Egypt has launched its National Climate Change Strategy 2050 (NCCS 2050) to implement part of the modified Egypt Vision 2030 Strategy that concerns facing up to the challenges posed by climate change.
The strategy was launched by Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli, who also heads the National Council for Climate Change, in a ceremony organised by the Ministry of Environment.
The NCCS 2050 is meant to help Egypt manage the impacts of climate change in a manner that achieves national economic and development goals by adopting a flexible, low-emissions approach.
The launch event was attended by Yasmine Fouad, the minister of environment, and several other ministers, Elena Panova, UN resident coordinator in Egypt, MPs, and representatives from the Federation of Egyptian Industries and the UN.
Egypt produces only 0.6 per cent of the world’s harmful greenhouse-gas emissions, but it is one of the countries most affected by the negative effects of climate change on its coastlines, agriculture, water resources, health, population, and infrastructure.
This adds another challenge to those Egypt is already facing in its efforts to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030, Madbouli stated.
Egypt’s Vision 2030 Strategy pays special attention to the repercussions of climate change by reinforcing a sustainable and resilient ecosystem that is able to withstand the threats of global warming, he added.
He said that the National Council for Climate Change was reformed in 2019 to include officials from government authorities and representatives of civil society. The council will formulate and modify a comprehensive national strategy for climate change, link it to the Sustainable Development Strategy, and pool national efforts to implement the outcomes of studies on climate change, the prime minister said.
During the ceremony, Madbouli spoke about Egypt’s contributions to lowering harmful greenhouse-gas emissions, such as drafting a low-emissions development strategy for 2030, which has now been modified to 2050, in order to address national development and climate-change plans within a consistent framework.
The government has also issued a Sustainable Energy Strategy for Egypt by 2035, which aims to increase the contributions of renewable energy to electricity generation and improve energy efficiency, he said.
It is working on implementing several renewable energy projects in the fields of wind energy and solar energy with a capacity of 1.6 Gigawatts (GW) in Benban in Aswan. These will make Egypt a regional energy hub through the production and export of clean energy directly or through green hydrogen, ammonia, and other production, Madbouli explained.
He also cited other schemes, such as sustainable transport projects like the Cairo underground and monorail, improving energy efficiency in industry, planting forests using treated sewage water to irrigate them, and sustainable and smart waste-management projects. The infrastructure of the waste-management system is being designed to accommodate future population increases, he said.
The coronavirus pandemic and current global crises are other challenges the Egyptian economy is facing in addition to climate change. However, Madbouli said, Egypt is working to turn problems into opportunities by encouraging environmentally friendly investments.
One of the government’s most-significant initiatives is the issuing of green bonds to the tune of $750 million that will facilitate environmentally friendly investments. These will help to put Egypt on the sustainable financing map, Madbouli said, adding that an environmental dimension is being integrating into all plans for national projects.
The NCCS 2050 is an integrated strategy that targets achieving sustainable economic development and decreasing harmful emissions, while adapting to climate change and assigning roles to institutions in charge of mitigation and adaptation, Fouad said.
She said there need to be diverse financing sources, such as the developed countries’ pledges to finance projects that help to mitigate the effects of climate change, Egypt’s state budget, and the private sector. The strategy is meant to increase the number of projects that use new and renewable energy sources, lower carbon emissions, maximise energy efficiency, and encourage sustainable consumption and production, she added.
Fouad lauded the strategy for boosting women’s responses to climate change by giving them more space to acquire loans for climate-change projects.
Regarding policies drafted to improve the tackling of climate change in Egypt, Fouad said that the country had jumped four places from 2019 to 2021 from among 24 countries in reforming their climate-change policies. This showed that climate change was a top priority for Egypt, she said
Besides the Finance Ministry’s issuing of green bonds, the prime minister has also approved green incentives for projects in the fields of energy, transport, hydrogen production, waste management, and substitutes for plastics, she pointed out.
The NCCS 2050’s goal pertaining to scientific research and raising awareness had led the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research and the Academy of Scientific Research to organise several workshops, Fouad said, adding that a national dialogue on the subject of climate change has been launched with the participation of different social groups.
