While Egypt accounts for only 0.6 per cent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions, the road to net zero requires increased collaboration between the environment and energy sectors, Minister of Environment Yasmine Fouad said at a petroleum conference in Cairo on Tuesday.
The challenge is to “keep the balance between the transformative and speedy development and the environment and conservation of natural resources”, Ms Fouad said at the fifth Egypt Petroleum Show (Egyps).
The three-day exhibition and conference, which opened on Monday, includes 11 international energy ministers as well as chief executives, secretary generals, business leaders and representatives from international and local oil companies.
Supporting the clean energy transition in North Africa and the Mediterranean region is one of the key topics of discussion, as Egypt prepares to host Cop27 in Sharm El Sheikh in November.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement, adopted in 2015 and signed by about 200 countries including Egypt, sets out ambitious goals to try to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
Providing poor African nations with the financial support needed during the clean energy transition should be the top priority at Cop27, Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi said at the Egyps opening on Monday.
A pledge by rich nations to channel $100 billion a year to developing nations to help them adapt to climate change has not yet been met.
The top CO2-emitting countries globally are China, the US, India, Russia and Japan.
Africa is responsible for less than 2 per cent of global emissions, despite being the second-most populous continent, said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency.
“We have to make sure that Africa doesn’t shoulder a heavy burden in transitioning to clean energy,” Mr Birol said.
In Egypt, the energy sector, including electricity, transit and oil and gas, accounts for 65 per cent of the country’s emissions, Ms Fouad said. Oil and gas make up only 3 per cent.
To solve the challenge of reducing emissions, she said climate finance, the inclusion of the private sector, the use of green technologies in developing countries, and a national capacity-building programme to train and grow human capital is also necessary.
“If we have the financing and we have the technologies, but we don’t have the human resources who are able to manufacture, operationalise and maintain those technologies, we would not be closing that circle,” Ms Fouad said.
The relationship between the energy and environment sectors in Egypt has evolved in recent years to one of tension to one of co-operation, where now the “carrot is used more than the stick”, she said.
She pointed to several success stories that involved a joint effort between the Ministry of Environment and Ministry of Petroleum.
For example, 11 out of 13 petroleum companies in the Gulf of Suez have enacted environmental sanitation plans that include the establishment of industrial wastewater treatment plants at a total cost of 7 billion Egyptian pounds. The remaining two companies will complete the projects by the end of this year.
Oil and gas companies are connected to the national network for industrial air quality “so we are able to track their emissions minute-by-minute”, Ms Fouad said.
In the energy sector, solar and wind power have been further developed over the past seven years.
Refuse-derived fuel, a fuel produced from various types of waste, is now being used as an alternative in cement factories.
There are ways to “give a win-win to both the development and the environment”, Ms Fouad said.
In a speech later in the day, Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum Tarek El Molla said Cop27 is “a big responsibility”.
He said there is a need to demonstrate that “we can use our fossil fuels responsibly” while prioritising “decarbonising hydrocarbons, carbon capture and storing”.
“We need to represent Africa, we need to build for our brothers in the UAE for a continuation of the narrative that we will start writing together,” Mr El Molla said, referring to Cop28, which will be hosted by the Emirates.