A world of opportunities

Niveen Wahish , Saturday 5 Nov 2022

After months of preparations and meetings, Climate Champion Mahmoud Mohieldin is heading to COP27 with a full plate.

Mahmoud Mohieldin
Mahmoud Mohieldin


A pipeline of projects compatible with the Paris Agreement and tackling the challenges of adaptation and mitigation has been created following five regional roundtables conducted jointly with the UN, the COP27 Presidency, and climate champions. A total of 400 submissions were filtered by the technical teams to around 150 projects, or 10 per region, which will be showcased during the conference while the rest of the projects will be updated and available to regional economic commissions and on the website of COP, said Mohieldin. Some of the projects, he stressed, are already being considered by potential investors, and “are in different countries, of different sizes, and at different stages of development”. Together, they offer an answer to the long-standing plaint, often voiced by developed nations when asked about their climate finance promises, that “we have the money but where are the projects.” 

These, and other opportunities for investment available at the Egyptian local level, currently exist, pointed out Mohieldin. On 3 November, under the auspices of President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi, the National Initiative for Smart and Green Projects will announce 18 winning projects presented by various governorates. The hope is, through engagement with the UN system, that Egypt brings this initiative to the global stage, Mohieldin said, adding that the issue of ownership of “climate action is not just about the leaders and the big businesses coming and attending, it is answering the simple question what is in it for us.”

The 18 projects include three each from six categories — women-led projects, youth startups, community development non-profit projects, and small, medium and large projects. The winners were selected from among more than 6,000 submissions. Egypt plans to continue the contest annually, Mohieldin said, because “it is one of the best examples of drawing a dynamic map for projects in our governorates.”

On top of these, Mohieldin believes more opportunities in such areas as mitigation and decarbonisation will emerge during the course of the conference in the form of solar and wind projects, green hydrogen production, the manufacturing of electric vehicles, and desalination projects. 

Though acknowledging that the energy crisis brought on by the war in Ukraine has slowed the green transition and undermined efforts to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, noting that the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) expects fossil fuel use to rise in the short term to secure a stable supply, he nonetheless believes the risks to the stability of energy supplies highlighted by the current crisis will support the global shift away from polluting fuels in the medium term.

On the contentious loss and damage file, Mohieldin believes it was wise to assign Germany and Chile to work on seeking mutual understanding between the developed and developing countries and to reflect the voice of small island nations, many of which face existential threats that are not going to be just fixed just by decarbonisation or mitigation. 

He argues that countries that have already suffered substantial loss and damage from climate events need immediate and cheap liquidity. He stressed that “it is important that the world’s most vulnerable countries receive financing without adding to their debt.” According to the IMF, 60 per cent of low-income countries are now at high risk of, or already in, debt distress and “there is a danger that vulnerable developing countries will enter a vicious circle in which greater climate vulnerability raises the cost of debt and diminishes the fiscal space for investment in climate resilience.”

On finance, Mohieldin points to the importance of a report that will be launched at COP27 identifying the links between climate and development and highlighting that there are more synergies than tradeoffs when it comes to development and climate finance.

According to the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI), total climate finance has increased steadily over the last decade, reaching $632 billion in 2019-20. However, he said, this is nowhere near enough to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius, with the CPI estimating that climate finance must increase by almost six-fold — to $4.35 trillion annually by 2030 — to meet climate objectives.

For climate consideration to be fully integrated in sustainable development finance there will be real progress in the mobilisation of funds, to which end Mohieldin advises governments, which now more than ever face budget constraints due to the economic crises brought on by Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine, to encourage investment from the private sector alongside multilateral organisations and financial institutions.

The success of COP27 will be measured on the basis of multiple criteria, says Mohieldin: for small islands success will be associated with substantive progress in the loss and damage file, while for many others it involves resolving the false dichotomy between climate and development finance and the mobilising of funds from the private and public sectors in more substantive ways. 

Projects in green hydrogen and desalination will provide relief in a world facing multiple water and energy crises, helping resolve issues while furthering the adaptation agenda, a major concern for Africa. Success will bring change to the lives and livelihoods of millions of people, opening up opportunities and partnerships in Africa and furthering “African ownership of COP27”.

Mohieldin also underlines the importance of academic and research networks as the world moves the climate agenda forwards, pointing out that Egypt has already created an academic network among its universities and research institutions coordinated by the president of the National Academy of Science, Mahmoud Sakr. Universities around Egypt are also part of an initiative spearheaded by the minister of higher education which involves supporting joint research and partnerships between universities, businesses, and local communities on climate-related matters. 

For the first time, a core network of research centres, including the Economic Research Forum, the Egyptian Centre for Economic Studies, the Institute for National Planning and the Centre for Economic and Financial Research and Studies (CEFRS), is instigating joint and complementary activities and partnering with the World Bank, a process Mohieldin hopes “will be translated in the future into research and supporting knowledge-sharing not just in Egypt but beyond”.

*A version of this article appears in print in the 3 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.

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