Comparing my window view of Cairo over twenty years ago with today, I can see that its weather has changed dramatically.
It is also clear to me, having visited many countries since, that Cairo is not alone in these changes. The global implications of climate change on the environment have become obvious – even to non-experts.
At various levels and around the world, people are working to tackle the great threat that this phenomenon poses to our planet and its people. Still, if we ever hope to achieve the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of 2030, we will need to take more serious steps.
This year, there is a great opportunity to discuss recent climate policy developments under the ‘Talanoa Dialogue’, where governments and stakeholders across the world will sit together (for the first time since the Paris Agreement) to evaluate what has been achieved so far.
The European Union (EU) considers the Talanoa Dialogue an excellent opportunity to boost multilateral cooperation, and build mutual trust amongst the participants.
It also sets the tone for the EU’s annual Climate Diplomacy Week, which we are celebrating from 24 to 30 September with our partners across the world. The week aims to spread awareness of climate change internationally, while stressing links with other SDGs such as green finance, renewable energy, and sustainable land use.
The EU is adopting a legislative framework, to achieve its target of cutting domestic greenhouse gas emissions by at least 40% by 2030, compared to 1990 levels. This includes, for example, revising the EU emissions trading system for the period after 2020, setting national emissions reduction targets for sectors not covered by emissions trading, and integrating land use in our climate legislation.
Globally, the EU has committed to devote at least 20% of its development assistance funds to climate action.
In Egypt, over €770 million of EU grant assistance is climate-relevant, and part of this has helped to leverage additional concessional loans from the European Investment Bank (EIB), and other development banks, for some €4.65 billion.
Our cooperation with Egypt in the climate-relevant field focuses on sustainable energy, water sanitation, and waste management projects. We have therefore funded the National Solid Waste Management Programme (NSWMP), which seeks to support the Egyptian government in institution building, policy reform, and solid waste infrastructure investment, across four governorates.
The total financing plan is €61.9 million, with an EU grant contribution of €20 million.
Moreover, EU-Egypt cooperation in the energy sector amounts to €350 million in grants, which aims to bring Egypt to a number of reform benchmarks, including those of Egypt’s Sustainable Energy Strategy 2035.
The EU is also contributing its technical assistance to reform Egypt’s New and Renewable Energy Authority, which kicked off last August.
Further, we have helped provide the country with clean energy and reduced its carbon emissions through windfarms, in the Gulf of El Zayt and Gulf of Suez.
For me, this year’s Climate Diplomacy Week has a unique flavor. We have arranged several events that aim to raise awareness of the implications of climate change to Egyptians of all sorts, including youth and children. Last week, we organized a clean-up event at a public beach in Alexandria, attended by over 300 volunteers who helped remove marine littler and plastic. This week, the EU is announcing its launch of the Clima-Med project, at a high-level conference with the Minister of Environment, and the Minister of International Cooperation. Finally, we are participating in activities that promote pro-climate values, especially among youth, including cycling, tree planting, and other climate-relevant activities.
On the international level, the Paris Agreement on climate change – a landmark global agreement adopted by almost 200 countries, including Egypt – sets out an action plan to bring the world on track, and avoid serious climate change. It sets the course for the global transition to low-emission, climate-resilient economies and societies.
We must reinforce our collective attempts to implement the resolutions of the Paris Agreement. According to the upcoming special report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), our chance to limit global warming to under 2°C (compared to pre-industrial levels) is vanishing quickly – especially given that countries in Paris had proposed emission reductions that were insufficient to reach the global target.
Climate issues are not a matter of political or economic gain, but rather a matter of survival. I hope you can join us this week, start your own commitment to climate action, and help to preserve our planet for current and future generations.