Egyptian government officials are defending the country’s latest climate change initiatives before hosting a global climate summit against an independent group’s allegations that the plans are “highly insufficient.”
The Climate Action Tracker, a non-profit scientific analysis group that monitors government climate action worldwide, gave Egypt’s latest plan that rating in an analysis published in early August. The group has also criticised many other countries’ latest climate change initiatives.
As part of its preparations to host the next global climate summit, known as COP27, in November in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt recently presented to the United Nations its updated plan setting targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
Egypt is one of only 16 countries that have committed to submitting updated plans out of the 197 countries that adopted the Paris Agreement. The 2015 agreement required countries to submit an updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) plan every five years. During last year’s COP26 summit, in Glasgow, new climate action plans were put in place ahead of the Sharm el-Sheikh summit.
Ambitious Contribution to Global Efforts
After presenting her country’s updated report, Yasmine Fouad, Egypt’s minister of environment, said development challenges had been exacerbated by the negative effects of climate change and the accompanying pressures on the national budget. The country had also had to address the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic, but despite these challenges, Egypt was still trying to implement and prepare many climate policies and projects, she said.
“Many countries set targets to reduce emissions, but what happened is they doubled their emissions and reneged on their commitments, because some countries returned to using coal after the Russia-Ukraine crisis.”Mohamed Ali Fahim, A climate change official with the Ministry of Agriculture
These actions reflect Egypt’s ambitious contribution to global efforts, she said, even though it bears little responsibility for the world’s historical greenhouse gas emissions. China, the United States, India and the European Union contribute about 54 percent of total emissions, while emissions from the entire African continent do not exceed 4 percent, according to data from the World Resources Institute.
Most countries have not yet presented their plans, including the major industrial countries that contribute the largest share of emissions. Analysts say they will not be ableto fulfill this commitment with less than three months to go before the summit.
‘Good Strides’ Toward Reaching Goals
In its updated Nationally Determined Contributions report, Egypt pledged to reduce carbon emissions of three key sectors by 2030: electricity by 33 percent, oil and gas by 65 percent, and transport by 7 percent. It also pledged to adopt low-carbon targets in other sectors, such as urban development, tourism and irrigation.
Saber Osman, a former climate change adaptation manager of Egypt’s Environmental Affairs Agency, told Al-Fanar Media: “As a developing country whose contribution to emissions does not exceed 0.6 percent, we do not have an obligation to reduce emissions, or pay money to compensate for damages, unlike major industrial emitters, but we are voluntarily contributing as much as our circumstances and capabilities allow.”
Responding to the Climate Action Tracker’s criticism, Osman said Egypt’s plan “included actual projects subject to the availability of financing, and other existing projects such as the Benban Solar Park, the expansion of the Greater Cairo underground metro network, the rehabilitation of the Alexandria tram line, and other green projects.”
Osman, who is chairman of the “Our Earth’s Climate” Foundation for Sustainable Development, said Egypt had exceeded the targets in its 2020 plan and now wanted renewable energy to reach 42 percent of electrical power production by 2035. “This confirms that we have already made good strides in this field,” he said.
“It’s easy to pledge to achieve the zero emissions target by 2060 or 2070, as some countries have done, relying on the belief that no one will be there to hold them accountable if they fail. … We, on the other hand, are always working to fulfill our commitments.”– Saber Osman, a former official with Egypt’s Environmental Affairs Agency
He said achieving zero emissions was not easy in terms of cost. “If Egypt pledges to do so, who will pay the cost? It’s easy to pledge to achieve the zero emissions target by 2060 or 2070, as some countries have done, relying on the belief that no one will be there to hold them accountable if they fail. … We, on the other hand, are always working to fulfill our commitments.”
Criticism of Other Countries’ Plans
Some European countries and the United States have pledged to reach zero emissions by 2050. China said it would achieve this goal by 2060, while India set 2070 to reach zero emissions.
The Climate Action Tracker also rated India’s updated climate action plan as “highly insufficient”. It criticised India for planning to continue and expand its use of coal over the next five years.
The organisation deemed Australia’s updated report “insufficient” despite its pledge to reach zero emissions by 2050.
Mohamed Ali Fahim, head of the Climate Change Information Centre at the Ministry of Agriculture, told Al-Fanar Media that it was more important to stick to ambitious plans than to make new ones. “Many countries set targets to reduce emissions, but what happened is they doubled their emissions and reneged on their commitments, because some countries returned to using coal after the Russia-Ukraine crisis.”
He said Egypt has promised that 100 percent of state budgeted projects would be “green projects” by 2030. “This is an unconditional commitment to obtain financing, and these are pledges of a developing country that wants to build itself.”
Magdy Allam, an adviser to the World Climate Programme and secretary general of the Union of Arab Environmental Experts, said Egypt was not a significant emitter of greenhouse gases, compared to major industrialised countries.
“The transformation in the development system, after decades of dependence on fossil fuels, to a completely new system that relies on renewable energies is not easy. It needs enormous financing.”Magdy Allam, an adviser to the World Climate Programm
“The transformation in the development system, after decades of dependence on fossil fuels, to a completely new system that relies on renewable energies is not easy,” Allam said. “It needs enormous financing.”
More Egyptian Projects
Fagr Abdel-Gawad, deputy head of the Centre of Excellence for Climate Change and Sustainable Development, said Egypt had adopted ambitious projects to achieve its planned 65-percent reduction in emissions from the oil and gas sector. They include extending natural gas pipelines to more villages, and increasing the number of natural gas-powered cars.
The updated report says Egypt will also focus on recovering and utilising gases generated from crude oil fields, through 17 existing projects and 36 new ones planned before 2030. The report indicated that instead of burning waste gases, they will be directed to processing facilities to produce liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), natural gas and condensates.
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The report also mentioned Egypt’s efforts to produce alternative green fuels. It noted that Egypt extracts 350,000 tons of algae oil annually for use in producing biofuels and generating 100,000 tons of bioethanol every year. Another project plans to convert plastic waste into oil as an intermediate product to make polyethylene.