Is there a way for us to survive as a species except by abiding by our pledges on climate change?
After dozens of world leaders came to the UN COP27 Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh, most speakers agreed on the seriousness of the climate crisis that threatens
the world and the need to take practical steps in order to reduce temperatures.
President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi opened the conference, stressing the importance of taking action to address the climate crisis, which he said was the biggest challenge facing the world and expressing his hope that efforts will be made to implement tangible steps in this field.
He emphasised that human suffering due to climate change is recurring and underscored the urgent need to end it.
The work of the conference began with the participation of representatives from more than 190 countries, as well as the heads of local organisations Al-Bashraa, Al-Bawaedin, Al-Manakh and Al-Manakhil. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukri was elected to succeed Alok Sharma, president of COP26, during the expanded opening session.
On the first day of the conference, three high-level roundtables were held, where the participating leaders delivered speeches dealing with their countries’ efforts to confront the repercussions of climate change.
The discussions come against the backdrop of multiple interconnected crises, on top of which are the Russian military operation in Ukraine, runaway inflation and the risk of a recession, the energy crisis with the renewed use of fossil energy, and the food crisis as the world’s population exceeds eight billion.
The climate is on this list of priorities, and the devastating repercussions of climate change were evident in 2022, with deadly floods, heatwaves, and droughts wreaking havoc on crops in many countries, especially in Africa.
Many developed countries are still accused of falling short in what they should do to combat global warming. Greenhouse-gas emissions, responsible for global warming, must fall by 45 per cent by 2030 to achieve the most ambitious target of the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement, which is to limit warming to 1.5 °C compared to the pre-industrial era.
But the signatories’ current pledges, even if eventually honoured, will result in emissions rising by between five and 10 per cent, putting the world on a path to an upward trajectory of 2.4 °C at best by the end of the century. Only 29 countries submitted plans to increase their pledges to reduce emissions, even though they had approved a “charter” calling on them to do so.
At the COP27, Egypt was keen to use the venue’s Green Zone to encourage officials to mix with members of youth delegations, civil society, women and the private sector, and to present their visions, ideas, solutions and projects. It highlighted Egypt’s interest in the spatial rapprochement between the two groups with the implementation of a range of attractive activities.
These were designed to help integrate young people into climate action and to establish a theatre area that included groups of musicians, artists, and fashion shows, all reflecting the importance of soft power in providing ways to raise awareness of climate change.
Egypt also prepared a set of national and regional initiatives to be launched during the thematic days of the conference. One of the implementation mechanisms that the world aspires to was based on linking climate-related issues such as the link between climate change and biological diversity and the holding of the COP15 Biological Diversity Conference in Montreal in December and the post-2020 roadmap for biodiversity expected to be announced at it.
Egypt considers that preserving biodiversity is necessary to conserving water, food and shelter, and it allocated a day for biodiversity as part of the thematic days of COP27 to link the outputs of the COP27 and COP15 Biodiversity Conference.
Side events: More than 256 side events taking into account diversity among the groups taking part were approved at the conference.
Young people from Cairo University presented a climate simulation model as well as innovative and sustainable models for waste collection and recycling in the region.
The side events area consisted of an operations room equipped with a logistics team and a medical clinic, as well as media partners to promote the events implemented in the region on social media platforms.
Egypt was also keen to see local and global community participation at the COP27, including the participation of civil society organisations in the Egyptian pavilion and opening the
Green Zone to various initiatives, among them a programme implemented by the Ministry of Social Solidarity to discuss issues of interest to civil society and provide the opportunity to present them.
All this was for free and came in addition to allocating a thematic day and facilitating the participation of environmental activists by allocating a suitable area for them. Overall, the Egyptian presidency of the conference was keen to listen to the voices of civil society and young people in various ways.
Energy efficiency was also emphasised, notably by the reliance on renewable energy and sustainable transport. An innovative waste-management system based on recycling, preventing the use of plastic, and recycled materials was also instituted.
Work was done to transform Sharm El-Sheikh into a green city by increasing the reliance on solar energy by adding 15 Gigawatts of capacity, converting transportation to electricity and natural gas, implementing a new system for managing solid waste in cooperation with an Egyptian-Emirati consortium, and rationalising water use and recycling.
Egypt wanted to see a sustainable, low-emissions conference that would provide a model for turning words into action on the ground.
The high international turnout to attend the COP27 in Sharm El-Sheikh meant Egypt was obliged to double the size of the Blue Zone at the conference. It was keen to see this become a forum for success stories from around the world, whether at the level of local communities, medium-sized projects, or huge investments. It wanted to see experiences from Africa and the developing countries, as well as to accelerate the pace of climate action.
Success stories were collected from UN agencies and development partners, and many looked forward to the contributions of the US in formulating an implementation model for adaptation and doubling the financing for it with a view to showing credibility and commitment to the developing countries.
SOUTH SINAI: The COP27 Climate Conference was one of the most important ever held, and the South Sinai governorate had cooperated with various parties for six months in implementing the instructions of President Al-Sisi, among them the transformation of Sharm El-Sheikh into a green city.
