Despite lack of finance, Egypt works full-swing to achieve sustainable cities

Shaimaa Al-Aees
13 Min Read

With the increasing pressures on the environment as a result of the various activities serving the economy, especially in major industrial countries, the concepts of green economies and sustainable cities are emerging. The concepts refer to achieving growth and sustainable development without disturbing the environmental system, as well as providing aid and grants to poor countries to promote education, health, and infrastructure.

Urban expansion, logging, and climate change, can reduce the diversity of organisms by 10%. Further, air pollution and an unhealthy environment will become one of the most important causes of early death around the world. The world is in dire need of changing the course of their industry and moving towards a clean economy and the use of clean, new energies.

Thus, the world showed great interest in sustainable cities and the green economy, hence the Egyptian-French Economic Forum for sustainable cities held in Cairo on Thursday with the participation of the French Institute in Egypt, the Economic Section of the Embassy of France, and the French Development Agency in close cooperation with their Egyptian partners.

Those institutions organised “sustainable city week” between 22 and 28 November to bring together experts, companies, and representatives of civil society, in addition to French and Egyptian decision-makers, holding numerous conferences and meetings on sustainable city topics.

On 23 November, the Economic Forum for the Sustainable City was organised by the Economic Section of the Embassy of France and the weekly Al Ahram Hebdo. The forum allowed French and Egyptian companies to promote innovative solutions for sustainable urban development in Egypt. Presidential Adviser for National and Strategic Projects Ibrahim Mahlab, Minister of Electricity and Renewable Energy Mohamed Shaker, Minister of Investment and International Cooperation Sahar Nasr, Minister of Environment Khalid Fahmy, and the Chairperson of the New Administrative Capital Ahmed Zaki Abdeen participated in the event.

French Ambassador Stéphane Romatet said that Egypt, like all other countries in the world, is currently facing an urban challenge, and its ability to overcome it

 will determine the fate of its growth.

“If Egypt succeeds in tackling this challenge in the right way, growth will be guaranteed and if it does not succeed, social and economic costs will be high,” Romatet noted.

Therefore, the ambassador pledged to help Egypt in this regard, both technically and financially, by providing funding for related projects.

One of the most important areas requiring special attention from the Egyptian side are transport, electricity, and housing. Egypt faces a great challenge in these fields, especially with its large population growth, according to Romatet.

For his part, Minister of Environment Khalid Fahmy said that industrialised countries will lead the campaign to reduce emissions in the world.

Fahmy pointed out that although developing countries contributed only a small percent of emissions, African countries require about $50bn to activate sustainable development.

He noted that Egypt has been able to transfer coal mines to industrial cities after the use of incentives for investment, and the same will be followed with waste through recycling and investment.

He explained that the country is working on the development of the recycling sector and the establishment of several factories in this sector, which will contribute to adapting to climate change.

He added that the Ministry of Environment will present parliament with the law on waste recycling, formulated on sound economic bases.

He explained that the new investment law is encouraging environmental investment, and added that the energy map in Egypt will change as the ministry aims to make renewable energy about 20% of total energy by 2020 and about 35% by 2035.

However, he said that Egypt is aware of the urban challenge and that the country is working to overcome it even if it does not yet have the necessary funding to do so.

In this context, Fahmy said that Egypt does not yet have the money to implement the Paris Climate Agreement.

On 23 November, the Economic Forum for the Sustainable City was organised by the Economic Section of the Embassy of France and the weekly Al Ahram Hebdo. The forum allowed French and Egyptian companies to promote innovative solutions for sustainable urban development in Egypt.

Egypt has not yet received finance to adapt to climate change

Egypt signed the agreement in December 2015 during the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in France, attended by 197 countries.

The agreement aims to strengthen global action to address the threats of climate change in the context of sustainable development and poverty eradication efforts through three main axes: 1) to maintain the global average temperature rise at less than 2°C above pre-industrial levels, 2) enhance capacity to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change so as not to threaten food production, and 3) facilitate financial flows for low-carbon technology application.

The Paris Agreement focuses on the need for the private sector to work together with the public sector to implement nationally defined contributions to enhance the level of ambition in mitigation and adaptation. It also highlights the importance of providing opportunities for coordination between different roles and relevant institutional arrangements.

