At COP27 in Egypt, the Sharm El Sheikh Implementation Plan was agreed upon and part of its provisions was the need to promote low-emissions energy, as well as accelerate clean and just transitions to renewable energy during this decade.
In line with this, stakeholders at the New York Climate Week in September, this year, launched the Global Renewable Energy Alliance and issued a unified call to world leaders to commit to a target at COP28 to triple global renewable energy capacity to at least 11,000 GW by 2030.
That decision then inspired the Global Renewables and Energy Efficiency Pledge, with 130 national pledges by the end of COP28. The pledge aimed not only to triple renewable energy capacity but to double energy efficiency by 2030.
Across the MENA region, the pledge received broad support, including from the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Qatar, Bahrain, Jordan, Morocco, Oman, Somalia, Yemen, Comoros, Syria, and Tunisia, who all signed the treaty.
However, that leaves out key regional powerhouses, such as Saudi Arabia, and Egypt.
Experts like Kenzy Azmy, Campaigns Manager at Greenpeace Middle East and North Africa, said she considers this commitment a significant milestone. But despite the potential of the pledge to create new jobs, enhance livelihoods, and empower people and communities, Egypt and Saudi Arabia weren’t interested.
Sameh Shoukry, Egypt’s foreign minister and COP27 president during the opening of COP28 ; Photo by COP28 / Christopher Pike
Renewable energy is needed for Egypt’s growing population
In mid-December 2023, Egypt’s population surpassed 113.5 million, accounting for approximately 1.4% of the global population. This substantial figure positions Egypt as the 14th most populous country in the world.
The nation’s population necessitates a significant energy supply to cater to daily requirements and effectively address the challenges posed by climate change.
Egypt has committed to reducing its emissions by increasing its reliance on renewable energy sources by approximately 42% by 2035. These goals were outlined in the second version of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) that Egypt submitted to the UN this year.
By 2030, the country aims to reduce emissions from the electricity sector by about 37%, a 65% reduction of scope 1 emissions from the gas, and a moderate 7% reduction in the transportation sector.
Dr. Jawad Al-Kharaz, Director of the Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (RCREEE), wonders why Egypt did not sign the tripling renewable energy deal given the energy needs of its population, and its built-in plans to expand its renewables sector.
He believes the country is also well positioned to lead in the deal to triple renewables because the country has strong projects in the sector, most notably the “Benban Solar Power Plant,” the largest solar power plant in the world.
He also noted several wind power plants in the Gulf of Suez, Saffron, and Gabal El-Zeit; adding that “there are many agreements to increase renewable energy capacity which Egypt has signed on to, and there are large projects under study, not only to produce renewable energy, but also to produce green hydrogen, and the coming period will be full of renewable energy projects.”
‘An agreement without funding is not worth signing’
Explaining Egypt’s challenges, Dr. Hisham Issa, former Egyptian UNFCCC focal point, said the country did not sign the pledge however, because there are no funding commitments from developed countries to support developing countries in meeting the pledge to triple renewables.
“Egypt did not sign a pledge to double renewable energy, as the (non-binding) initiative is not linked to pledges from developed countries to provide the necessary funding for this pledge. Therefore, it requires the need for developed countries to make financial pledges to contribute to the implementation of these projects.”
This was reiterated by Dr. Fadel Kaboub, President of the Global Institute for Sustainable Prosperity, who told Climate Tracker that “Egypt has not signed, because there are no commitments or commitments from rich countries to finance energy transmission.”
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2023 the world allocated $1.7 trillion for clean energy. However, the global distribution of this investment is far from equal around the world.
Egypt’s minister of environment, Dr. Yasmine Fouad is seen sitting side by side Mahmoud Mohieldin, executive director of the International Monetary Fund; photo by Kiara Worth
Developing countries will find it difficult to meet up with such an agreement
With approximately 1.47 billion people living in Africa, more than 600 million people across the continent still lack access to electricity and another 900 million lack access to clean cooking.
Azmy argues that given these energy challenges currently facing Africa, Egypt does not feel obligated to sign to “a non-binding undertaking” that provides no funding.
“This is a non-binding undertaking. We need it to be binding, and developed countries will provide sufficient and fair funding in the form of grants to developing countries so that they can achieve this transition.”
Making reference to Arab countries like the UAE and Tunisia that signed the agreement, Dr. Issa explained that they all signed for different reasons:
“For example, Tunisia lacks fossil energy but has a solar capacity that enables it to rely on renewable energy. The UAE, as the host country for the conference, is necessary to sign the pledge to ensure the success of the pledge, as well as to reduce the international opposition of petroleum countries regarding their position on fossil fuels.”
He added that so long as the agreement remains non-binding and does not require any financial commitments from developed countries, the success rate in developing countries will be slow, and so Egypt does not see the need to sign up for such a pledge.
However, the country seems eager to continue to work towards its transition goals and increasing its renewable energy capacity but joining the band wagon of agreements is not something it would not be committing to without finance on the table.
This story was published as part of Climate Tracker’s COP28 Climate Justice Reporting Fellowship