climate change: challenges and opportunities

10 October 2021

On the Kemet Boutros Ghali Foundation for Peace and Knowledge (KBG) webinar entitled "Climate change: Challenges and Opportunities," participants highlighted the need to develop clean energy projects, especially in Egypt and the Mediterranean region, which would be among the most affected areas of the world. They also stressed the necessity to use available international financial systems for" adaptation and mitigation. "

Experts stressed that the cost of this confrontation between major developing and industrialized countries could amount to some $23 trillion. This sum would be a stumbling block to the sustainable development of developing countries, which will bear the brunt of the adverse effects of climate change in all its forms.

In this context, KBG organized a webinar on climate change to tackle the upcoming challenges and opportunities for developing countries. Mr. Mamdouh Abbas, Chairman of the Foundation, stressed that risks are no longer a theory but a reality before us. 

"Everyone has followed the recent climate variability of drought, forest fires, volcanoes, torrents, and unusually high temperatures. These phenomena will increase if we don't take this issue seriously and succeed in reducing global warming to prevent global warming to more than 1.5 degrees Celsius".

Abbas said that despite scientists' warnings and some rational politicians, meetings, conferences, and pledges in this regard, the situation is getting more complex. We are still dangerously far from the targeted numbers and rates. Developing countries will suffer the consequences, particularly from increasing poverty, mass migration, unemployment, unrest, and political instability.


A large number of experts participated in the webinar, including Ambassador Wael Abou El Magd, former Director of  Environmental Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the current Ambassador of Egypt to Brazil. He emphasized that climate change had become a constant reality, despite some wishing to keep the situation the same. He notes and confirms that human activity has had direct adverse effects since the Industrial Revolution in Europe and the United States in the late 18th to mid-19th centuries. The most important is the steady increase in emissions of greenhouse gases and thus the occurrence and increase in the frequency of what is known as climate change.

The second fact confirmed by Abou El Magd is that the climate change situation is not, and should not be, seen as an environmental issue that only concerns developed countries. It's an economic and developmental issue that has direct implications for every economic sector in any country. According to Abou El Magd, developing countries generally lack the means, technology, infrastructure, or financial capacity to cope with, respond to or even minimize the damaging effects of climate change. Of note, the passage of recurrent annual hurricanes in the southeastern United States can cause a few deaths and some damage in the United States while wiping out entire cities in the Caribbean.

However, the Ambassador also referred to many opportunities for developing countries to take advantage of available international funding to rationalize energy consumption. These programs and technologies have succeeded in significantly reducing the energy bill for their enterprises. Consideration should also be given to new investment opportunities available in electric vehicles, mass transport, and renewable energy production, such as solar and wind energy. In addition, there is a need to capitalize on the gradual change in people's behavior towards sustainability and explore investment opportunities in areas such as sustainable agriculture, sustainable construction, and many others.

What is important - according to him - is the need for developed countries to yield the means to implement these initiatives and contribute by financing capacity-building and development.

The issue of compensation to developing countries that have already suffered severe and irreversible damage due to climate change appears to be problematic. Most of the States and regions that have already suffered such damage are developing, least developed, or small insular States. Therefore, they do not have the scientific or financial means to deal with the effects of such damage and loss caused by the developed countries with their massive emissions over the years, which have led to the current adverse effects of climate change. 


Dr. Laila Iskander, former Minister of the Environment, explained that the problems surrounding this issue during international negotiations were, most notably, the persistent refusal of developed countries to recognize that they had legal responsibility for such deterioration. They realized that admitting to this responsibility was logically followed by liability for compensation, which extended to substantial financial obligations.

However, Dr. Iskander pointed out that repeated demands by developing States, particularly by small insular States facing the risk of demise from sea-level rise, led to agreement on a mechanism during the Warsaw summit known as the "Warsaw International Damage and Loss Mechanism." However, since this mechanism's establishment, little to no progress has been made.

