The Ministry of Environment reviewed measures undertaken to address issues of environmental concern in 2015 in its annual report, published on Wednesday.
The report focused on progress in sectors related to climate change and air pollution, sustaining biological diversity, preserving Nile water, and resolving issues of drainage systems and industrial waste.
Egypt’s has taken a leading role in several environmental conferences in 2015. The country hosted the AMCEN conference, an African Leaders summit on the environment, organised annually by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Additionally, Egypt participated in 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference, at the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) in Paris, and led the initiative for renewable energy for African countries.
During the COP21 negotiations, Egypt emphasised Africa’s place as one of the continents most susceptible to the effects of climate change. Egypt called for a shift in policy from preventing climate change to adapting to climate change, as it and other countries in the global south find themselves asymmetrically exposed to the risks of climate change in comparison to the global north. To address this adaptation, Egypt representatives called for further funding, technology and capacity building, from other developed countries to those most exposed.
A controversial decision to start integrating coal in the industrial energy mix by the end of 2015 was issued in April by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb’s rule. The decision raised many concerns from environmental activists and families living near factories and power stations, yet the ministry has issued approvals for the import coal and its use in about 20 cement factories.
Addressing this controversy, the Ministry of Environment’s report stated: “coal will be used as supplement source of fuel but not as the primary source. Alternative fuel, including agricultural waste, will also be integrated in the mix.”
The report tried to assuage worry further by stating that the use of coal will be dependent on permissions by local authorities and environmental assessment studies. These permissions will be renewed every two years after reviewing the environmental context of each facility.
Legal amendments have also been made in 2015 to environmental law to increase the punitive measures for illegal levels of hazardous emissions, raising the maximum sentence to 15 years imprisonment.
In August, Egypt inaugurated a new axis of the Suez Canal. The Ministry of Environment said it had adhered to strict regulations in accordance with a conducted study on the environmental impact of the project’s design and construction.
“The ministry followed an unconventional approach in assessing the environmental aspect of the new Suez Canal,” the report stated.