One of the important items of the agreement is that developed countries should provide funding to developing countries to help them in the areas of emissions mitigation and adaptation to the effects of climate change.

Further, countries will continue to be committed to provide $100bn annually until 2025. The amount of funding will then be agreed to be no less than this figure.

New Administrative Capital designed to be a sustainable city

From his part, Ahmed Zaki Abdeen, chairperson of the New Administrative Capital Company, said that the New Administrative Capital is a project based on good engineering practice and planning and is implemented in accordance with a time-honoured program and advanced equipment, taking into account environmental commitments and sustainable cities.

“We called all investors and partners to participate in developing the New Administrative Capital and maintain it as a sustainable city. Nevertheless, we met with some of the French experts who visited the capital and finally, we discussed all the cooperation items for the implementation,” Abdeen noted. “It was agreed with the French side to exchange experiences in the project.. We need their input and they are scheduled to review everything that was planned with them to ensure implementation in a good manner.”

He pointed out that France provided Egypt with experts in all fields of energy, electricity, the use of wind energy, and smart cities to be implemented in the new capital.

French companies to invest in sustainable city projects in Egypt

Gerard Wolf, head of a delegation from France’s largest employer federation, Mouvement des Entreprises de France (MEDEF),  and chairperson of the Sustainable Cities Task Force at MEDEF, said that his visit to Egypt aims primarily to sign agreements with the Egyptian government on the most important areas of interest to France. Egypt and France will agree on the provision of appropriate funding to activate the projects to be agreed upon.

“We intend to reach agreements during this visit and we have reached important cooperation agreements which will be announced soon,” Wolf added.

MEDEF held a meeting with the minister of environment and the chairperson of the New Administrative Capital Company to discuss cooperation between the two sides.

Egypt needs $ 73.04bn to address climate change issues

Egypt, after the adoption of Paris Agreement, announced that the country is in need of $ 73.04bn to address climate change and promote a green economy between 2020 and 2030.

The total number of internationally registered projects reached 25 with an annual reduction of 4.2 million tonnes of CO2 emissions and investments estimated at $573m, according to the Egypt State of the Environment Report 2015. The sectors eligible for the implementation of “Clean Development Mechanism” projects include industrial processes, new and renewable energies, fuel conversion, waste management, and afforestation.

Along 2016, the French Development Agency signed four funding contracts with Cairo governorate to carry out 34 projects to develop three informal areas, four tunnels, schools, infrastructure, and water networks in Cairo at EGP 120m in 18 months.

In December,  the World Bank and the Ministry of International Cooperation signed a $1bn loan agreement, the second loan allocated to financing the program development policy to control fiscal conditions, provide sustainable energy, and increase Egypt’s competitiveness.

The effect of climate change on Egypt

Egypt is one of the region’s most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. The impact will affect many sectors, notably water, agriculture and food, coastal areas, and health. Crop shortages are expected to occur due to heat (wheat down 15% and maize 19%). Also, due to the salinisation of soil and groundwater, Egypt’s water needs would increase while animal production would decrease.

Coastal areas are also expected to be at risk of sea level rise. A sea level rise of half a metre would cause 1m acres of agricultural land to be lost and industrial and tourist resources to be lost. This would in turn lead to impoverishment and population migration. Extreme weather would exacerbate the loss of life and property.

In the area of emissions, although Egypt is responsible for only about 0.6% of greenhouse gases, this ratio is not small if compared with the population and the level of growth, with emissions of 4 tonnes per capita, compared with 1.6 tonnes per capita in countries with similar conditions. Furthermore, fossil fuels accounted for 96% of energy consumption, compared to 65% in similar countries. The cost of environmental degradation in Egypt was the highest among Arab countries ($5.6bn in 2008).

The data of the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS) in Egypt, for September 2016, shows the size of the gap over the months of the fiscal year 2015/2016, where the quantities of oil and gas production during this year stood at 66.6 million tonnes, while the consumption rate reached 75.7 million tonnes, a gap of 9.1 million tonnes by the end of the year.

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