Egypt tees up for ‘African COP’ at US event focused on green financing

By Julian Pecquet
Posted on Tuesday, 25 January 2022 14:13

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks during a U.S.-Egypt strategic dialogue with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry speaks during a U.S.-Egypt strategic dialogue with Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department, Monday, Nov. 8, 2021, in Washington, U.S., Alex Brandon/Pool via REUTERS

This week, the US and Egyptian governments are teeing up for the UN climate change summit at a two-day event focused on building support for public-private partnerships in Africa and beyond.

With rich nations falling behind on their pledge to mobilise $100bn annually to help developing countries mitigate climate risks and adapt to a warming planet, the US Chamber of Commerce is hosting senior American and Egyptian officials to build momentum ahead of the COP27 Conference of the Parties summit to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh in November.

COP27 is an African COP, and Egypt will be listening carefully to the needs and priorities of African and other developing countries who have suffered greatly from the negative effects of climate change,” Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said on Monday. “But we also recognise the need to work hand-in-hand with all of the parties to be able to deal with these issues.”

John Kerry, the special envoy for climate in President Joe Biden’s administration, said US private sector financing is crucial to meeting the UN’s goal of keeping global warming to 1.5 degrees celsius.

“I think the business community can help do the single most important thing here that no government can do, and that is help to structure the finance for this transition,” Kerry said. “No government in the world has enough money to do what we know we have to do.”

Egypt takes the lead

The climate situation poses an existential crisis for Egypt, an arid country whose Nile Delta is deemed one of three areas on the planet that is most vulnerable to a rise in sea levels due to climate change.

This week’s event is “very important for setting the strategic partnership between the US and Egypt” and laying the foundation for COP 27, said Yasmine Fouad, Egypt’s minister of environment. A climate scientist, Fouad has been tapped as ministerial coordinator and envoy for COP27, while Shoukry will lead the negotiations on behalf of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

Egypt intends to utilise its incoming COP presidency and leadership on global climate action to enhance public-private partnership.

“Despite contributing less than 1 % of global emissions, Egypt attaches great importance to addressing climate change, especially given the myriad far-reaching cross-country impacts we have to deal with,” Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said in his opening remarks.

The prime minister highlighted Egypt’s leadership, including Cairo’s issuance in 2020 of $750m in green sovereign bonds – a first in the Middle East and North Africa – to provide innovative financing for projects in waste management, green transport and renewable energy.

“Egypt intends to utilise its incoming COP presidency and leadership on global climate action to enhance public-private partnership, sustainability, green growth and to achieve a just transition toward the green economy,” Madbouly said. “To this end, we see huge potential for collaboration between Egypt and the United States in these areas.”

Boosting US-Egypt ties

Both countries are also keen to use the COP27 conference to deepen bilateral ties.

This year, Egypt and the US will celebrate 100 years of diplomatic relations after Egypt gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1922. Cairo is a key US ally in the region and helped broker a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas last year, even as the Sisi government’s poor human rights record remains a source of tension.

The relationship extends to cooperation on climate change. Kerry met with Madbouly last June in Cairo when he made his first – and so far only – visit to Africa as the US special envoy for climate change. During that trip, Kerry said the Joe Biden administration would encourage American companies to invest in Egypt in the fields of renewable energy and electric vehicles.

US Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen told the US Chamber event that Washington is helping to organise a private sector trade delegation to Egypt later this spring “to see first-hand the opportunities for investment in Egypt’s green economy”. He said the Biden administration hopes to leverage US government financing mechanisms, including the Development Finance Corporation, the US Export-Import Bank and the Trade Development Agency, to spur additional private sector investment in Egypt’s green economy.

“Egypt needs investment and expertise to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The United States can provide both,” Cohen said. “This is an opportunity for the US private sector to invest in mass transit, power grids, renewables, electric vehicles, sustainable buildings, clean water and sustainable agriculture.”

The event continues on Tuesday with interventions by the Egyptian ministers of water resources and irrigation; electricity and renewable energy; as well as communications and information technology.

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