CAIRO — Egypt is planning a meeting for African leaders in September ahead of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (COP27), which it will host in Sharm el-Sheikh in November.
The African ministers of finance, economy, development and environment will meet in Cairo Sept. 7 to formulate a unified African vision on financing issues and programs to confront climate change to ensure sustainable growth, the Egyptian Ministry of Finance said in a statement released July 14.
The statement quoted Egyptian Finance Minister Mohamed Maait as saying, “Egypt seeks to be the voice of Africa during the COP27.”
As part of its preparations to host the COP27, the Egyptian government has launched several initiatives to boost coordination with African governments and reach a unified African vision and position. These initiatives also aim to find ways to meet Africa’s financing needs necessary to implement projects to transition to a green economy, at a time when the continent is experiencing a wave of food and energy shortage crises.
On Aug. 24-27, the Egyptian Ministry of Planning and Economic Development held separate consultations with the United Nations Development Program to discuss the initiatives — dubbed “A decent life for Africa resilient to climate change” and “Friends of greening national budgets in Africa and developing countries” — to discuss initial ideas and steps to be taken to implement the initiatives, define the roles and propose timetables for launching them.
Mahmoud Mohieldin, Egypt's UN climate change high-level champion, said in TV statements Aug. 27, “Egypt is hosting the summit on behalf of the African continent. Although Africa contributes a small percentage to the total global harmful emissions, it is the most affected by the repercussions of climate change.”
Since the COP21 held in Paris in 2015, African countries have adopted a policy of collective action to address the challenges of climate change. Two major initiatives have been launched representing African action, namely the "African Renewable Energy Initiative” and the "African Adaptation Initiative,” which aim to achieve a balance between reducing carbon emissions and achieving sustainable development objectives.
In May, Egypt cooperated in launching several African projects such as the "African Green Hydrogen Alliance,” with Mauritania, Namibia, Kenya and South Africa.
Egypt’s official vision on the COP27 focuses on the immediate transition from the negotiation stage to the actual implementation stage. By hosting the COP27, Egypt seeks to achieve balanced progress on issues of emission reduction, adaptation or means of support from financing and technology.
Meanwhile, Egyptian officials have said during preparatory meetings held ahead of the COP27 that the issues of financing and adaptation to climate change will be a top Egyptian priority at the summit, without the issue of reducing gas emissions.
“Limiting the mitigation scope and the focus on [climate] finance also echoes Egypt’s own reluctance to make carbon reduction commitments,” Karim Elgendy, associate fellow at the Environment and Society Program at the British Royal Institute of International Affairs, Chatham House, wrote in a July 6 article.
“Egypt’s championing of ‘moving from pledges to implementation’ without having quantifiable carbon reduction pledges of its own effectively exempts it from both pledging and implementation,” he said.
Elgendy continued, “But not pushing for more emission reductions at this critical moment risks derailing global decarbonization momentum and undermining global climate action.”
Among the most important climate-related challenges facing African countries are the energy file and the provision of clean and sustainable sources, as data from the International Energy Agency indicate that the African continent needs annual investments estimated at $25 billion in the field of energy.
“Egypt is pursuing a policy aimed at defending the right of African countries in exploiting their natural gas and petroleum resources, as part of a just transition to be able to continue their efforts to achieve sustainable development,” Egyptian Minister of Petroleum Tarek el-Molla said at the African Energy Forum in March.
“Over 600 million African citizens struggle in obtaining energy and relying on oil and gas as an economic resource, and Africa has the least carbon emissions and is the least polluting region in the world,” Molla noted.
In addition to defending the right of African countries to exploit their natural gas and petroleum resources, the Egyptian government has achieved a remarkable recovery in the natural gas sector. Egypt’s production of natural gas has risen to unprecedented levels, and it has become a regional hub in gas production after several discoveries in the Delta, the Mediterranean and the Western Desert.
Speaking to Al-Monitor, international expert in climate affairs Saber Othman downplayed criticism of Egypt’s defense of the natural gas sector, saying, “Gas is the fossil fuel with the lowest harmful emissions. The Egyptian production of gas is fair and balanced, especially since Egypt is not classified as one of the countries responsible for climate pollution, as the rate of emissions in Egypt is less than 1% of the total emissions in the world.”
He noted, “Egypt’s rating in the Climate Change Performance Index has risen to 21, especially with its implementation of a number of renewable energy projects.”
Othman added, “Egypt has succeeded in being the voice of Africa since the Paris Agreement [on climate change], as it chaired the African Ministerial Conference on the Environment and succeeded in reducing any obligations on developing countries that are not responsible for climate pollution. Choosing Egypt to host the summit [COP27] on behalf of the African continent is the result of a long and continuous work process in order to protect the continent’s rights in the climate file.”
The COP27 is being held this year amid highly complex global political and economic challenges, with an increase in energy and food crises amid the repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic, the Russian war on Ukraine and high global inflation rates, which all represent a major challenge to the success of this summit in maintaining the priority of the climate file on the global political agenda.
Othman said, “The success of the COP27 cannot be judged in terms of the strength of the host country; Egypt’s success is determined in organizing the conference and providing logistical support.”
He added, “Climate change is a global problem and it is in everyone's interest to cooperate to find solutions, especially in light of the turbulent situation on the international arena, both politically and economically.”
Egypt is adopting defensive positions in order to obtain more support for the benefit of African countries during the COP27, and to reduce any pledges that impede the development path.
In his Aug. 29 speech during Africa Climate Week, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry criticized what he described as the absence of climate justice, saying, “Despite the low economic resources, the African continent’s countries are committed to spending 2% or 3% of their gross domestic product each year to counter the effects of climate change.”