The Sharm El-Sheikh Climate Summit "COP27" is distinguished from previous editions by providing countries affected by climate change with a full opportunity to make their voices heard, as well as eliciting more pledges from the developed world, which pollutes the environment, to fulfil its financial obligations to poor and middle-income countries, particularly those on the African continent.
The "poverty and climate change" syndrome dominated many of the summit discussions which will continue until November 18. Representatives from 197 countries and more than 120 leaders, officials, and presidents are all agreeing that the livelihoods of millions of the poor and vulnerable are threatened by natural and climate change losses. Norway pledged to provide three times more adaptation funding to Africa.
Since its inception, COP27 has attempted to work on providing financial packages to poor countries to deal with the consequences of global warming. This comes about in light of the developed countries' failure to fulfil their pledges in the Paris Agreement, regarding the provision of $100 billion annually to developing countries to deal with the consequences of climate change from the occurrence of floods, droughts, or sea level rise.
Participants in the conference's discussion sessions emphasized that if this funding is not provided, 130 million people will fall into poverty by 2030 and 200 million people will migrate by 2050, making climate change adaptation activities an "imposition" that cannot be postponed or delayed.
On the other hand, Dr. Akinwumi A. Adesina, President of the African Development Bank, emphasized that climate change is costing the African continent huge losses ranging between $7 and $15 billion per year, which are expected to rise to $50 billion by 2050 despite accounting for only 3% of greenhouse gas emissions.
Adesina also stated that climate change has displaced 5 million Africans, which is exacerbated by predictions that temperatures will rise faster there than in any other region of the world. Despite this, Africa receives only 3% of total global climate finance, amounting to no more than $18 billion per year, which is insufficient to address its nearly $125 billion annual problems.
In addition, the majority of African representatives, including heads of state and government, criticized and emphasized that assisting the continent in adapting to climate change is based on justice, equity, and shared responsibility, particularly after the African Development Bank doubled its climate financing to $25 billion by 2025.
Climate expert Dr. Mahmoud Mohieldin stated at the COP27 conference that if funding for renewable energy projects in Africa is not provided, the proportion of harmful emissions will increase in the future. Three of the four people on the planet who are without electricity are living in Africa. In addition, he stated that 600 million Africans face energy shortages out of 800 million worldwide. Aid is the third line of defense after the first line of defense, which is represented by reducing emissions and relying on renewable energy sources, and the second line of defense, which is represented by adaptation by pumping investments in basic infrastructure.
On the other hand, French President Emmanuel Macron vowed to put pressure on "rich non-European countries" to pay their "fair share" in assisting poor countries in dealing with climate change, specifically targeting the United States and China in terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and maintaining financial solidarity.
According to Samuel Warberg, the regional spokesman for the US State Department, US President Joe Biden has also pledged to quadruple the Climate Fund's funding from the Barack Obama administration's ceiling and provide $11 billion in funding annually by 2024 to support countries' efforts to decarbonize their economies, promote climate-friendly land use practices, and enhance adaptation and resilience.
In their speeches, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and his government ministers also emphasized the need for the climate summit in Egypt to raise the slogan of moving from pledges to implementation, which means the need for feasibility studies and projects, as well as for the major countries to fulfil their commitments.
POINT OF LIGHT
In light of efforts to obtain developed-world support for developing countries to combat climate change, Saudi Arabia was a bright spot, as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced the Kingdom's contribution of $ 2.5 billion to support projects of the Green Middle East Initiative over the next ten years.
In this regard, Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated at the opening of the second edition of the "Green Middle East Initiative" summit in Sharm El Sheikh, which was held in conjunction with the climate change conference, that the initiative seeks to "support efforts and cooperation in the region to reduce and eliminate emissions by more than 670 million tons of carbon dioxide equivalent," in addition to planting 50 billion trees, increasing by 12 times the area covered by trees, and by recladding.
Prince Mohammed bin Salman also emphasized the importance of implementing the circular carbon economy approach, as well as launching several other initiatives, such as an international cooperation platform to implement this approach, a regional investment fund dedicated to financing solutions for carbon circular economy technologies, and the initiative for clean fuel solutions to provide food, as well as accelerating the pace of technology development and adoption.