In the most recent study on the magnitude of the losses and the funding involved, experts stressed that the Green Fund to assist developing countries needed at least $23 trillion, which had led the major industrialized nations to move away from those conventions. According to Iskander, although there is an allocated budget to adapt to this crisis and mitigate its effects, the question of the Green Fund as a financing tool remains very complex. Owing to the inability of emerging countries to measure environmental damage, particularly in development, and the impact of changes politically and socially. According to her, change has become a reality requiring a shift in infrastructure to reduce losses and risks.


In the same vein, Ambassador Nasser Kamel, Secretary-General of the Union for the Mediterranean, emphasized that, according to the most recent studies by more than 100 scientists, the Mediterranean basin will have temperatures above 20 percent above the world average, which is the most affected place after the Arctic. However, according to him, the difference between the two regions is that the first is the most populous, whereas the Arctic is uninhabited. This raises many concerns, especially since the study suggests that nine countries in the Mediterranean basin, including Egypt, are affected by climate change.

However, the Ambassador also stressed that the South Mediterranean countries have the opportunity to lead the region towards a green economy. These countries can exploit their wealth of solar energy and their ability to produce green hydrogen and giant batteries, which have become a new area of storage for electric power in motor vehicles.


Therefore, Dr. Mohamed Bayoumi, Chairman of the Environment Group of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Egypt, reviewed various activities, projects, and initiatives led, participated, and supported by the United Nations Program.

Bayoumi explained that climate change created economic opportunities, which made all program projects in Egypt valuable because of their contribution to efforts to deal with climate change and their value.

The energy efficiency project implemented in Egypt, which reduced the emissions of the plants and enterprises in which they had participated, had resulted in a significant reduction in their emissions. At the same time, they had made substantial savings in their energy bill, which meant economic gain through improved energy efficiency. Bayoumi said that his team was spreading new thinking, especially on small-scale renewable energies. This is evident in the widespread use of the LED lamps for a 25% reduction in electricity consumption and the use of high-priced photovoltaics, which then fell by 90%, which made them affordable for many in Egypt, including large enterprises.

Bayoumi points out that Egypt increases its electricity production by 10% per year. However, renewable energies, energy-saving electrical appliances, and photovoltaic cells allowed Egypt to reduce consumption and build a solar power plant. In cooperation with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Egypt is also working on several projects that limit the entry of the sea into the low-lying areas of the delta. 

Bayoumi said that some delta areas below sea level were observed in the area that engulfed Alexandria in 2010 and 2012 on the coast of Egypt. Therefore, Egypt obtained $30 million in funding to secure low-sea sites around the coastal route. According to Dr. Bayoumi, the construction of 30-kilometer-long installations has been completed so far. These installations are natural dunes standing against the high waves of the sea.


Regarding the role of the private sector, managing partner of Intro Resource Recovery, Mostafa Khairat, noted the importance of its participation in many environmental matters, including recycling of waste and production of new and renewable energy. Khairat also pointed to the need for attention to the negative impact of methane from combustion around oil wells and natural gas and organic residues from agriculture and food. He stressed that methane was now the most dangerous and must be taken into account, especially with many European solutions to eradicate that phenomenon, which would make the continent free of it by 2050.


For her part, Dr. Maha Rabat, former Minister of Health and Population, warned of the detrimental effects of climate change on individual health and food security in many countries. Rabat said the issue was quite clear when the world faced the coronavirus crisis, which led to total closure among States for several months. She also confirmed that an emergency event such as Corona had also announced an evident change on the map of non-communicable diseases and how climate change affected disease types. Rabat called for the need to consider all potential solutions for short- and long-term "adaptation" and develop integrated health policies in that regard.


Mr. Mohamed Ali Fahim, Professor of Climate Change at the Agricultural Research Centre of the Ministry of Agriculture, also explained the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector, particularly the 2018 wheat harvest. He emphasized the decline in Egypt's production of olives and mangoes this year due to what became known as the silent effects of climate, which this year was the rise in temperatures several days ahead of the expected time. Such changes could cost some countries food security or force them to cope with such impacts.