October 13, 2022 • 8:28 AM ET
Egypt has made some progress on human rights and the environment in preparation for COP27. But there is still work to be done.
Organizers have taken time to complete preparations for the 2022 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), known as COP27, which will take place from 6 to 18 November in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. We are fighting with. More than 35,000 attendees and leaders have registered for the event, the world’s largest annual gathering on climate action.
But skeptics question Egypt’s leadership in climate negotiations, citing human rights concerns and non-ideal environmental policies. increase. They argue that holiday resorts may not be the best venues for a global conference of this size and scale.
Nonetheless, the opportunity to host COP27 should help Cairo to make progress on climate adaptation and human rights, even if more needs to be done to show that the authorities are serious about political and environmental reforms. motivated the Meanwhile, continued financial and moral support from the United States and other development partners and further scrutiny of the human rights violations committed have meant there is no turning back the country’s progress over the past year.
Egypt as host
In anticipation of the convention, Sharm El Sheikh has been renovated. The hotel has been renovated. A new bridge (to facilitate access to the conference center) and a solar power plant have been built. Electric vehicle charging points have also been installed, accommodating approximately 300 new gas and electric bus vehicles. These buses carry guests to and from the conference center through tree-lined streets.
Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who is also the next president of COP27, hopes that the discussions will “provide[tangible]results that satisfy the aspirations of the people”. In his opening remarks at the Arab Regional Forum to Finance Action on Climate Change, hosted by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for West Asia (ESCWA) in Beirut in mid-September, Shoukri addressed his COP27 delegation. He urged them to “turn pledges into partnerships that create real success stories.” ” in tackling climate change.
Egypt’s leadership looks to the wealthy industrialized nations largely responsible for climate change to bear the cost of climate disasters expected to wreak havoc on the developing world. Securing funding for climate change adaptation efforts in developing countries will help establish Egypt as Africa’s leader in climate action. It’s the vote of confidence Cairo needs as the populous North African nation grapples with high inflation, widening budget deficits and a shortage of foreign money. Foreign exchange reserves, some analysts warn, could spark new riots.
However, COP27 has been shrouded in controversy among environmentalists and rights groups. For one thing, Egypt started off on the wrong footing by choosing Coca-Cola, one of the world’s leading sources of plastic pollution, to sponsor the climate summit, according to Break Free From Plastic. The decision raised eyebrows among activists and critics, who called it a “greenwashing” movement.
Egypt’s choice as host country has brought the country under renewed international scrutiny and has drawn attention to Egypt’s environmental policies, which some critics lament “not a model to showcase”. increase.
Egypt’s heavy reliance on hydrocarbon-based fossil fuels continues to be the bone of contention with climate activists who accuse the country of slowing down its carbon footprint. Egypt’s first Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC), a voluntary plan that defines a country’s commitment to reduce emissions, came more than a year after Egypt ratified the Paris Agreement on Climate Change in 2020. submitted in the year. general” and lacks a clear plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (his latest NDC, which included significant improvements, was submitted in July to reduce emissions by 33% by 2030). Egypt’s commitment to reduce).
The government has also been criticized for the “systematic destruction” of green spaces. Specifically, in the name of development, trees have been cut down in several public parks in Cairo to make room for parking lots and cafeterias. This is despite protests by activists on social media and warnings by environmentalists that, even in the best-case scenario, parts of Alexandria, Port Said and the Nile Delta region, closest to the Mediterranean Sea, will be threatened by rising sea levels. Flooded, displaced millions, severe water shortages and massive food security challenges.
Human rights at the COP
Critics also accuse the Egyptian government of lacking transparency and keeping citizens informed about the inevitable consequences of climate change. He is one of those people who are being cracked down. Environmental rights advocate Ahmed Amasha was arrested in 2017 and reportedly raped and electrocuted in prison. He was released in 2019, but was re-arrested the following year and continues to languish behind bars.
