Egypt is amassing the efforts of civil society to help in preparations for hosting the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27), which is scheduled to be held in Sharm El-Sheikh in November, under the initiative “Our Country Hosts the COP27”.
The initiative is pooling the activities of some 500 NGOs and associations and has been launched by the Arab Office for Youth and Environment (AOYE) under the sponsorship of the Ministry of Social Solidarity.
Egyptian NGOs want to take part in finding solutions to mitigate the repercussions of climate change, said Nevine Al-Qabbaj, the minister of social solidarity, adding that in the light of the presidential decision to declare 2022 the Year of Civil Society her ministry is looking forward to seeing the strong and effective presence of NGOs and volunteers at the COP27 meeting.
The UN conference will be a major opportunity for the world to hear the voices of Egypt’s NGOs and find out more about their efforts to counter environmental threats and improve the living conditions of all Egyptians, especially the poorer segments of society, Al-Qabbaj added.
It is also a chance for other countries to find out more about the development challenges Egypt faces and how the country’s NGOs are partnering with the public and private sectors to improve living standards, she stated.
Al-Qabbaj said that the Ministry of Social Solidarity was focusing on the quality of life of people across the country, especially in the countryside and in areas where the former residents of shanty towns have been relocated.
The ministry also values the role of civil society in helping to preserve the environment and natural resources and supports the efforts of NGOs working in these fields. It also offers financial and technical support to such NGOs, Al-Qabbaj said.
She explained that the ministry was carrying out programmes to raise public awareness about the environment and the importance of preserving environmental resources, especially water resources, and to raise awareness about recycling, limiting consumption, and decreasing waste in all the projects the ministry implements in cooperation with NGOs.
The ministry has launched several economic empowerment programmes meant to integrate social and economic development by supporting the most vulnerable groups in society and helping them to find a place in the labour market and decent employment opportunities, Al-Qabbaj said.
It focuses on jobs in the agricultural and environmental fields, particularly those aimed at sustainability, recycling, and the careful husbandry of resources.
The ministry has launched many economic empowerment activities in the agricultural and environmental fields through its Forsa (Opportunity) Programme, micro-credit programmes, and productive family centres to improve livelihoods in rural communities and increase and diversify incomes by improving agricultural productivity and strengthening value chains and access to markets.
It has integrated the environmental dimension into development projects, increasing the attention given to green development by implementing micro-projects to support innovation and entrepreneurship in the agricultural, livestock, and environmental fields.
These will maximise the benefits of natural resources in the countryside and include fertiliser-saving projects and activities that increase incomes, such as recycling waste and boosting exports.
The ministry is also expanding its partnerships with international organisations, associations, and NGOs in supporting small producers by providing technical and financial support and transferring productive assets to assist individual and collective rural projects and restore the concept of “productive villages” that enhance agricultural and livestock production in each governorate, Al-Qabbaj said.
It is also cementing value chains to reduce loss and waste, she stated, explaining that the ministry has established a partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to launch an agricultural business incubator and provide technical and financial support to bolster small companies working in food processing and value chains for horticultural products.
Mahmoud Mohieldin, executive director at the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for Egypt at the COP27 meeting, said that Egypt and Africa’s share of harmful emissions is not more than three per cent, while the responsibility for most of the emissions of the greenhouse gases that lead to climate change lies primarily with the European countries, China, and India.
The goal, he added, is to lower such harmful emissions by 45 per cent by 2030.
The 2009 UN Climate Summit in Copenhagen had allocated $100 billion to support countries suffering from the effects of climate change, he added, but this sum has not been delivered. Even if it were, he said, it would not be enough to meet their needs.
Mohieldin said that the developed countries should fulfil their financial pledges and implement projects on the ground through investments, not grants or loans, in the developing countries that have been harmed by climate change as a result of the developed countries’ practices.
Egypt is seeking partnerships with international institutions, NGOs, financial entities and experts to implement projects across its 27 governorates, he said, adding that all the projects need domestic and foreign partnerships and international financing in the form of investments.
This will also help to develop infrastructure and reduce poverty and unemployment.
The COP27 meeting will naturally include a focus on the regional and African dimensions of efforts to combat climate change. But it will also call for the convening of sessions on international efforts to activate investments and finance climate projects.
At last year’s COP26 meeting in Glasgow, 524 leading financial institutions pledged some US$130 billion to fund climate projects. But none of this has so far been forthcoming, Mohieldin said, since they have stated that they are still looking for investment opportunities.
There should be a list of all the projects susceptible to such funding in the developing countries, he said.
Emad Adly, chairperson of AOYE, said Egypt’s civil-society initiative was seeing the participation of some 20 NGOS from each governorate and that it would focus on initiating dialogue between government agencies, academic institutions, and NGOs to find solutions to challenges created due to the negative repercussions of climate change.
He said that in each governorate one NGO has been selected to coordinate the work of the initiative on a local platform, which includes representatives of agencies working in social solidarity, youth and sports, agriculture and land reclamation, water resources and irrigation, electricity and renewable energy, education, and the environment.
The initiative is also coordinating with representatives of religious institutions in various governorates, such as Al-Azhar and the Coptic Church, and public and private universities, scientific and research centres, local councils, the National Council for Motherhood and Childhood, the National Women’s Council, and media institutions.
Ahmed Zaki, head of the Federation for the Environment and coordinator of the regional platform in Aswan, said the Upper Egyptian governorate has plans to raise the environmental awareness of local farmers, especially concerning irrigation and the use of water, because agriculture is the largest consumer of water and takes up more than 80 per cent of the country’s water resources.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 19 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.