The Crown Prince also mentioned diversifying the energy mix used to generate electricity so that by 2030, 50% of it will be produced using renewable energy sources, removing 44 million tons of carbon emissions, or 15% of the Kingdom's current nationally determined contributions by 2035. He also mentioned several Kingdom initiatives, such as the establishment of a regional climate change center and a regional cloud seeding program, as well as the goal of planting 10 billion trees and increasing terrestrial and marine protected areas to 30% of total national area.
INITIATIVES RELATING TO FORESTS AND DROUGHT
The Green Middle East Initiative prompted approximately 25 countries to form a group to hold each other accountable for protecting and halting deforestation by 2030, following pledges made by approximately 140 countries at COP26 in Britain last year.
In terms of financing, pledges to protect forests outperformed global warming and the greenhouse effect. Approximately 22% of the $12 billion pledged by countries in Glasgow to preserve forests by 2025 has already been paid, and Germany has doubled its forest funding by two billion euros until 2025.
Furthermore, an international alliance for drought resilience, comprised of more than 25 countries and 20 agencies, has been launched with the goal of improving preemptive responses, with an initial funding of five million euros provided by Spain to launch the project and mobilize additional support, particularly a Kenyan project to plant five billion trees in five years, rising to ten billion in a decade.
In the same vein, Sherif Elrefaey, a climate policy researcher at Peking University, saw the discussion of climate challenges in Africa as being a natural topic in view of Egypt's hosting of the summit, as a representative of the continent that requires massive funding to confront the phenomenon of climate change.
Elrefaey stated that holding the summit in the current volatile global environment prompted it to address issues that were different from previous climate summits, particularly in light of the ramifications of the Russian-Ukrainian war, which had global ramifications and caused a major energy crisis in Europe. This is in addition to the emergence of serious climate problems, the most significant of which is the drying up of rivers (in whole or in part) across Europe. International institutions have issued a final warning about the Earth's future.
On the other hand, President Sisi's call in his opening speech to end the Russian-Ukrainian war received a strong echo and was a focus of the speakers, who referred to the war's destruction of 5 million acres of forest, while Russian President's Special Envoy for Climate Affairs Ruslan Dolgalev focused on the impact of climate change on water supply in the world.
Aside from Egypt's tourism gains and free publicity for Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt was successful in attracting investments during the conference. On the sidelines, an Emirati company and the Egyptian government signed an agreement to develop a 10GW onshore wind energy project in Egypt. It would be the world's largest wind energy project, preventing the emission of 23.8 million tons of CO2, equivalent to approximately 9% of Egypt's total emissions.
The energy produced by the new plant saves $5 billion in annual natural gas costs, in addition to providing approximately 100,000 job opportunities, including 30,000 direct construction jobs, 70,000 indirect workers, and 3,200 permanent jobs in operation and maintenance work after the plant's initial activation is completed.
The Egyptian government also signed a memorandum of understanding with the Egyptian Orascom Construction, and the Kahrabel FZE, (a subsidiary of the French Engie SA), and the Toyota Tsusho Corporation to build a 3 gigaton power plant. In addition, a memorandum of understanding was made with the Scatec-ASA company.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi launched the first phase of a project to establish a green hydrogen production plant with a capacity of 100 megawatts in Ain Sukhna as part of an integrated energy system for the year 2035, which is expected to cost $40 billion and will treat green hydrogen as the environmentally friendly fuel of the future.
With the launch of the new project, the number of green hydrogen production projects in Egypt which are expected to be implemented within the Suez Canal Economic Zone has increased to 15. International renewable energy companies will participate in all of these projects.
According to Dr. Ahmed Sultan, Petrophysics Department Manager at Tharwa Petroleum Company and Head of the Cairo Engineers Syndicate's Energy Committee, Egypt has had a renewable energy strategy since 2015, aiming to increase the percentage of renewable energy and diversify its sources, with green hydrogen at the heart of 15 projects, which forms about 35% of such projects in the Arab world.
He also added that Egypt has the necessary capabilities to produce green hydrogen and a desire to make leaps in the field of energy, which represents the prudent strategy for the new republic, and is also an international trend, as the world produces 120 to 150 million tons of green hydrogen annually, with the goal of increasing to 200 million tons by 2050.
Furthermore, Sultan stated that Egypt has the experience to produce green hydrogen, as Egypt owned a factory to produce it years ago as a fuel for marine transport. However, the factory was closed due to high costs and a lack of competitiveness, although these factors have now changed.