
The immediate task ahead, said Fouad, is to translate the National Climate Change Strategy 2050 into a set of tangible projects that promote mitigation and reduce emissions. To this end, she emphasised the importance of engaging young people, women and children.
As part of its participation in Earth Hour, observed around the world on 26 March, Egypt encouraged the public and businesses to turn off unnecessary lights and electrical equipment in an attempt to draw attention to the harmful impact of the excessive use of energy.
The theme of this year’s Earth Hour, Shape Our Future, threw a spotlight on the need to conserve energy and save the environment for coming generations.
Fouad said the Ministry of Environment had coordinated with other ministries and governorates to turn off lights at local landmarks and raise awareness about taking positive, serious steps to reduce the consumption of resources by change everyday practices that raise the level of harmful gas emissions.
Earth Hour, launched in Sydney, Australia, in 2007, is now marked by 190 countries. It grew quickly into a global movement, inspiring individuals, societies, businesses and corporations to take tangible steps to mitigate the effects of climate change, and has developed into a powerful instrument to channel the collective power of millions of people towards positive action to protect the environment.
Egypt first participated in Earth Hour in 2009.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 31 March, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.