'Climate justice' a priority at Egypt’s Cop27 summit

Developing countries should not have to pay the carbon bill of the developed world, says Egyptian official Wael Aboulmagd

Gas is flared at a refinery near Alexandria, Egypt. Africa is one of the continents hardest-hit by climate change, despite contributing less than 4 per cent of global emissions. Reuters
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The UN's Cop27 summit will be a chance to “integrate the concept of climate justice” as developing countries suffer the consequences of environmental change largely created by the developed world, a senior Egyptian official has said.

“This climate injustice is evident and can be seen by everybody,” said ambassador Wael Aboulmagd, special representative of the Cop27 president, at the American University in Cairo on Monday.

Egypt is hosting the climate summit in Sharm El Sheikh in November, the second African country after Morocco to do so since the Paris Agreement was adopted at Cop21 in 2015.

The pact, signed by 196 countries, set a goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Egyptian officials said Cop27 would be a “Cop for action” and emphasised the need to make pledges a reality, including an unfulfilled promise made by developed countries to mobilise $100 billion annually in climate finance.

At last week’s Africa Climate Week, Cop27 president Sameh Shoukry, who is also the Egyptian Foreign Minister, said Africa was one of the regions most affected by climate change, despite contributing less than 4 per cent of global emissions.

African countries have to spend 2 per cent to 3 per cent of their gross domestic product each year to adapt to the effects of climate change.

At the talk hosted by the university's Alternative Policy Solutions research project, Mr Aboulmagd said “the victim did not contribute to the problem and has to take loans to pay the bill of others”.

“Climate finance is a core issue and it is a conundrum. It lacks justice. It does not suffice. And what is available is directed towards mitigation and not to adaptation and losses,” he said.

Mitigation measures avoid and reduce emissions while adaptation measures respond to the effects of climate change. The concept of “loss and damage” refers to compensation for the devastating effects of climate change.

He highlighted places such as Pakistan, where floods have killed more than 1,300 people and displaced more than 33 million.

Such disasters will only become worse and more frequent, even with small changes in temperature, Mr Aboulmagd said.

“Each 0.1°C [increase] is influential,” he said. “Delay means more repercussions.”

Mr Aboulmagd, who is Egypt's ambassador to Brazil, served as director of environmental affairs and sustainable development in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs between 2016 and 2019.

He has attended several Cop conferences and said he advocates “multilateral action” and “inclusivity”.

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However, there is no denying that “large industrial countries generate most of the world’s emissions”, he said.

Moderator Rabab El Mahdi, associate professor of political science and APS principal investigator, called it “carbon imperialism”.

All nations now have to ensure a smooth transition to sustainability because any country’s neglect in fulfilling its obligations has grave repercussions beyond its borders, said Mr Aboulmagd.

“We have to change the pattern that has been adopted since the Industrial Revolution. It has proved to be a failure and cannot be sustained,” he said. “It is not a luxury. It is not a choice.”

Several factors present challenges at Cop27, including the economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war and tense US-China relations. The two countries are the biggest emitters of carbon emissions.

The conference is bound to an agenda set by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. It will include days during which themes will be centred on issues such as finance, adaptation, decarbonisation and solutions.

Organisers expect 30,000 to 35,000 people will participate, of which 7,000 will be official representatives, Mr Aboulmagd said. Sharm El Sheikh has sufficient capacity, making up about a quarter of Egypt’s hotel rooms, he said.

Egypt has reached out to embassies in all African countries to spread the word about registration and fast-tracked accreditation for underrepresented African civil society organisations.

“This is out of a strong belief that all stakeholders need to be involved,” Mr Aboulmagd said.

Updated: October 03, 2022, 4:50 AM