Egypt hosted the 27th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change on 6 to18 November in Sharm El-Sheikh. Without a doubt, this was a responsibility and an opportunity combined, but the country succeeded in this undertaking with flying colours, while gaining respect, appreciation, and significant resources and support.
In collaboration with the UN, Egypt brought hundreds of delegates together from all over the world to discuss the unparalleled challenge facing the world today of climate change. Prominent world leaders trooped through Sharm El-Sheikh. Climate-change collaborators and corroborators followed suit, and US President Joe Biden validated the suitability of the venue, confirming, as the Egyptian saying goes that Egypt is “the Mother of the World.”
According to the US Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Egypt pitched itself “as a gateway to Africa and a strategic player with a growing footprint on the continent” in hosting the COP27. The conference was also an opportunity for Egypt to exhibit its leadership on climate change amongst African, Arab, and underdeveloped nations and as “an emerging energy partner”.
Last year, progress on mitigating climate change was constricted due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the devastating war in Ukraine. It is to be hoped that the COP27 will change that course. However, we need to wait patiently for results to be realised and effects established.
The White House said that Biden’s speech to the conference would speak to “efforts to build on the unprecedented work by the United States to reduce emissions, advance the global climate fight, and help the most vulnerable build resilience to climate impacts.”
Biden did indeed emphasise the US determination to support climate change in his speech. “Today, finally, thanks to the actions we have taken, I can stand here as president of the United States of America and say with confidence that the United States of America will meet our emissions targets by 2030,” he said, adding that the US would do its part to avert a “climate hell” with its work being “more urgent than ever [as] we double down on clean energy solutions.”
Biden unveiled new initiatives to strengthen US leadership in tackling climate change and support the developing countries in adapting to climate impacts. The US will contribute $100 million to the Climate Change Adaptation Fund and $150 million to support the Climate Emergency Plan in Africa.
“Loss and damage” funding refers to costs incurred by countries that cannot avoid or cannot adapt to losses due to climate change. It calls on the wealthiest nations, the prime instigators of greenhouse-gas emissions, to recompense developing countries for damages accrued as they confront climatic disasters such as the devastating floods in Pakistan this year.
Discussions on loss and damage dominated the talks in Sharm El-Sheikh. EuroActiv, a European media network, said that Germany, Belgium, Scotland, and other countries had pledged almost $200 million in compensation, while Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that “I have no problem whatsoever saying that this is about reparation, compensation and liability, and responsibility.”
After years of resistance by the rich countries to calls from countries vulnerable to climate change for compensation, at the tail end of the conference a major breakthrough was reached. A tentative agreement to establish a loss and damage fund for nations vulnerable to the impacts of climate change was established. This may prove to be the most significant achievement of the meeting.
By virtue of being the host country of the COP27 and its clear intention to work to alleviate the effects of climate change, Egypt received much financial support during the conference. The US, the EU, and Germany provided a package of $500 million to finance and facilitate Egypt’s transition to clean energy and accelerate the country’s ambitious goal of producing 42 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources in 2030, five years earlier than previously planned.
The Ministry of International Cooperation announced that it had secured development loans and grants totalling $2.24 billion from the World Bank and European donors to implement sustainable projects in transportation, water, renewable energy, food security, and the environment in Egypt.
Egypt was also able to bring water-related issues to the forefront of the discussions at the COP27. Minister of Irrigation Mohamed Abdel-Ati said that “for the first time, the water issue will have a special focus during the COP27, and we will discuss water issues and water shortages, periods of drought and floods, and changing the location and quantity of rainfall.”
Egypt was able to link the issue of Ethiopia’s Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) to wider water issues and how it could impact Egypt’s water share from the Nile.
Earlier at the conference, Egypt announced an ambitious 100 MW green energy strategy. Together with Norway, Egypt will establish a major green hydrogen production plant in Ain Al-Sokhna under the plans, with President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi hailing the project by saying it provides “a practical model of investment partnership that stimulates sustainable economic development.” Another similar green hydrogen project between the Egyptian and Belgian authorities has also been announced.
Egyptian bilateral relations were strengthened across the board. Biden thanked the Egyptian authorities for their efforts to halt the fighting in Gaza. On the Russian-Ukrainian war, he said that “Egypt spoke strongly about the war in Ukraine and was the main mediator in Gaza.” Similar bilateral talks were conducted with countries including Germany, Pakistan, Singapore, and Italy.
But amidst this success story, calls were made from beyond Egypt for demonstrations to coincide with the COP27, mainly to embarrass the country by having thousands of people fill the streets calling for change. The call fell on deaf ears, proving that the Egyptian people, despite the repercussions of the Ukraine war, reject chaos and disruption and believe in their leadership and the efforts being made.
This mindset is also part of the success story of the COP27.
* The writer is former professor of communication based in Vancouver, Canada.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 24 November, 2022 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.