This included the use of green taxis, smart parking, and bicycle sharing, adopting technology from all over the world to make the conference a success. The streets of the city were expanded and made more environmentally friendly, and the Armed Forces Engineering Authority transformed Al-Salam Street into a pedestrian area of six km, making it similar to the
Champs-Elysées in Paris.
Everyone who came to Sharm El-Sheikh after the governorate’s preparations, which began six months ago, was happy with them, given the unprecedented attention given to the city by the political leadership.
Sharm El-Sheikh International Airport was developed to accommodate 10 million passengers annually, and its equipment was modernised.
THEMATIC DAYS: At the conference, a range of thematic days was held on different parts of the agenda.
They including a Funding Day, since finance is the cornerstone of implementing climate action and ambitions, and so the Day addressed many aspects of the climate finance ecosystem, such as innovative and blended finance, financial instruments, and tools and policies that have the potential to enhance access, expand financing, contribute to a just transition, and facilitate debt-environment swaps.
The Energy Day dealt with all aspects of energy and climate change, including renewable energy and energy transformation, with a special focus on a just transition in the energy sector and green hydrogen as a potential source of energy in the future. It also included energy efficiency and methods of managing the envisioned fair global transition in the field of energy, renewable energy, smart grids, energy efficiency and energy storage, all elements of a comprehensive vision for the development of energy ecosystems in the near future.
The Biodiversity Day looked at nature and ecosystem-based solutions. It allowed for discussion on the impacts of climate change on biodiversity and the means of mobilising global action to address the challenges of halting biodiversity loss and reducing the impacts of climate change and pollution. The discussions also included the impacts of climate change on oceans, endangered species, and coral reefs, the sustainability of protected areas, the impacts of plastic waste on aquatic ecosystems and species, and ecosystem-based solutions and their link to climate, mitigation, and adaptation.
The Science Day included panel discussions and events to present the findings and recommendations of various reports and further enhance the participation of the climate community, practitioners, and other stakeholders to discuss and participate in linkages and findings related to climate change. It was an opportunity to engage with the scientific community and academia and bring their views into the dialogue to ensure that all actions envisaged are based on science.
The Solutions Day brought together representatives of governments, companies, and innovators to exchange their experiences and ideas with the aim of spreading awareness, exchanging experiences and best practices, and possibly building alliances and cooperation in the future, bearing in mind that startups can provide creativity and innovation for efforts to combat climate change. It brought together established companies, small and medium innovators, and government and financial institution representatives with the aim of exchanging experiences, discussing challenges and potentially building future collaborations and alliances.
The Emissions Reduction Day reflected the fact that since the adoption of the Paris Climate Agreement and the COP26 in Glasgow in 2021, many energy-intensive sectors and companies have introduced plans, policies, and actions aimed at reducing their carbon footprints and gradually moving towards decarbonisation. The day provided an opportunity to discuss such approaches and to showcase technologies with the aim of encouraging and facilitating the much-needed transition and paradigm shift towards a low-carbon economy.
The Water Day looked at water as the source of life. Owing to the effects of climate change on water and its association with development and the quality of life, discussions on the Water Day addressed issues related to the sustainable management of water resources. The day covered topics such as water scarcity, drought, cross-border cooperation and improving early warning systems.
Women’s Day looked at the role of women in dealing with the challenges of climate change, stressing that this was important and indispensable, especially since women can bear the brunt of the effects of climate change. The day brought this issue to the fore and provided a platform to discuss existing challenges and share success stories from around the world with the aim of raising awareness, exchanging experiences, and promoting gender-sensitive policies, strategies and actions.
Youth Day aimed to engage young people in issues of the highest priority. They were given the opportunity to dialogue with high-level climate action champions and other stakeholders to present their success stories and efforts in combating climate change. They also presented their visions, proposals and ideas.
Negotiations: Hours before the conclusion of the conference, the issue of establishing a fund to finance losses and damage suffered by particularly the developing countries was raised.
A final communiqué was announced during the last day of the conference, and the details of the fund will likely be discussed again at the COP28 in the UAE next year.
Meetings on the loss and damage resolution were attended by Shoukri, Special Envoy Wael Abul-Magd, and head of the Climate and Sustainable Development Department at the Foreign Ministry Mohamed Nasr.
The negotiations witnessed major clashes between a group that included the US, the EU, India, Australia, Canada, and other major industrial countries, on the one hand, and China and a number of developing and African countries on the other, with these turning on the establishment of a fund to finance losses and damage.
Some countries, including India and the EU, wanted to see the final statement include a reference to the necessity of phasing out all fossil fuels, not just coal, but this was rejected by China, the Gulf States and several other countries. There was also disagreement about the need for China to contribute to the fund as a condition for its establishment, because it is no longer a developing country as it was in 1992 when the UN Convention on Climate Change was introduced.
While China refused to do so, there was also pressure for countries to commit to submitting nationally determined reports on the extent of their commitment to reducing emissions, as only 29 countries have thus far done so. These countries include Egypt.
Three meetings over the next year will present recommendations from a transitional committee on funding for mitigation and adaptation to the COP28, with the committee being chaired by two co-chairs, one from a developed country and the other from a developing country that is party to the agreement. The first meeting will take place no later than 31 March 2023.
The committee’s recommendations will be approved by consensus, and it will be guided by the best available science in conducting its work.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.