Meanwhile, independent civil society organizations critical of the government have complained of being barred from the COP27 summit. This, they explained, was because they excluded them as an “optional” registration process, allowing only pro-government non-governmental organizations to participate. application. The move aims to curb protests, including the peaceful demonstrations traditionally staged at previous climate summits. Authorities have said they will only allow pre-registered protests and limit them to designated protest areas.
Unsurprisingly, Egypt’s dismal human rights record and leadership’s iron-fisted dominance are of the greatest concern to those opposed to Egypt hosting climate negotiations. Human rights groups argued that the imprisonment of tens of thousands of political prisoners, enforced disappearances, torture in prisons, and the shrinking space for free expression and free speech would not create a conducive atmosphere for holding the summit. Amid an unprecedented crackdown on human rights and civil society, the Working Group on Egypt, a bipartisan group of foreign affairs experts and other rights groups, has urged the Joe Biden administration to become the host country for COP27. Please don’t give support. repressive policies of the regime.
To the dismay of human rights groups, Mr. Biden failed to heed the call. The President of the United States confirmed he will be attending, he is one of 90 heads of state. US Special Envoy for Climate Affairs John Kerry, who has made two visits to Egypt this year, is coordinating with the nominee for the presidency of COP27 and will be announced during the meeting to work out the details of the final stages of the deal. It’s a schedule. Combined Water, Food and Energy (NWFE) is an initiative he launched in September to promote green projects and climate-friendly schemes.
The planned deal may prove a disappointment to activists who hoped Biden would deliver on his campaign promise of “no more blank checks for Egyptian dictators,” but the Biden administration will continue to support the Egyptian government. does not turn a blind eye to the infringement of the rights of In mid-September, the United States announced it was withholding $130 million in military aid to Egypt, citing the country’s failure to meet improved human rights conditions. , was allowed to pass due to what Secretary of State Anthony Brinken described as “progress” made by Cairo on political detainees.
Indeed, hundreds of political prisoners were released before COP27, and security crackdowns have eased significantly in recent months. The release was overseen by the Presidential Pardons Commission, and he was reinstated in April at the direction of President Sisi. Rights activists dismiss the move as mere superficiality, saying the number of people released is a drop in the ocean compared to the tens of thousands of people languishing behind prisons, but they are still correct. It’s a welcome step in the direction. It also shows that Biden’s carrot-and-stick approach to allies in the Middle East could bear fruit.
Egypt has also made strides towards climate change mitigation and adaptation by building desalination plants and flood control infrastructure and increasing solar and wind energy capacity. It was also the first country in the Middle East and North Africa to issue green bonds to finance green projects. Although Egypt has yet to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels, it has made significant progress in diversifying its energy sources. The construction of wind and solar power plants in strategic locations across Egypt is accelerating the country’s transition to clean energy. In addition, there are plans to increase renewable energy capacity by 68% or 4 GW over the next five years, increasing to 13.7 GW by 2030.
To reach its ambitious goals, Egypt has signed several agreements with international development partners, including the Mediterranean Hydrogen Partnership launched with the European Union in April to boost investment in renewable power generation. signed. The new partnership will also focus on strengthening and expanding the grid, including cross-Mediterranean interconnections, renewable energy and low-carbon hydrogen production.
The Biden administration’s approach of using a combination of rewards and punishments appears to be working, but Cairo needs to show it’s really committed to keeping the momentum going and continuing the progress it’s made so far. There is. To do this, we need to take steady and concrete steps to accelerate the transition to the environment, reduce emissions and move to renewable energy. Thus, fulfilling the commitments laid out in his updated NDC and National Climate Strategy. Additionally, Cairo should release all political detainees. Many have been jailed for simply exercising their rights to free speech and free expression. In doing so, we can expect to enjoy greater support from the international community and the fruits of its dedication to the prosperity and stability of Egypt and all Egyptians.
Shahira Amin Cairo-based freelance journalist and Adjunct Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Middle East Security Initiative. A former contributor to CNN’s Inside Africa, Amin has covered post-revolution Egypt’s development for several media outlets, including Index on Censorship and Al-Monitor. follow her on her twitter @sherryamin13.