Working together on climate change

Mahmoud Bakr , Tuesday 9 Aug 2022

Mahmoud Bakr spoke to German Ambassador in Cairo Frank Hartman about cooperation between Egypt and Germany on climate change and protecting the environment

Frank Hartman
Frank Hartman

 

German institutions have been working closely with Egyptian partners on a range of projects to improve Egypt’s infrastructure and reduce the emissions of the greenhouse gases that lead to climate change. They have also been working with Egyptian schools and civil-society organisations to raise awareness of climate change and to educate the public about adaptation and mitigation measures.

In the run-up to this November’s UN Conference of the Parties (COP27) meeting on climate change in Sharm El-Sheikh, German Ambassador in Cairo Frank Hartman explained his country’s commitment to working with Egypt on climate change and the environment.

 

What is the state of play in German-Egyptian cooperation on the environment and in tackling climate change? What have been the most important initiatives implemented by the Cairo Climate Talks with the support of the German embassy?

Germany and Egypt have a long history of working together with regard to the environment and climate change; we are supporting Egypt in various fields to achieve sustainable green modernisation with the overall aim of improving living conditions for the Egyptian people.

Through our implementation organisations GIZ and KFW we have been engaged in numerous projects from hydropower and solar and wind energy plants to waste management for many years. President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have recently agreed on intensifying cooperation in the field of green hydrogen, which is another proof of the great potential of German-Egyptian energy cooperation.

Moreover, there are, of course, many German companies with a strong focus on sustainable solutions and future-proof technologies. One of the most outstanding examples is the high-speed electric train system to be built in Egypt by Siemens Mobility, as it marks a major step for the local infrastructure and will also help reduce emissions by up to 85 per cent compared to diesel locomotives.

Fighting climate change is not only a task of development and economic cooperation, but it is also a social and educational challenge. Therefore, our partners from DAAD, the German Academic Exchange Service, the Goethe Institute, and our political foundations are very active in this field as well. Through the Cairo Climate Talks (CCT) we have established a unique platform to exchange experience, raise awareness, and foster cooperation between policymakers, business, the scientific community, and civil society.

Founded in 2011, CCT has now organised over 80 events. With our newest format, “CCT Junior”, we aim to educate children and teenagers in particular about climate change and climate protection.

 

What are your expectations regarding the outcomes of the COP27 meeting to be held this November in Sharm El-Sheikh? Will the German embassy or other German organisations play a role at COP27?

As German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said during her opening speech at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue recently, climate change is the most serious international security issue of our time. It not a task for the future: it is an issue that must be tackled now, and it does not stop at international borders.

Therefore, the COP27 meeting is absolutely crucial: we all have to double down on our efforts and commitment to achieve the goal of keeping global warming within the 1.5 degree range in order to reduce the impact and damage of climate change. We stand ready to support Egypt in its role as president of the COP meeting in reaching these goals.

Against the background of the current food and energy crisis caused by the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine, Germany is even more committed to fulfilling its share and to making sure that the industrialised countries assume their responsibilities. This means finally reaching the $100 billion goal for climate financing and doubling collective adaptation finance from 2019 levels.

But money alone will not solve the problem. Therefore, we hope to see ambitious national action plans. We also believe in the necessity and advantage of close exchanges between policy-makers and other actors such as civil society, economic players, and scientists. The German pavilion at the COP27 meeting will be a meeting ground to make such exchange possible.

 

What is the aim of the Eco-Heroes initiative and how were the participating schools selected?

We are convinced that climate change can only be tackled successfully if each and every person makes a contribution in their daily lives. Education and awareness are the prerequisite for this. With projects like the Eco-Heroes initiative, we want to encourage young people to recognise possibilities of climate action in their own environment and give them a chance to develop their own solutions and put them to the test.

Students from PASCH (Schools: Partners for the Future) schools from all over Egypt were invited to participate in this initiative, and we have received over 300 applications. I was more than impressed with the ideas the students presented. As they are the ones who will have to deal with the consequences of the mistakes of our generation, the least we can do now is to listen to them and take them seriously.

I can assure you that it is worth it. I myself have learned a lot from the young creative and ambitious minds behind the outstanding ideas presented within the Eco-Heroes initiative.   

 

What is your view of the future given the impacts of climate change?

The severe consequences of climate change that we are already seeing and feeling all around the globe make it more than obvious that time is pressing. There is no alternative: we have to act, and we have to do it now. I can only hope that people and policy-makers will finally come to the conclusion that joint action on this is more important than any short-term enforcement of individual interests.

Crises like the fallout of the Russian aggression in Ukraine are not making this massive global task any easier. But as a firm believer in multilateralism and in human inventiveness and progress, I am convinced that it is still possible to mitigate the disastrous effects of climate change and steer towards a livable future for everyone.

What really gives me hope is the innovativeness and determination of young people, as demonstrated so well by our young Eco-Heroes here in Egypt.


*A version of this article appears in print in the 11 August, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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