Will COP27 in Egypt be the Turning Point for more Climate Justice in the MENA region?

Since the 2016 UN Climate Change Conference in Morocco (COP22), the 2022 conference (COP27) will once again be hosted by a country in the MENA region: Egypt.

This offers a great opportunity as it puts Egypt and the region in the international spotlight and thus allows to demonstrate the region's vulnerability to climate change and raise awareness of climate change among the local population. The current challenges and hence the expectations to the Egyptian COP Presidency are anything but small. With the Glasgow Climate Pact, the agreement reached at COP26 in 2021, the signatory countries agreed to keep alive the 1.5 degrees set in the Paris Agreement (limit the global average temperature rise to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim for 1.5°C). Among the achievements of COP26 is the completion (after six years of discussions) of the Paris Rulebook, the guidelines for how the Paris Agreement shall be implemented. In addition, for the first time ever, a majority of countries pledged to phase down the use of unabated coal. The Glasgow Climate Pact alsocalls for a doubling of finance to support developing countries in adapting to the impacts of climatechange and building resilience.

Yet many climate NGOs complain that these efforts are too little and too late, since with the current efforts we are heading for global warming of well over 2 degrees. A temperature increase of 2 degrees Celsius would already be the death sentence for many small islands like the Maldives and could flood coastal cities like Alexandria as well as the Nile Delta. Activists also criticized the Glasgow Climate Pact for failing to make rich polluters pay reparations for losses and damages caused by extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change.

Especially among the historically low CO2 emitting countries of the Global South, there is a great sense of injustice. The countries of the Global North have been emitting a lot of CO2 for decades and are asking climate-vulnerable and developing countries to contribute to climate action. These climate action contributions by countries have been defined in the NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions). NDCs are at the heart of the Paris Agreement and the achievement of these long-term goals as they embody each country's efforts to reduce national emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Many developing countries have set ambitious NDCs, but they often lack finance. Under the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), the Global North is supposed to support the South financially in adapting to and mitigating climate change. According to the Copenhagen Accord, the outcome of COP15, governments around the world committed to allocate $100 billion annually by 2020 to help developing countries address the impacts of climate change. In 2022, 13 years later, this promise has still not been fulfilled. Therefore, many countries of the Global South are calling for the promised financial support and announce that they will place this as one of the main topics at the COP in Egypt.

The MENA region is one of the most climate-vulnerable regions in the world. The expected temperature rise, with 3-4 degrees, is higher than in most other regions. Particularly devastating will be the sharp increase in water scarcity and the accompanying harvest losses and desertification. Impacts of climate change are already being felt in the form of an increase in extreme weather events, mud floods and rising sea levels. The consequences of climate change exacerbate the already large income gap, unfair access to resources and social injustice.

Therefore, COP27 in Egypt must become an engine for more climate justice, in the MENA region, but also globally. With our regional partner organizations and environmental activists, Friedrich Ebert Foundation is promoting the concept of international and domestic climate justice and is searching solutions for a just energy transition. By connecting actors and strengthening civil society, the demand for more climate justice will hopefully be heard at the COP in November in Sharm El Sheikh. If we all join forces and act quickly and courageously, we can still avert the greatest damage!

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