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What COP27 Means for Egypt's Role in the Fight Against Climate Change

The COP27 United Nations Climate Change Conference is one of the world’s largest gatherings about the global climate crisis. But what, exactly, does it mean for Egypt?

“Egypt to Host COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh During November of 2022” - every news outlet has been repeating the message since last October, and of course they would. The COP27 United Nations Climate Change Conference is one of the world’s largest gatherings for government officials and dignitaries to discuss the global climate crisis and how best to mend it. But what, exactly, does it mean for Egypt?


The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is an international treaty, born to acknowledge the threat climate change poses and the role respective governments play in affecting it, while also establishing a framework for negotiations on climate change. The Convention was born during the Rio de Janeiro ‘Earth Summit’ of 1992, where a treaty was drafted and set to be enforced by 1994, with 196 countries becoming parties.


The establishment of the treaty paved the way for the creation of the Conference of the Parties (COP); a supreme decision-making body made up of representatives from all parties of the Convention. The first official COP took place in Berlin, Germany in March 1995 to examine the implementations of the Convention. Since the 1995 meeting, a yearly conference has been held to further discuss, elaborate, and build on the decisions, resolutions, and goals of the previous COPs. 


The COPs have seen two very memorable and particularly impactful meetings; COP3 and COP21. Held in Kyoto, Japan in December 1997, the COP3 meeting resulted in an international treaty being drafted as an extension to the original 1992 UNFCCC document known as the Kyoto Protocol. Based on the scientific agreement that global warming is occurring and that human-caused CO2 emissions are driving it, the Kyoto Protocol attempted to bind state parties to decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. 


Meanwhile, the COP21 meeting was held in Paris, France in December of 2015 and resulted in what came to be referred to as the Paris Agreement; a 32-page document that was added to the original UNFCCC treaty alongside the Kyoto Protocol.


The accord discusses three major points: reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to research means to limit the increase of global temperature to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels in the future while limiting it to 2 degrees this century; enforcing all participating countries to commit to limiting their climate pollution; encouraging developed countries to help developing countries in their efforts in climate mitigation. The Paris Agreement essentially established explicit objectives and strategies for improving the UNFCCC's system for transparent climate monitoring, reporting, and enforcement.


In layman’s terms, the Earth is dying and the yearly COP meeting is supposed to delay the apocalyptic fire and brimstone. The UNFCCC is very aware that undoing or even stopping the rapid and disastrous effects of climate change on Earth is impossible, but the original consensus of the 1992 Earth Summit was that limiting the effects of climate change will have to be enough. 


The Egyptian Ministry of Environment has been doing a lot of work over the last year to prepare the country for hosting the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh. The Ministry of Environment introduced a training program for college students across the country on handling the challenges posed by climate change. Then, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced plans to host Egypt’s first youth forum for climate change, to further encourage youth to show interest in climate change while preparing Egypt for hosting the conference this November. In fact, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sameh Shoukry, was appointed President Designate of COP27 last January.


In order to make navigating the conference easier, the Ministry of Environment is collaborating with the Ministry of Communications & Information Technology to create a new website and mobile app for the conference. The ministries mean for the app to be used by organisers working behind the scenes of the conference, however, it has been said that there may be another app developed for use by visitors. Additionally, the Director of the World Health Organisation office in Cairo, Dr. Naima Al-Qusair, announced the possibility of health facilities becoming environmentally friendly in Sharm El Sheikh by November, following the announcement of a plan to build green hospitals in the tourist city. 


Sharm El Sheikh is building its first solar power plant, named the Albatros Royal Moderna Plant and it is both designed and implemented by Egypt’s SolarSol Energy. Lastly, the combined efforts of the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Petroleum Petroleum and Mineral Resources has resulted in the inception of various projects working to convert vehicles including cars, buses, and motorbikes into natural gas, introducing electric vehicles, and powering resorts and houses through solar energy (plants). By November of this year, and just in time for the COP27 meeting, Sharm El Sheikh will be the greenest and most sustainable city in Egypt. 


Most recently, Dr. Yasmine Fouad, Minister of Environment, announced the first Egyptian green city; Al-Kharja. The city is planned to be environmentally sustainable and climate friendly, in both its development as a city and its day-to-day living practices, with no carbon emissions whatsoever. 


Hosting an event of such magnitude is deserving of all the preparations that are being made by the government in general, and the Ministry of Environment in particular. What kind of lasting impact COP27 will have on Egypt’s eco efforts is yet to be seen. With Egypt standing as one of the most polluted countries in the world, according to IQAir, a Swiss pollution technology company that collects data on air quality, it’s easy to let the smog and smoke hang over any ambitions we might have. But this, at least, is a step in the right direction.