According to a cabinet degree, a set of priority projects has been identified in the fields of energy, transport, agriculture, water, irrigation, and lowering carbon in the petroleum sector for $211 billion in the mitigation and $113 billion in adaptation until 2050, she stated.
ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARDS: Minister of Planning and Economic Development Hala Al-Said said the state was dealing with climate change from a comprehensive perspective, including lowering carbon emissions, adapting to the repercussions of climate change, and making available mitigation mechanisms, including financing, capacity building, and the transfer of technology.
Egypt has adopted environmental sustainability standards that target allocating 30 per cent of projects to green spaces in 2021-22 and 50 per cent in 2024-25, Al-Said added, noting that the Ministry of Planning, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment, has launched a Strategic Framework for Green Recovery as a guide to standards of environmental sustainability.
The Ministry of Planning has prepared criteria for sustainable financing in partnership with the Central Bank of Egypt (CBE), based on the conviction that sustainable financing that is subject to environmental, community, and governance standards is the pillar for success and profit in the long term.
In addition to the $750 million of green bonds, the private sector has also launched its own initiative to issue green bonds worth between $120 million and $200 million, Al-Said stated.
She also spoke about the efforts of Egypt’s Sovereign Fund for Investment and Development on climate change by investing in a number of green projects, including a project to produce green hydrogen and ammonia in partnership with international companies, a project to produce train carriages to support sustainable transportation efforts, and water desalination projects.
She noted that the sovereign fund had joined the One Planet initiative presided over by French President Emmanuel Macron that includes a number of other sovereign funds with the aim of implementing the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Al-Sayed Al-Qusseir said the agricultural sector had been blamed for producing high carbon emissions. This was not true, he said, since the sector actually contributes to decreasing emissions.
Al-Qusseir referred to the carbon-trading platform that will be a main destination for organisations and others seeking to reduce their emissions, saying that the agricultural sector would be a key player in the platform.
“The agricultural sector is the most vulnerable to climate change, and on the national and international levels its productivity will be affected. In addition, water consumption for crops is increasing due to increased evaporation rates,” he said.
In the face of such challenges, Egypt has adopted procedures such as planting crops that can better adopt to climate change, improving the efficiency of the water resources used in irrigation, and boosting early detection systems to inform farmers how to adapt to future climate change, Al-Qusseir added.
Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tarek Al-Molla said the government aimed to achieve sustainable growth with low emissions, adding that “in 2016 a strategy was developed to provide Egypt until 2035 with an acceptable amount of energy in line with the country’s commitments to international treaties. The goal is to reach 42 per cent of new and renewable energy by 2035. The strategy is now being amended to include new articles to achieve low-emissions industries.”
Managing demand for energy is critical, and Egypt has been working on improving the efficiency of its energy sources, he said, adding that the country’s oil refineries are being upgraded and their number increased. He explained that the burn-off from oil refineries, a process called “routine burning”, was being used for other purposes. By the end of the year, Egypt will open its first rice-straw recycling plant to manufacture products used in homes. The country will also expand projects for extracting oils from algae, Al-Molla said.
Natural gas is a transitional fuel to the next stage of the use of energy resources, Al-Molla said, and by the end of this fiscal year natural gas will be piped to 13.5 million housing units as part of the presidential Decent Life initiative.
The NCCS 2050 is an existential issue for the people, the environment, and energy resources, said Mohamed Al-Swidi, head of the Federation of Egyptian Industries, adding that industry, management, and the utilisation of energy should all be improved.
Al-Swidi said that industrial waste should be better used to decrease the amount of building, agricultural, chemical and electronic waste that the country produces and to extract more derivatives from this waste to reduce imports and increase exports.
This would create a healthier trade balance, he said, and there were many studies that substantiated such results.
To keep pace with the international community and allocate long-term investments to improving efficiency, cutting energy consumption, and reducing costs, all the parties concerned in financing institutions and the government should take part, Al-Swidi said, noting that the Federation of Egyptian Industries houses an office dedicated to environmental and sustainable development that offers technical support and gives soft loans to factories to help them to improve their environmental credentials.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 26 May, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.