Mahmoud Mohieldin: Five priorities on which climate action should be based

High Level Champion for COP27, Mahmoud Mohieldin's speeks at the Official Opening of Africa Climate Week 2022. By Climate Champions | August 30, 2022

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is of great pleasure to be speaking here today in this important event.

I would like to first thank the government of Gabon for hosting the Africa Climate Week and the UNFCCC secretariat for organizing this with UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank; our regional partners the Africa Union, the Africa Development Bank, UNECA and UN Gabon; and all you stakeholders here for joining at such a critical moment – a critical moment in the lead up to COP27 but also a critical moment for our future here in Africa and around the world

Facts on the current state of poverty

We are living today in uncertain and challenging times. With the remnants of the COVID-19 pandemic, global conflict, hiking food and energy prices, and spiraling inflation rates, it is important not to deviate from our development goals.

When it comes to Sustainable Development, we are unfortunately off target. This has even been the case prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to reports from 2019.

Today, the world is worse off than it was seven years ago, when the UN announced the development targets it hoped to attain by 2030.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the world in Ukraine have even exacerbated the situation.

This year, in light of increased global prices, the World Bank increased the extreme poverty line to $2.15 per person per day, up from $1.90. This means that more people would now qualify as extremely poor, who weren’t considered so before.

According to the adjusted extreme poverty index, the number of people falling below this threshold surpassed 700 million by 2017. A study by the Oxfam Foundation found that the number reached 860 million in the first quarter of this year and that those who suffer from hunger reached 827 million this year.

The impact of food price hikes from the war in Ukraine is expected to even add another 65 million people to those suffering from extreme poverty.

Argument against adopting a reductionist approach

Despite all this, we continuously witness the adoption of a reductionist approach, which reduces sustainability to only mean climate action and climate action to only mean decarbonization. Which is becoming more dangerous than ever.

A number of developed countries, who have already achieved high levels of economic development and standards of living, attempt to dictate conditions regarding sustainability that suit their circumstances and conflict with the priorities and challenges of the developing nations.

First, they reduce the SDGs to include only the 13th, which calls for climate action, while shunting all the other 16 goals.

Moreover, rather than addressing climate action comprehensively and fairly, they exclusively focus on greenhouse-gas emissions while neglecting the need to help developing nations move to alternative, renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power that require huge investment and advanced technologies.

What’s even worse and more unfair is that countries and communities who contribute the least to the climate crisis are disproportionately affected, with the least resources to adapt

Industrial developed countries as well as new industrial emerging countries are responsible for the majority of emissions (China: 30%; US: 14%; India 7%; Russia 4%)

Africa is the least contributor to climate change yet the most affected. Africa accounts for no more than 3% of global emissions, yet many of its countries are suffering the most from climate change

Yet, Africa is suffering the most from climate change, with the highest risk of food and water insecurity and the highest rates of hunger.

While almost half of Africans lack access to basic healthcare, most African countries need to spend up to five times on adaptation to climate change than they do on healthcare.

On average, countries in Africa are spending around 5% of their GDP on climate adaptation. Yet, according to Tearfund, 11 vulnerable nations have to spend up to 22% of GDP to adapt. Those include Eritrea, Madagascar, Mauritania, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, DRC, Sudan, Mali, Ethiopia, Republic of Congo.

This brings us to the main Five Priorities on which climate action should be based, at the forefront being adopting a “Holistic Approach”

First, we must adopt a “holistic approach” when addressing climate change

First, this means not using a reductionist approach to climate change, which would minimize action to merely mitigation, and mitigation to simply mean decarbonization. While those are important contributors, one must not forget finance, adaptation, loss and damage besides mitigation.

Moreover, from a developing economy’s perspective, holistic would mean addressing all those four aspects of climate change within a more comprehensive agenda for sustainable development. It is not realistic to have climate action without considering the full context of the sustainable development agenda, of poverty, hunger, employment, and women empowerment. After all, climate action is the 13th of a more comprehensive action plan of 17 SDGs.

Second, starting this year, COPs must shift from more pledges and promises and into actual “Implementation” and investments

New promising ideas need to be projectized, and existing projects must be replicated and scaled up.

Operationalization, projectizing, and implementation should become the Key Performance Indicators for the success of COP27 and the following COPs.

Third, climate action has to be “regionalized”

This COP27 is not just about Egypt, but also Africa, the Arab region, and the developing economies at large. With Cooperation and coordination, more impact can be achieved.

Regional Roundtables Update: On the road to COP27, we have started a first-of-a-kind initiative to implement climate action, in a holistic manner, within all developing regions of the world.

