Egypt is due to host the next global climate summit in November, but its own recently updated strategy for curbing greenhouse gas emissions at home has been criticised as “highly insufficient” by an independent group of scientists.
The Egyptian government submitted a new plan to the United Nations last month, arguing it would address the impact of climate change while contributing to improving the quality of life of Egyptians and achieving sustainable development and economic growth.
The Climate Action Tracker (CAT), a nonprofit scientific analysis group that monitors government climate action around the world, said Egypt’s plan fell short. Egypt needs to go back to the drawing board, the group said, to fulfil the requirements of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change before it leads the new summit, called COP27, to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh in November.
Mia Moisio, an analyst with the Climate Action Tracker, said that Egypt would be in the driving seat at Sharm el-Sheikh as president of COP27 and that it would be good if the government could show more leadership.
Unlike many other countries, Egypt has not promised any date for when it might reach net-zero emissions of greenhouses gases and has only set a target for cuts contingent on getting international support to pay for the changes needed.
“While a transition away from all fossil fuels … is urgently required to avoid catastrophic climate change, there is a risk that Egypt will not show leadership on the matter due to its own current and intentionally growing dependence on fossil fuels – and particularly gas.”From an analysis by the nonprofit Climate Action Tracker
The latest CAT analysis called Egypt’s plan a disappointment.
“While the previous NDC (nationally determined contribution) did not include an emissions reduction target at all, the new 2030 target is barely an improvement and would see emissions continue to rise in absolute terms and even above what is expected with currently implemented polices,” it said. “The CAT therefore continues to rate Egypt’s overall climate action as highly insufficient.”
That rating is the group’s second worst out of five levels judging each country’s ability to meet the Paris Agreement’s goal of keeping the increase in the global average temperature to below 2 degrees Celsius of pre-industrial temperatures, and preferably to 1.5 degrees.
Moisio, an analyst at the NewClimate Institute, which is part of the CAT, said most countries have an unconditional target that they plan to achieve using their own resources, as well as an additional objective dependent on international support.
“So, it is a bit surprising that Egypt does not have an unconditional target, given that even with the policies that they have now put in place they could already use that, and the international support would then drive additional actions beyond what they are already planning,” she said in an interview.
Funding from the developed world, which is responsible for the vast bulk of climate changing emissions since the beginning of the industrial revolution, in the late 18th century, will be a key issue at COP27, so Egypt’s omission of an unconditional target could be seen as a negotiating tactic.
Growing Use of Natural Gas
Egypt’s growing production and use of natural gas is a major element behind the negative rating its plan has received. The country is the second biggest natural gas producer in Africa after Algeria, according to Statista. With the highest level of gas consumption in Africa, it produces nearly 40 percent of the continent’s total carbon dioxide emissions linked to gas.
“It would have been good to see a pledge closer in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement because that sort of ambition is sadly needed at this stage.”Mia Moisio An analyst with the Climate Action Tracker
Given the huge jump in global gas prices this year, particularly since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is not surprising that Egypt sees gas exports as a big earner.
“Of course, the global situation and the energy price is influencing people’s decisions, but this is also something temporary,” Moisio said. “In the medium and long-term, clearly Egypt could benefit more from developing renewable energy resources and it could export some of that.”.
The CAT analysis gives Egypt some praise for cutting coal out of its power-generation plans and investing in solar and wind renewable energy. Investment in renewables is at a much smaller scale than gas, however, despite North Africa having abundant solar and wind resources.
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“While a transition away from all fossil fuels holds multiple benefits and is urgently required to avoid catastrophic climate change, there is a risk that Egypt will not show leadership on the matter due to its own current and intentionally growing dependence on fossil fuels – and particularly gas,” the CAT report argues.
A Failure to Show Leadership
At last year’s climate summit, COP26 in Glasgow, governments agreed to come up with new climate action plans before this year’s summit. So far, with a handful of exceptions, none of the big emitters, like the United States, China and the European Union have delivered. Even Britain, the COP26 president, has not updated its plan yet, although there is one in the works.
Referring to Cairo’s plan, Moisio said: “It would have been good to see a pledge closer in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement because that sort of ambition is sadly needed at this stage. Many countries have failed to show leadership, and it would have been good to see more.”
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