As the host country of the United Nations Climate Change Conference 2022 (COP27) from 6-18 November, Egypt has a big role to play during its presidency as all eyes will be on how the country can lead by example. To put things in perspective, with 1.3 percent of the world’s population, Egypt produces just 0.6 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and ranks twenty-eighth on the global list of polluters. This number seems relatively small from a global perspective. Regionally, however, Egypt contributes 31 percent of the total GHG emissions from North Africa and 13 percent of the total GHG emissions of the entire African continent. Therefore, Egypt bears a great responsibility to find a way towards a green energy transition.
This year, Egypt’s presidency is very important for the COP as a middle-income country from Africa and the Middle East is hosting this event. Egypt can therefore potentially influence the agenda items and bring greater focus to Africa’s growing needs for adaptation and mitigation finance.
The agenda for COP27 includes four main themes to be discussed: climate finance, adaptation, loss and damage, and heightened ambition. Regarding climate finance, there is a need to ensure that developed countries meet their commitment to developing countries on the pledge of US$100 billion per year in financing as promised at COP15 in Copenhagen. Since the establishment of the Paris climate agreement in 2015, there has not been a single year in which the funding goal of $100 billion per year has been met. The closest record to this goal was in 2021, when $80 billion was raised from public and private sources.
Achieving this goal is urgent as climate impacts cause global suffering on an unbridled scale. In addition to the $100 billion target, a post-2025 climate finance deal, which is significantly larger in numbers, must also be agreed and appropriate rules put in place to enforce that commitment.
In terms of adaptation, COP27 is considered the “African COP” as it takes place on one of the continents most affected by climate change. Therefore, stakeholders anticipate a stronger political desire to increase global funding for adaptation. Currently, 80 percent of the total climate finance portfolio is devoted to mitigation, while only 20 percent is dedicated to adaptation. This is often because mitigation projects are bankable projects with reasonable return potential, such as B. Solar and wind energy projects.
However, adaptation projects are inherently less investable as they are designed to help local communities adapt to the impacts of climate change. These projects are often unbankable and less attractive to financiers. Additionally, adaptation projects are often needed by the most vulnerable communities, which often lack the capacity to develop the sophisticated climate finance proposals that can garner support from financial institutions, agencies or governments. So this year there is a direct need to get help for one of the most vulnerable continents and help it adapt to climate change in a fair and just way.
Third, loss and damage has become a contentious issue that has been debated for several years without consensus on an enforceable work plan. Some countries will suffer complete loss and irreversible damage due to climate change, be it a small island nation completely submerged by sea level rise; or the complete bleaching of coral reefs in some seas; or the extinction of certain flora and fauna from ecosystems due to global warming. The issue can be divided into economic losses, which include damage to resources and goods and services, such as agriculture, infrastructure, tourism, etc., and non-economic losses, which include loss of family members, disappearance of culture and way of life, or out-migration your own homeland.
Loss and damage differ from mitigation and adaptation in that they address how to help people after they experience climate-related impacts, while mitigation works to prevent them and adaptation works to minimize them. The Paris Agreement is only intended to provide technical assistance to remedy losses and damage, but expressly excludes liability or compensation for this from developed countries. There have been several attempts to establish a financing mechanism for losses and damages, but they have repeatedly failed.
The problem also lies in establishing criteria for who gets priority and why. Do entire populations that have to be relocated (because their homes on an island are being flooded) take precedence over crops – that feed the poor – that may instinctively leave? Not only is setting criteria and priorities a daunting task, but the mere call for additional funding from the international community for loss and damage has been completely quashed by both the United States and the European Union in previous rounds of negotiations. Therefore, the establishment of a financing facility will be the focus of COP27.
Finally, the fourth item on the agenda is increasing ambition. This involves consolidating the simultaneous political commitments of various stakeholders and the broader global community to the climate cause. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s February report found that we must stay below a 1.5°C temperature rise mark to avoid a climate catastrophe, and that we have just a decade before the carbon budget is completely exhausted. The report also mentioned that emissions levels should be halved by 2030 to achieve this goal. In other words, the international community has less than ten years to act.
Based on the 2021 Glasgow Climate Pact, if all Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) targets pledged for the Paris Agreement were implemented, the international community would still be heading for a 2.4°C increase, with a Worst case scenario of 2.8°C – if all commitments are not met – and a best case scenario of 1.8°C – if all new measures are implemented in Glasgow. That’s still above the 1.5°C mark. Therefore, in Sharm el-Sheikh, all countries are expected to raise their ambitions and make new commitments to reduce their emissions and stay below 1.5°C.
Egypt and the Middle East are warming faster than the rest of the world, with a projected 5°C increase in warming by the end of the century, a new study shows. The stakes are also high in Sharm el-Sheikh as the war in Ukraine affects prices and the availability of food and energy. Egypt must play a significant role at Sharm el-Sheikh to promote these four key agenda items highlighted above. Egypt is also expected to continue voicing the demands and expectations of the Global South – particularly those of its immediate African neighbors.
Lama El Hatow is a Nonresident Fellow at the Atlantic Council’s empowerME initiative. Lama has fifteen years of environmental experience, eleven of them as an environmental and social specialist with the International Finance Corporation.