May - Egypt launches a national strategy for Green Economy at AMCEN

On the side-lines of the African Ministers Conference on Environment (AMCEN), held in Cairo from 16 to 19 April 2016, Egypt launched a national strategy on Green Economy. African leaders at AMCEN called for the promotion of a clear development vision for Africa in the context of the international sustainability agenda, and Egypt took an important step in this direction with the release of the national strategy for green economy.

The sixth special session of AMCEN, held under the theme "Agenda 2030 and Paris Agreement: From policy to implementation in Africa”, gathered over 50 African leaders to tackle sustainable development, desertification, climate change, and to deliberate on how to move forward with regard to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

During AMCEN, Egypt’s Prime Minister Sherif Ismail stated that the environment is one of the cornerstones of the Egypt 2030 strategy: “The strategy falls in line with the climate change goals, which include advancing the quality of life and providing clean sources of energy.”

The new strategy for a gradual transition into a Green Economy was launched in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the Centre for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE). The strategy has four key focus areas:  water, agriculture, waste, and energy, and anticipates the implementation of 28 projects across 13 governmental facilities.

According to an official statement released by Egypt’s Ministry of Environment, the strategy includes a gradual adaption of governmental procurement towards environmentally-friendly products and sustainable technologies.

However, there are challenges facing the implementation of  Egypt’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. In particular, environmentalists have expressed concern about the expansion in the use of coal instead of low-carbon fuel sources.

Upcoming coal expansion plans include new coal-fired power stations currently under construction, and at least 20 cement factories have recently been granted approvals to start using coal. This has been a concern for citizens living near industrial facilities and power stations who will face increasing air pollution. The expansion of coal costs in Egypt was estimated to reach EGP 2 Billion annually, according to a study by a consultant to the Environment Ministry in 2014.

Earlier in April, the Environment Ministry announced its future energy mix strategy which includes radical changes: the percentage of fossil fuel energy use will decrease from 95% to a maximum of 50%. An increase will also be made in renewable energy resources to 30%, nuclear energy to 5%, and coal to 15% at most.

National level commitments for a green economic transition are necessary to meet the ambitious global goals of both the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement under the UNFCCC. Egypt’s Strategy for Green Economy represents a key step forward in pursuing an economic development path that takes into account environmental conservation and ecological scarcities, and supports the creation of an equitable and resilient society.