Egypt has succeeded in meeting the challenges imposed by global changes, such as the Covid-19 outbreak, during its three-year presidency of the 14th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 14) of the UN Biodiversity Conference (UNBC), Yasmine Fouad, the minister of environment, said.
The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP 15) will be held in Kunming, China, in two phases. Phase one is taking place virtually, from 11 to 15 October. Phase two will be an in-person meeting in Kunming, from 25 April to 8 May 2022.
The announcement was made during a press conference the Ministry of Environment held to announce that Egypt has delivered the presidency of the conference to China. Egypt is the longest serving president in the history of the COP.
The presser was attended by Hamdullah Zidan, Fouad’s advisor on biodiversity, and local and global media outlets.
During Egypt’s presidency of COP 14, it held 60 meetings to announce achievements made on the domestic and international levels, she said, adding that the country has managed to prioritise African causes on the world agenda.
On the international level, Fouad explained, Egypt established the electronic platform “From Sharm El-Sheikh to Kunming for Nature and People” in coordination with the UNBC and the UN Environment Programme. The online platform was meant to enhance commitments and contributions to biodiversity conservation. It also drafted the post-2020 global biodiversity framework, the 2050 vision, and prepared the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030).
Egypt also joined the Metz Charter on Biodiversity, which the country believes plays an important role in preserving biological diversity. The initiative aims at promoting a coherent implementation of the three Rio conventions on climate, desertification, and biological diversity. Moreover, in 2019, the Global Environment Facility allocated $865 million to support projects and programmes that enhance compatibility and synergy between the three Rio conventions.
Fouad pointed to COP 14 achievements on the African level, including the development of the African Action Plan on Restoring Degraded Ecosystems and Lands, which aims to preserve African lands and ecosystems, mitigate the effects of land and ecosystem degradation, reduce biodiversity loss, and combat land degradation and desertification.
During Egypt’s COP 14 presidency, the 17th African Ministerial Conference on the Environment (AMCEN-17) was held in South Africa in 2019. The conference saw an African commitment to the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration (2021-2030) and the creation of the African Group of Negotiators on Biodiversity.
On the local level, Fouad said, Egypt supported the establishment and operation of an efficient and sustainable system for its natural reserves. The first project was launched two months ago in the Petrified Forest reserve where a Bedouin tent was erected for the people of Sinai to talk about their customs and traditions and serve authentic drinks and meals.
Egypt’s Ras Mohamed and Wadi Al-Hitan natural protectorates are on the Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the minister stated.
Egypt has been supporting the transformation to a green economy in nature reserves and is committed, via the 2019 constitution, to protect seas, beaches, lakes, waterways, and natural protectorates, she added.
In addition, throughout its three-year presidency of the COP 14, Egypt held workshops in cooperation with the ministries of petroleum and mineral resources, electricity, agriculture, health, the General Authority for Fisheries Development, and other bodies to introduce biodiversity and the importance of its integration into the economic sectors.
The government has also worked with a number of international companies operating in the petroleum sector in Egypt to prepare a guideline and identify mechanisms for integrating biological diversity in the petroleum and mining sector to the tune of LE7 billion.
In addition to raising public awareness about biodiversity, Egypt’s ministries of environment and higher education drafted a cooperation protocol to implement the goals of the three Rio conventions and instruct the preparation of master’s theses on environmental sustainability and the management of natural resources, Fouad said.
Furthermore, Egypt organised workshops for parliamentary members and heads of public and private universities on global environmental issues, such as climate change, biodiversity, desertification, and chemical pollution, and the role of universities in addressing these challenges on the domestic level.
It also opened channels of communication with the media to promote the integration of various groups of society in the conservation processes and to raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity among groups of women, youth, the private sector, and stakeholders.
Biological diversity is the cornerstone of sustaining life on the planet. Biodiversity, by nature, is renewable, unless man interferes in its composition to achieve short-term interests, Zidan said.
Man’s prosperity depends on conserving what we have, regaining what we have lost and preventing further deterioration, he noted.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 14 October, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly