Egypt is confident it can work with the world’s largest emitter, China, to cut its emissions before the next UN climate talks COP27, hosted in Sharm el-Sheikh in November.
A key outcome from last year’s COP26 talks in Glasgow was a commitment from countries to ramp up their climate action plans within just a year.
Environment minister Yasmine Fouad said China was a “key player” in Egypt’s bilateral and multilateral relationships, batting away the suggestion that China’s vast investment in Egyptian infrastructure might make it harder for the African nation to put pressure on the Asia giant.
But, as host of the next climate talks, Egypt will “discuss with all the emitters, whether they are the big emitters or the least emitters” on how they can each deliver on the Paris Agreement, she said.
In an exclusive interview with Sky News, the minister said Egypt’s status as a lower middle-income country, outside of the powerful G20, was irrelevant to its diplomacy as the next COP host.
It was more important that Egypt can “start the kind of discussion” that is “useful to humanity”, she said.
“Whether [with] the US coming back to the Paris Agreement [or] how you liaise with the European countries… All those are means of having those kind of… good bilateral relationship in order to keep the boat going forward and trying to reach… consensus,” said Ms Fouad.
Speaking from the World Youth Forum in Sharm el-Sheikh, Ms Fouad said the protests at COP27 would be “no different” to protests at previous COP talks, where civil society usually turns out en masse to campaign for bolder climate action from leaders.
Observers fear the right to protest at COP27 will be curtailed by Egypt’s authoritarian regime, which human rights groups have accused of holding 65,000 political prisoners and “arbitrary detentions”.
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She called it “contradictory” to warn of human rights infringements at COP27 in a country that “came out with its national strategy for human rights – that was not a requirement, but announced whether there were a cop on its land or not.
“Why would they say that if a country has already adopted a national strategy for human rights?”
The current World Youth Forum is an example of open discussion in Egypt, she said.
The decision to host the talks in the remote resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh – harder for many Egyptians to access than Cairo – has raised eyebrows, but Fouad insisted the decision was logistical, akin to the UK hosting COP26 in Glasgow rather than London.
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Before last year’s climate talks most countries published ramped up climate action plans, after the last batch failed to curb warming to anything like the targets set out in the Paris Agreement.
Egypt is yet to publish its new plan – known as a Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) – but Ms Fouad said there was “no shame because the NDC is not a prerequisite for the Paris Agreement… It is a process that the country has started internally”.
“Egypt has led by example,” she said, citing various energy reforms, 30 climate “megaprojects”, targets for green government funded projects and work on its new NDC.
Africa nominated Egypt to host this year’s COP talks, which rotates continent every year. Ms Fouad said Africa and the issues important to it would be “at the heart” of COP27.
These include concerns about funding for vulnerable countries to cope with climate finance, issues important “not only in Africa, [but to] those… developing countries that did not produce emissions, but they are paying the price of the climate change.”
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