Opinion Editorial: Turning words into action: How the greening of Sharm El Sheikh should give us hope

By UNDP Resident Representative in Egypt Alessandro Fracassetti

November 17, 2022

Sharm El Sheikh is currently hosting leaders, experts, climate activists, civil society representatives and CEOs of businesses from around the world for the largest annual gathering on climate action.

COP27 is expected to deliver much-needed action on an array of issues critical for tackling the climate emergency. 

These actions will include measures for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, building resilience and adapting to the inevitable impacts of climate change, as well as delivering on commitments to finance climate action in developing countries.

The past seven years have been the hottest ever recorded, accompanied by extreme weather events, record levels of greenhouse gas emissions, and now a growing energy crisis. It has never been more urgent to work for renewed solidarity between countries and to deliver on the Paris Agreement.

In this context, UNDP and the EU have recently signed a 6.2 million USD programme to support Egypt’s COP presidency, in cooperation with the African Climate Foundation and the governments of Denmark and Switzerland.

Working in close partnership with the Government of Egypt, this programme has swiftly succeeded in boosting efforts to green Sharm El Sheikh as the host city of COP27, with one of the main aims being to demonstrate how this city can become the main driver of green energy transition in Egypt. 

To showcase the benefits of rapid and targeted climate action, the project has helped install PV systems in landmark buildings throughout Sharm El Sheikh, including the COP27 Convention Centre itself, the airport, and several key government buildings. The programme has also cooperated with hotels on the installation of solar rooftops, as well as supporting efforts to reduce the use of single-use plastic bags.

In the space of less than a year, substantial progress has been achieved in greening Sharm El Sheikh, showing the whole world that when there is a will, there really is a way.

In parallel with these initiatives, UNDP has provided expert support to help Egypt prepare for and make the most of the country’s presidency of this year’s COP. This has included capacity-building to enable the country’s COP negotiation team to achieve the best possible outcomes from hosting the conference. Over the coming days, our focus will be on COP27-related activities such as drafting dedicated studies and compiling best practices in climate mitigation, adaptation and finance.

UNDP remains strongly committed to continuing our close and long-term cooperation with the Government of Egypt and our international partners.

This cooperation has marked up some significant successes over the years. 

To take just one example from the area of energy transition, UNDP and the Government of Egypt launched a joint Energy Efficiencyproject in 2014 that has achieved energy savings between 10 and 15 percent of the total electricity consumption when some 200 million LED bulbs were sold and connected to the grid in Egypt in 2020.

Another joint project on small-scale power stations has led to the successful installation of 140 solar panels and 52 solar power plants in public and private buildings throughout the country. As a result, the capacity of rooftop solar power has risen from just 30 megawatts in 2018 to about 200 megawatts in 2022.Egypt’s achievements prove just how rapidly substantial progress can be made to transition. And this should give us all hope that the world can do the same.

As a further cause for hope, we greatly welcome the announcement this week by Egypt, the USA and Germany to invest additional funding in renewable energy. With this commitment, Egypt has set an ambitious new target for accelerating the expansion of renewable energy to reach 42 percent of the power sector by 2030 – five years earlier than originally planned.

All of us are now keenly looking forward to seeing the same level of commitment shown in over the coming days of the COP. 

Now more than ever, words must be turned into actions for the sake of people and the planet.

original opinion editorial published on Ahram Online on November 15, 2022.