Egypt: A new leader of Climate Finance activism?   

By Hana El Hilaly

Set to host the United Nations’ 27th annual Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Sharm El Sheikh this coming November, Egypt has publicly taken steps to initiate action towards realising the climate finance promises of the world’s leading nations. By focusing its agenda on this, will Egypt become a representative for African nations in need of climate finance?  

With 90% of disasters being classified as climate related, costing $520 million per year, it is clear that there is very little time left for action to be taken against climate change. This has led to a heightened sense of urgency in the international sphere. COP27 is therefore arguably one of the most anticipated climate change conferences to be held so far. By bringing together delegates from 198 countries in the Egyptian coastal city of Sharm El Sheikh, COP27 will hopefully inspire the action that so desperately needs to be taken at this point in the climate crisis. 

As one of the most vocal African countries when it comes to advocating for environmental issues, previously, for example, hosting the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD COP14) in 2014, Egypt presents a promising location. So far, the country has taken several steps in preparation to host COP27, including several attempts to guarantee justice for developing countries by holding developed countries accountable for the climate finance promises that have previously made.  

The Climate Finance Agreement was made in 2009 and solidified in the Paris Agreement of 2016, where developed nations agreed to mobilise $100 billion each year as aid for developing nations to become greener. It was one of the most critical points raised at the postponed COP26 at Glasgow in 2021, as this promise was supposed to be fulfilled by 2020. However, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, this goal has yet to be reached – a revelation that sparked controversy leading up to last year’s COP and prompted the matter to be readdressed. In response to this, officials from the UK, alongside Canada and Germany, published a “Climate Finance Delivery Plan”. The plan restated the importance of climate finance, encouraged further finance pledges from countries and multinational organizations, and acknowledged a need for further accountability.  

Following these developments, an anticipated discussion point leading up to COP27 is whether these nations have lived up to their renewed promises, as well as assessing whether the projections made within the Climate Finance Delivery Plan are accurate. In anticipation of these issues being raised at the upcoming conference, Egypt has taken the initiative to put Climate Finance at the forefront of forum discussions and to highlight the importance of the issue, with officials stressing the need to acknowledge the mounting debt that African countries have been left with due to increasing western pressure to become greener. The strong language used in this statement underlines who Egypt sides with in the climate finance issue. Here, Egypt is supporting the African nations and is framing them as the victim in the situation. While this may not appeal to the hegemonic nations who are the villain of this story, Egypt has created a narrative in which it is heroically supporting the underdog, allowing for it to be labelled as a climate finance activist ahead of this conference.   

Regional forums have been held in preparation for the conference, with, as put by the Former Egyptian Minister of Environment, “the aim of discussing the financing of climate-related projects in cooperation with the UN”. These forums have brought together non-state actors, experts, and influencers to discuss methods of financing climate action and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). In particular, the 18th of July forum’s objectives emphasized the need for action to be taken by facilitating the engagement of several parties to hasten the public and private collaboration and funding towards initiatives and policies for climate finance, and to “narrow the current gap in Paris-aligned financial flows”. Not only does this amplify Egypt’s biases, but the explicit reference to these issues in the objectives shows that Egypt is taking practical steps towards resolving the issue, rather than simply preaching the need to do so, as other nations have done in the past.

Additionally, the former minister of investment in Egypt, Mohamed Mohieldin, has addressed the need for a separate “loss and damages” fund to compensate for damage incurred by natural disasters in developing countries triggered by climate change, the most recent being, Pakistan’s flood crisis, which left 33 million people affected.  

By taking this initiative and focusing the agenda during its presidency on the issue of climate finance, Egypt has become a representative of African nations. It is using the platform it has been given to allow subaltern countries who do not regularly get a say in international decisions to have a voice in their own issues and future.

That being said, these plans will not amount to anything unless decisive action is taken after the conference in November, and agreements are made for this action. While Egypt may have the conference’s presidency, the outcome lies in the hands of the leading nations who have previously agreed to the pact. As seen in past conferences, conflicting opinions and views between countries have tended to stifle decision-making. Most recently, this was seen  at the 2021 Glasgow conference, which ended with president Alok Sharma “fighting back tears” of frustration because of the inconclusive nature of the conference. Egypt has attempted to prevent national differences from interfering in decision-making by holding a number of panels and workshops at the previously mentioned regional forums that focused on connecting national priorities for development with climate action. This projects a possibility for actual advancements to be made within climate action, specifically climate finance. In fact, it could be argued that one potential reason for the non fulfillment of climate finance promises is richer nations’ reluctance to grant the money to developing countries due to a belief that they themselves benefit very little from the arrangement. While onlookers can see that collective action will, in the end, be mutually beneficial, the dominant perspective is that, individually, developed nations are losing out. It is clear, therefore, that it is only when domestic aims are intertwined with climate finance action that an incentive for nations to enact change is produced.

A building time pressure and the disappointment following the last conference have put a lot of pressure on the shoulders of the Egyptian presidency and accompanying delegates to enact change during the 2022 conference. The result of this year’s COP will both identify the power that  Egyptian presidency holds within the region region as the self-proclaimed representative of Africa, and affirm the inter-state standpoint on the issue of climate change. In preparation, Egypt has emphasized its readiness to fight for developing countries to receive the compensation they were promised and has effectively become an activist of climate finance justice. By taking proactive measures, it has based all of its forums ahead of the COP on the issue of climate finance, focusing on assuring that previously made promises are fulfilled by providing incentives for states to act and finding methods to track how they are maintained. Nevertheless, it is impossible to say if Egypt’s efforts will make a difference until the conference commences.  

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect the opinions of The St Andrews Economist. 

Image Source: Unsplash

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