Despite contributing relatively little to global greenhouse gas emissions, developing nations are among the hardest hit as climate change exacerbates food insecurity, water scarcity, and extreme heat, among other problems. The African continent is the prime example of this climate injustice and imbalance.
It was decided to label this year’s Conference of Parties (COP) the ‘African COP’. Its key mission is to unlock support for nations that lack the resources to adapt to climate change adversities on their own. Egypt was tasked to play host. Here’s a short overview of what you should know about Egypt hosting COP27.
Why was Egypt asked to host COP27?
One would naturally expect an ‘African COP’ to be hosted by a country on the same continent, but why Egypt? Egypt has a specific responsibility and incentive to address and combat the causes and effects of climate change on the continent:
- Egypt currently contributes 31 percent of the overall GHG emissions from North Africa and 13 percent of the overall GHG emissions from the entire African continent.
- Studies have revealed that Egypt and the Middle East are warming up faster than the rest of the world, with a predicted 5°C increase in warming by the end of the century.
Egypt has demonstrated it aligns with the COP agenda and has potential to set the “green example” in the region:
- On mitigation: Over the past two decades, Egypt has increased its wind energy capacity fivefold.
- On adaptation: Egypt has undertaken numerous initiatives, including the construction of desalination plants and flood-prevention infrastructure to cope with worsening water stress.
- On climate finance: Egypt was the first government in the Middle East and North Africa to issue green bonds, directing $750 million toward clean public transport and sustainable water management.
Who is leading the COP27 Presidency
Hosting a yearly COP is a great responsibility. It also provides an immense opportunity for the host to set the agenda and influence positions and interests. A higher coordination committee, chaired by Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, was formed to host the upcoming COP27 climate conference.
The committee includes Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who was chosen to be the COP 27 President-designate; Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad who was selected to be the Ministerial Envoy for the conference, and various representatives from other ministries (the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, the Ministry of Electricity and New and Renewable Energy, the Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities, the Ministry of Health and Population, the Ministry of Civil Aviation, the National Security Sector, the Ministry of Transport, The Ministry of Social Solidarity).
Why Sharm El-Sheikh was chosen for COP27
Sharm El-Sheikh has been the go-to city to host national and some international events. Even though this coastal town has a mere 53.000 inhabitants, it has been a popular Red Sea tourist destination for years. Given the infrastructure and amenities available in a touist hub, it is no surprise the Egyptian government decided to host “their” COP in Sharm El-Sheikh.
Other international events that were recently held in Sharm El-Sheikh:
- May 2022: IsDB 2022 annual meeting
- Jan 2022: The 4th edition of the World Youth Forum (WYF)
- Dec 2022: The 9th Conference of the States Parties to the United Nations (UN) Convention against Corruption
- Sep 2021: The 3rd Annual Sharm El-Sheikh Insurance and Reinsurance Rendezvous, and the FAIR 27th Conference
Sharm El-Sheikh is Egypt’s “green city”. According to Egypt’s Ministry of Environment, the city currently relies on eco-friendly electrical and natural gas-powered means. A total of 35 eco-friendly projects are ongoing in Sharm El-Sheikh in cooperation with all the concerned bodies of the State. Some of which are:
- A solar cell plant with a capacity of 5 megawatts is being established on the rooftops of Sharm El-Sheikh Airport buildings.
- An integrated management of the waste system (collection, separation and recycling) is being established.
- More than 120 out of about 160 hotels have been awarded the green star.
- 60 diving centers have been awarded the green mark.
Critical and concerned voices
As with every climate-change conference, there are various voices of criticism and concern. Here of the issues directed at Egypt’s COP leadership.
- Egypt’s dependence on fossil fuels may undermine climate leadership at COP27: Egypt still relies heavily on fossil fuels. In 2019, natural gas and other fossil fuels accounted for about 90% of its power generation capacity. In fact, Cairo has been seeking to increase the country’s oil and natural gas production and is among lower-income countries that argue they should be able to economically develop with fossil fuels until they can afford to transition to clean energy.
- Egypt’s lack of emission reduction plans and commitments: There’s a lack of interest in actively lowering emissions. Cairo was more than a year late in updating its nationally determined contribution (NDC), according to the Paris Agreement timeline.
- Egypt’s new NDC is contingent on international support, and like many other countries, it lacks a quantifiable target for reaching net-zero emissions. Egypt has also been critised for focusing on adaption instead of reducing emissions in its 2022 National Climate Change Strategy.
- Greenwashing accusations: Egypt has been accused of intentionally overselling its eco-friendly attitude to distract from a poor human rights record. Amnesty International argues that Cairo is using the summit as a “rebranding exercise” to deflect criticism of the blocking of independent news outlets and jailing thousands of journalists, protesters, and activists since 2013. Though street protests are illegal, the government will allow demonstrations at a space adjacent to the climate conference.
It’s unlikely that protests at COP27 will resemble the high-profile demonstrations that have occurred at past conferences. However, some Egyptian activists hope the heightened attention on Egypt will push the government to loosen its grip on civil society.