Louise Sarant
Mon, 26/11/2012

The global COP18 conference on climate change opens in Doha Monday. About 17,000 participants from all over the world have flown to the Qatari’s capital to try to reach an agreement on how to mitigate and significantly reduce the impact of climate change.

In Egypt, a group of dedicated environmentalists from across the board have recently gathered to build Egypt’s first National Coalition on Climate Change.

Because climbing temperatures, rising sea levels, the reduction of fertile soil availability and water evaporation have already taken a toll on Egypt’s economic, industrial and agricultural sectors, there is a lot of work to be done through this coalition.

Each year, 3–5 millimeters of the coast in the Nile Delta is swallowed by the sea, in an area that is home to 40 percent of local industry. If climate change continues unabated, up to 2 million residents would be forced to migrate from the Nile Delta, and thousands of feddans of fertile land could be abandoned to salinity and drought.

Egypt ranks 31st worldwide in overall emissions and produces 221.1 million tons of carbon dioxide per year, which makes it responsible for 0.59 percent of global emissions. Its share of emissions may be small when compared to developed countries, but Egypt’s geographic location, its sole river that is increasingly deteriorating and its arid, barren landscape make the country especially vulnerable to temperature changes.

To address the issue of climate change at large, two renowned environmentalists, Lama El Hatow and Sarah Rifaat, have called for the creation of a National Coalition on Climate Change for Egypt.

The inception of this new coalition took place in the premises of icecairo, a downtown environmental hub, and gathered a large crowd of biogas experts, sanitation specialists, green energy students, anti-nuclear campaigners, Nile river researchers, hydroponics developers, urban planners, bike aficionados and coral reef conservationists.

“The fact that so many of you showed up is already a victory,” announced Hatow at the beginning of the meeting.

Issues of urban planning, agriculture, biodiversity, energy, community development, water sanitation and public transportation were discussed in relation to climate change, and priorities for each theme were defined.

The issues that came up the most were the lack of political will to implement favorable changes in the country and the failed policies undertaken by the government.

The meeting ended with a brainstorming session to define what the role of the new coalition should be.

“This coalition should put pressure on the government,” said one participant, while Noor Noor, from Nature Conservation Egypt NGO, believes it should help better communicate the main environmental issues that concern each of us.

Mindy Baha el Din, from the same NGO, pushes for an advocacy role.

“We need to advocate immediately for sound policies, and convince the government that we are going to be a solution,” she said.

Another participant suggested that existing initiatives related to climate change should be reviewed, and the reason for their success or failure studied.

Reem Labib, head of the recently founded Environmental Justice Department at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, argued that the coalition should draw the missing link between the public health sector, environmental issues and the government.

Rifaat — also general coordinator of 350.org movement, which aims to decrease the amount of carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere to 350 parts per million — promised that another meeting would follow in December to clarify the goals and structure of the new coalition.

This piece was originally published in Egypt Independent’s weekly print edition.