Turning words into action

Alessandro Fracassetti
Tuesday 15 Nov 2022

The greening of Sharm El-Sheikh for the COP27 should give us all hope, writes Alessandro Fracassetti


The Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh is currently hosting leaders, experts, climate activists, civil society representatives and CEOs of businesses from around the world for the largest annual gathering on climate action.

The UN COP27 Climate Change Conference is expected to deliver much-needed action on an array of issues critical for tackling the climate emergency. These actions will include measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience, and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as delivering on commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.

The past seven years have been the hottest ever recorded, accompanied by extreme weather events, record levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and now a growing energy crisis. It has never been more urgent to work for renewed solidarity between countries and to deliver on the Paris Agreement.

In this context, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the EU have recently signed a $6.2 million programme to support Egypt’s COP presidency, in cooperation with the African Climate Foundation and the governments of Denmark and Switzerland.

Working in close partnership with the government of Egypt, this programme has swiftly succeeded in boosting efforts to green Sharm El-Sheikh as the host city of the COP27, with one of the main aims being to demonstrate how this city can become the main driver of the green energy transition in Egypt. 

To showcase the benefits of rapid and targeted climate action, the project has helped install solar energy systems in landmark buildings throughout Sharm El-Sheikh, including the COP27 Convention Centre itself, the airport, and several key government buildings. The programme has also cooperated with hotels on the installation of solar rooftops and to reduce the use of plastic.

In the space of less than a year, substantial progress has been achieved in greening Sharm El-Sheikh, showing the whole world that where there is a will, there really is a way.

In parallel with these initiatives, UNDP has provided expert support to help Egypt prepare for and make the most of the country’s presidency of this year’s COP. This has included capacity-building to enable the country’s COP negotiation team to achieve the best possible outcomes from hosting the conference. Over the coming days, our focus will be on COP27-related activities such as drafting dedicated studies and compiling best practices in climate mitigation, adaptation, and finance.

UNDP remains strongly committed to continuing our close and long-term cooperation with the government of Egypt and our international partners. This cooperation has marked up some significant successes over the years. 

To take just one example from the area of energy transition, UNDP and the Egyptian government launched a joint energy efficiency improvement project in 2014 that has achieved savings of between 10 and 15 per cent of total electricity consumption when some 200 million LED bulbs were sold and connected to the grid in 2020. 

Another project on small-scale power stations has led to the successful installation of 140 solar panels and 52 solar power plants in public and private buildings throughout the country. As a result, the capacity of rooftop solar power in Egypt has risen from just 30 MW in 2018 to about 200 MW in 2022. 

Egypt’s achievements prove just how rapidly substantial progress can be made to the green transition. And this should give us all hope that the world can do the same. 

As a further cause for hope, we greatly welcome the announcement this week by Egypt, the US, and Germany to invest additional funding in renewable energy. With this commitment, Egypt has set an ambitious new target for accelerating the expansion of renewable energy to reach 42 per cent of the power sector by 2030, five years earlier than originally planned.

All of us are now keenly looking forward to seeing the same level of commitment shown over the coming days of the COP27. Now more than ever, words must be turned into actions for the sake of people and the planet. 

* The writer is the UNDP resident representative in Egypt.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 17 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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