From November 7-18, 2016, world leaders assembled in Marrakech for the 22nd annual climate change conference, known as COP22, to come up with an action plan for the implementation of the Paris Climate Agreement.
In order to discuss general questions of mitigation and adaptation, financing, transparency and capacity building as well as concrete actions in Egypt, a panel of experts from Egypt and Germany assembled last week for the 45th Cairo Climate Talks.
At the event, Egyptian Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy pointed out that national economic interests remain Egypt’s priority as they are in other countries. Climate action will consider these interests with Egypt while remaining committed to the Paris Climate Agreement in its entirety, he stated.
Egypt signed the Paris Climate Agreement in April, but has not yet ratified it.
“We respect the experience of others, but we will do it our way. We will ask for your support, but we will look after the well-being of the Egyptian people,” Fahmy declared.
Germany's Ambassador to Egypt Julius Georg Luy believes that “climate change does not stop at national borders and neither should our actions”. He added: “Now it is a common responsibility of politics, business and civil society to make sure that the agreement does not remain a mere lip service.” Luy also congratulated the Egyptian government for successfully launching the second phase of the Africa Adaptation Initiative (AAI).
Civil society organizations have been urging the government to accede to the agreement and join the global climate movement.
“Not only is this a common responsibility of all states in order to confront climate change, it is also of direct interest to Egypt,” said an Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights(EIPR) statement. Egypt is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate change, with impacts ranging from water shortages and drought to reduced crop yield, increased desertification, rising sea levels, and losses in resources. It is in Egypt’s interest to take advantage of the agreement’s instruments to draft and implement plans to adapt to the anticipated impacts of climate change, the statement explained.
Egypt also has a stake in reducing greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide. Although Egypt’s contribution to global greenhouse emissions is minor, emissions are relatively high considering GDP and population numbers, which has adverse impacts on the efficient use of natural resources, environmental protection, and human health, the statement added.
“Egypt should avail itself of the agreement instruments to reduce these emissions, take advantage of its wealth of renewable energy sources, and improve environmental and health protection,” the EIPR statement stressed.
Wael Abou El Maged, Deputy Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs for Environment and Sustainable Development, explained that it is in the nature of things that complex bureaucratic procedures take time. He ensured that the ratification process should take place before 2018’s COP.
Leading the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN), Egypt is currently coordinating discussions on the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals as well as the follow-up of the COPs.
One of Egypt’s most important mitigation measures as outlined in its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) is increasing the share of renewables in the energy mix.
Magued Mahmoud, Technical Director of the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), argued that developing banks are ready to provide financing for renewable energy projects, but he said that developing countries are often lacking the capacity to make projects bankable. Regional exchange centers like RCREEE are offering their expertise on the project's development side. “Renewable energy growth in Africa is inevitable,” he stated. “Some African countries have up to 30% of their lands with no access to the conventional grid.”
Mahmoud Refai, Project Manager at Siemens Power Generation Services Division, argued that the sharp decline of wind and solar prices over the years, by as much as 60% for wind, have allowed for a renewable energy transition to take place. However, the current combined efforts to curb emissions indicated in the NDCs worldwide won’t be enough. “We need to be more ambitious and the NDCs have to be 100% achievable,” he affirmed.
Civil society organizations are playing a crucial role in this regard as Hoda Baraka, an Egyptian environmentalist and the Global Communications Director for 350.org, explained. “We provide a very important link for what happens within the negotiations and what the outside world needs to see.”
In COP22, civil society submitted a letter signed by 400 organizations highlighting some fossil fuel projects that, let-alone, will cause the surpass of the 2 degrees Celsius threshold. Consequently, organizations are demanding actions that would stop those projects from developing. “Civil society must and will continue to deliver the voices of the most vulnerable communities,” she insisted.
Lena Donat, a fellow at the Berlin-based Ecologic Institute, explained that in October 2016 developed countries published a roadmap on how to provide $100 billion annually for developing countries to implement climate projects.
“Now that temperatures are actually rising, developed countries are recognizing that adaptation becomes a serious topic,” she said, explaining that in the past mitigation measures were given a much higher priority.
With regards to the COP22, Donat emphasized that, with the new NDC partnership and the platform for 2050 strategies, “not only stakeholders on the country level, but also non state actors stand behind the Paris Agreement.”
A few weeks prior to the COP’2 round of negotiations, the Paris Climate Agreement came into force and became an international law after 55 countries responsible for 55% of total greenhouse gas emissions ratified it. Today, 125 out of 196 parties have ratified the agreement.