Road to COP27: Host Egypt faces challenges due to global tensions

Published Jun 19, 2022


By David Monaye and Ekeminiabasi Eyita-Okon

In May, Egypt’s Prime Minister Moustafa Madbouli launched the country’s National Climate Change Strategy (NCCS) 2050. This comes ahead of the country hosting the 27th Conference of Parties (COP 27) in Sharm El-Sheikh, in November, and against the backdrop of being one of the most vulnerable countries to the impact of climate change.

Yet, its global share of carbon emissions is less than 0.6 percent. Climate change threatens Egypt’s economic and human development across sectors such as agriculture, water, health, and infrastructure development.

In Africa, Egypt has been a forerunner in climate change adaptation and sustainable development, with the goal of becoming the region’s hub for clean and renewable energy by the stipulated timeline. The NCCS 2050 is an extension of the country’s 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and other green policies and projects launched in the country over time.

This includes pioneering the first sovereign green bond in the Middle East and North Africa region worth $750 million (about R12 billion). Its impact report indicates that 46% of the proceeds have been earmarked for clean transport and 54% for sustainable water supplies and wastewater management.

Egypt has successfully sourced financial support from the World Bank for climate finance geared towards multiple projects including clean air and traffic system, green housing solutions and the likes. While Egypt has taken great strides toward climate action, there remains a question about its ability to fulfil the vision embodied in the NCCS 2050.

The NCCS 2050 embodies five main goals and 22 objectives. Of importance to this article is goal #1, “achieving sustainable economic growth and low-emission development in various sectors”.

Within this goal are four key objectives: a) energy transition by increasing the share of all renewable and alternative energy sources in the energy mix; b) reducing emissions associated with the use of fossil fuels; c) maximising energy efficiency; and d) adopting sustainable consumption and production trends for reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from other non-energy activities.

These goals and objectives are in pursuit of a green energy transition, in alignment with the 2015 Paris Agreement on Climate Change and the Glasgow Pact of November 2021.

At the Accelerating Action for the Future Sustainable Clothing and Footwear Industry event organised by the UN Economic Commission for Europe in collaboration with the UN Industrial Development Organisation, Egypt’s Minister of Environment, Yasmine Fouad, stated that the focus of COP 27 will be on implementing the decisions, pledges and outputs of the COP26 Glasgow Summit held in November 2021.

Thus, it is imperative to examine the state’s capacity to green its national development agenda. In pursuit of green (energy) transition, Egypt has adopted a series of development policies and projects to this effect. Its economic development is hinged on the energy sector which accounts for 13.1% of the country’s gross domestic product.

Thus, the security and stability of energy supply are crucial to Egypt’s economic welfare. Embodied in the country’s 2030 Sustainable Development Vision is the target to achieve a diversified, competitive, and balanced economy within the confines of the UN SDGs.

Egypt has made considerable efforts in increasing the share of renewable energy in its generation and consumption mix. Given the high potential for renewable sources of energy like solar, wind, and hydropower, the country is looking to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and reduce its carbon footprint by 2050.

To this end, the government initiated the Integrated Sustainable Energy Strategy 2035 which seeks to explore new and cleaner sources of energy to generate about 42% of electricity by 2035. Since 2015, Egypt’s share of renewable energy sources has increased at a staggering compound annual growth rate of 35%.

In 2019, the Egyptian government completed the largest solar power plant in the world – the 1 465-megawatts Benban solar park. Increasing the share of green energy in the country’s mix has required a shift in organisational structure emphasising the importance of an inclusive approach.

While the state-owned energy utility Egyptian Electricity Holding Company dominates the electricity sector and the Ministry of Electricity and Renewable Energy is tasked with drafting the sector’s development plans, electricity pricing and the supervision and implementation of projects, the sector is regulated by the Egyptian Electric Utility and Consumer Protection Regulatory Agency.

In an attempt to include the private sector and key actors in meeting the 2030 and 2050 vision, Egypt seeks to privatise the electricity sector into a fully competitive market by 2025.

Thus, the unbundling of the electricity sector would increase participation in the market but can be construed as a strategy to garner crucial funding from institutions like the World Bank and African Development Bank, to fund green energy transition initiatives.

Given the above, it can be argued that Egypt is a befitting candidate to host COP27 and well on track to attaining its green vision embodied in its 2030 and 2050 development agenda. An example worth emulating in the African continent.

* Monyae is an Associate Professor of Political Science and International Relations Ddrector of the Centre for Africa-China Studies.

** Eyita-Okon is a research fellow at the same institute.