Convening with the 5 UN Regional Economic Commissions, five round forums are launched to bring together the Supply and Demand of funds for climate investments. Those are convened in: Africa (UN-ECA, Addis Ababa), Asia-Pacific (UN-ESCAP Bangkok), Arab Region (UN-ESCWA, Beirut), Latin America & the Caribbean (UN-ECLAC, Santiago), and Europe (UN-ECE, Geneva)

The UN Economic Commissions in coordination with governments and the private sector are bringing in a pipeline of investable climate projects (for mitigation and adaptation), to present in the presence of a multitude of financial institutions, including banks and members of GFANZ.

The African roundtable has already shown success, earlier this month, between Aug 2-4.

19 concrete projects (68% with a regional scope/impact) were selected by a working group consisting of representatives from the Boston Consulting Group, the African Climate Pioneers Group, and the Glasgow Net-Zero Alliance (GFANZ) and reviewed in the presence of key stakeholders from public and private sectors, to catalyze additional private sector investment in climate mitigation and adaptation in line with the SDGs.

The forum also discussed the general policy frameworks for the investments needed in six vital areas: 1. Just energy transition, 2. Food security, 3. Carbon credit market, 4. Digital transformations, 5. Blue economy and 6. Water & Cities.

Fourth, climate action has to be “localized”

It has been the norm for countries to host big conferences with heads of states to discuss pressing matters, such as that of climate change.

While this might be necessary, ordinary people will always wonder what’s in it for them. It is important to reflect on how a huge conference as COP27 can benefit the simple citizen in a local village in Egypt, who struggles daily with the challenges of poverty, unemployment, education, and the common hardships of life in poor economies.

For that purpose, we have launched a second initiative, to implement climate action, again in a holistic manner, at the local grassroot level:

In each of the 27 governorates of Egypt, the best Green and Smart projects will be chosen in 6 categories: Big/Mega Companies, Medium Companies, Small Local Projects (e.g. related to Decent Life Initiative), Start Up Companies, Women-Led Projects, and Non-Profit Community Development Projects.

With six projects from 27 governorates, a total of 162 of the best projects will be presented in the presence of international and international organizations from the private sector, financial sector, and development institutions, to compete in a National Egyptian Competition in September and October, where a specialized jury will choose a winning 18 projects.

Those 18 projects will be showcased in COP27 and awarded, in terms of financial and technical support, from several contributing international and national partners.

What this will do is develop a comprehensive and “localized investment map” of sustainable green and smart climate solutions, through a bottom-up approach, in all the regions of Egypt.

Finally, all this would not be possible without finance, which brings us to the last point on mobilizing “climate finance”

We expect seven points to be the centre of attention for climate finance in COP27

First, fulfilling and scaling up the “famous $100 billion”

The promise, since Copenhagen, needs to be fulfilled. While it is not even a fraction of what developing countries need to deal with climate change, it’s a token of trust that has to be achieved.

Moreover, this amount has to be re-quantified and scaled up to match the evolving needs of climate action, both for adaptation and mitigation, by developing economies.

Second, we need to see more “investments and not debt”

Currently, debt is the main instrument used for climate finance in developing countries. We need to see more investments and concessional financing, especially that emerging markets and developing economies have reached, if note surpassed, their debt limits.

Third, a related issue is the “role of the private sector” in climate action

More investments need to be seen from the private sector, including domestic and international players to developing countries.

This includes the promised $130 trillion assets by GFANZ that we need to start seeing more flows of.

Moreover, NDCs need to be transformed from pledges and into investment action plans.

Fourth, debt swaps and other financial innovations (Finnovation)

Innovations in financial instruments and structures are needed in developing countries to be able to harness climate investment opportunities.

More work is currently in progress on innovative instruments such as debt swaps for climate and nature investments and means to reduce the sovereign cost of debt for developing countries.

Fifth, the establishment of carbon markets

While some carbon markets are already established in Europe, work needs to be done to establish carbon markets in developing economies and Africa that would be based on international standards, trade high-quality carbon credits, yet cater to the requirements of emerging markets and developing countries.

Efforts are underway in Egypt, in cooperation with some African countries, as headed by Dr. Mohamed Farid the Chair of the Financial Regulatory Authority.

Sixth, on setting the standards of finance and addressing greenwashing

In the absence of dependable definitions, standards, and criteria for sustainable finance, great concerns exist about greenwashing.

A committee known as the High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities (HLEG) has been assigned by the SG of the UN and chaired Catherine Mckenna, the former minister of environment and climate change in Canada, to write an important report on the standards of net zero and help set regulations, so that businesses and authorities would actually “walk the talk on their net zero promises”.

We hope that the report would be published by the end of COP27

Seventh, on sustainable and climate budgeting

Country budgets need to be proactive, embedding climate actions and other SDGs at their core, rather than acting upon challenges as they occur. Sustainable budgeting will help anticipate problems and opportunities and to taking measures to deal with them in advance.




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