On January 26, the Climate Parliament hosted a virtual parliamentary roundtable with Egyptian MPs, in collaboration with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO) and the European Commission (DG INTPA). We opened our session with a series of three presentations.
Rana Ghoneim, Chief of the Energy Systems and Infrastructure Division at UNIDO, shared her views on the role of youth in combatting climate change, following up on the recommendations of the World Youth Forum hosted in Egypt this month. She also presented the Roadmap to COP27 which take place next November in Sharm el-Sheikh. She gave an overview of UNIDO’s programmes in Egypt, explaining how they support the country’s efforts in the energy transition and the fight against climate change. Lilia Chanaoui, Network Coordinator, then went on to give a presentation of the Climate Parliament and of the Parliamentary Action on Renewable Energy (PARE) project, focusing on the crucial role of legislators in raising awareness and generating political will, making and influencing laws on climate change, and increasing their country’s climate ambition on renewable energy and national targets. Secretary-General Nick Dunlop closed this round of presentations by introducing the Green Grids Initiative launched at COP26 in Glasgow: a coalition of governments working with international organisations to accelerate the construction of the infrastructure we need for a world powered by green energy. Nick stressed the strategic location of Egypt as a natural connecting point between West Asia and Africa.
Following these presentations, the floor was opened for MPs to comment and share their own experiences in Egypt. Several Egyptian parliamentarians raised the concern of water management. As a country classified by the United Nations as a water-scarce country on the verge of “absolute water scarcity”, this issue is always at the top of negotiations for Egyptians when it comes to climate. The building of a dam on the Nile is a matter of great concern as its consequences on the river’s ecosystem and on the environment, and more broadly its potential social and economic impacts, remain unpredictable.
While everyone is aware of Egypt’s huge potential to use solar power to generate electricity, the MPs mentioned a number of challenges that need to be overcome for the country to unlock its full potential. The Western Desert of Egypt does offer a large amount of land to exploit, but the presence of millions of landmines, planted by European nations during the North African campaign of World War II, is slowing Egypt’s efforts to build power stations. The MPs also raised the concern of the sharing of technology, particularly to produce the necessary equipment such as panels and diverters for power stations. They fear that the costs of these power stations will remain too high if Egypt is not able to manufacture them on its own soil, and therefore advocated for more capacity building, not only for Egypt but for the Global South in general. And thirdly, MPs expressed their wish to focus on having more efficient storage systems. While both solar and wind potential in the Egyptian deserts are excellent, they worry about the inefficiency that might ensue if the energy generated cannot be stored effectively. In that regard, Sergio Missana, Executive Director of the Climate Parliament, suggested the solution of green hydrogen made by electrolysing water using renewable energy, a strategy that has been promoted as a state policy in Chile, and that Egypt would be well-placed to take on as well.
The Egyptian MPs expressed their pride and enthusiasm to be hosting the next COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh at the end of the year, and assured that they will work together with the UK (who hosted COP26) and the United Arab Emirates (who will host COP28) to ensure a smooth transition and to produce the best outcome.