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Minister of Environment and Ministerial Coordinator and Climate Envoy for COP27, Arab Republic of Egypt
Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP27, Egypt; Special Envoy on Financing 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, United Nations
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General; CEO, Sustainable Energy for All
Anchor and Correspondent, CNBC
DAN MURPHY: Thank you so much for being here today and thank you to the Atlantic Council for hosting us. Minister, thank you so much for the opening remarks as well. And thank you to the director-general for also setting the scene for our next conversation.
And as we take the stage, I’d like to introduce our panel for our first conversation today. Of course, Dr. Yasmine, minister in Egypt, is joining us. But we also have Mahmoud Mohieldin, the climate change high-level champion for COP27 in Egypt, joining us; and Damilola Ogunbiyi, the CEO of Sustainable Energy for All and also a special representative to the UN secretary-general. So please make our panel feel welcome on this Sunday morning, and thank you again for being here. [Applause.]
Minister, just to begin, I think the best way to summarize the overall sentiment at the conference so far was from Dr. Sultan Al Jaber in his opening remarks at the conference. And he said: The world is still way off when it comes to achieving the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. So, in your view, how can COP in the Emirates address some of those challenges and build on the progress that was made in Egypt?
YASMINE FOUAD: Thank you very much for that question.
First of all, you know that the COPs were designed that one build upon one another, so it’s not in isolation of the multilateralism process.
Secondly, I think that there are three parts that I’ve just mentioned in the opening remarks quickly that would be very sectional.
First of all, that if we don’t want to be far away from the Paris agreement in 2015, we have a good opportunity to seize, which is the Paris rulebook, the Sharm El Sheikh plan of implementation but much more, which is the global goal on adaptation that should be adopted in COP28. And that’s very important to look at because the world is looking at that part very importantly, and there are million and trillions of finance that would go for adaptation just if the target is being set.
Secondly, the global stock-take is also one important part that we can seize in order to put further implementation to the Paris agreement.
Last but not least, the loss and damage, also the fund that was dedicated in COP27 and the governance of that fund, on how can we further look into the implementation and the actual disbursement of that fund.
These are three important issues because they have to work parallel with the mitigation actions, with the NDCs. And looking further on how countries are implementing NDCs because the first reporting will take place in 2024, so we have a very good opportunity in COP28 in November to see how countries will be able to finalize and report back on their updated NDCs. Thank you.
DAN MURPHY: And achieving progress is particularly challenging at the moment because what we’ve seen coming into COP28 and all through COP27 is this chorus of criticism being leveled towards the oil and gas industry, and I want your reaction to this as well. What do you say to those critics who claim that the COP process is basically a bloated expedition of oil and gas executives, photoshoots for politicians, and all being run by special interests and lobbies? How do you react to that?
YASMINE FOUAD: I react simply that they are—oil and gas is part of the problem, like any other industry, and they have to be present in that part in order to present what they can do into that. If we are always saying that the COPs should be inclusive because the crisis affects us all then everyone has to be around the table.
Let me give you a good example aside from the oil and gas. The heavy industries, the cement industry, or the fertilizers industry—why they shouldn’t also be criticized that they are around the table.
In Egypt, there was a day for the decarbonization and that was the first time that we have that day. We know that there were some—and a lot of criticism on why are we including that in the discussion. They should be part of that discussion in order to be faced with the reality that you, as emitter, as part of the pollution, you need to come up and step in and say whether you’re credible, whether you will be able to be committed, and how you’re going to do that and how you’re going to make that transition.
Starting that dialogue in COP27 it was really essential not to exclude but to include and face the fact that what you’re going to do in that part and how you’re going, really, to make a difference if you are going to make a difference and the world will be watching and will be evaluating and assessing that.
DAN MURPHY: And just one more question before I open it up to the panel.
But do you—do you also think that there is a public perception gap here? Because I also get the sense that it’s quite hard for the general public to square the fact that you can have a major fossil fuel producer like the UAE also being a global leader in climate. How do you address that public perception gap and sell this to the general public, who may not understand that those two things can be directly correlated?
YASMINE FOUAD: I think that the only way that you can do that is to present an actual commitment and plans that you would be able to fulfill.
Sustainability is—cannot be divided. Sustainability would mean a one-fledged package that you are looking at the environmental and the economic and add the social aspects. Once that—that’s even away from the climate—once that is being very clear and you’re committed to do that and, yet, also you need to look at how best will you be able to make that transition.
The transition is not only for a country rather than the other. The transition would mean a just transition, that those who need the transition should be availed the time, the technology, and the finance, and those who have the finance should be availed the time and showed the targets and respect those targets on making that kind of the transition because the fact says for sustainability the regular oil and gas and the regular fossil fuel cannot live longer and will not be able to ensure the demands of our future generation.
So the shift to the renewables is a must and, in fact, is not an option.
DAN MURPHY: Mmm hmm. Thank you, Minister.
Mahmoud, I’ll take it over to you now, and through the COP27 process we did see great progress on mitigation, adaption, things like loss and damage and financing, in particular. How do you think the UAE can build on the COP27 agenda and what would you be focusing on here?
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: Right. Thank you so much. It’s great to be in Abu Dhabi and it’s great as well to start the year with an event with the Atlantic Council, as I ended last year with an event with the Atlantic Council. It was different. It was an insurance and adaptation. They were focusing more on energy.
But we take that all from a holistic perspective. That’s why I liked the introductory remarks by Francesco and, of course, by Her Excellency, the minister.
So on this issue of process and accumulation over time, and it was from the very beginning when Egypt and the UAE were announced in Glasgow to host COP27 and COP28, it was very much an understanding that the outcomes and the conclusions of COP27 are going to pave the way for a successful COP in the United Arab Emirates.
And I would really—you put them nicely in the order of the Paris agreement. I think Sharm El Sheikh managed to protect the Paris agreement and protect the ambitions of Glasgow, including the 1.5 degrees. It made, really, a breakthrough when it comes to the adaptation agenda with very practical suggestions in partnership with the private sector in areas related to the work and the adaptation from water management to agriculture to coastal areas to food security and other areas of work. And then, the great achievement, and that is really—quoting the secretary-general of the UN—he said that this was a huge political achievement, you know, the loss and damage, because those who are experts—and many of them are in this room—days before reaching the agreement they were really in doubt that this was ever going to happen, but I think the great work conceptions, the great leadership of the Egyptian diplomacy, the great work by Germany, Chile, and everybody on the parties and non-parties alike had realized that we cannot really escape from the loss and damage and dilute it under different notions including adaptation.
What’s common between the three? It’s all of the elephant in the room: it’s finance. Without finance you cannot really have any progress in mitigation. Adaptation will be an interesting academic notion, and loss and damage is all about finance. So how can we deal with that is basically going to be the discussion that we’ll be having here in Abu Dhabi today and during the sustainability week as well.
It’s easy to talk about the one hundred billion [dollars], but we know now it’s a drop in the ocean when it comes to the requirements of finance. It’s no more than 3 percent of the requirements of total finance for when it comes to developing economies and emerging market even if you put advanced economies and China aside. So we need really to have serious money.
How is this money going to be coming from? There are some suggestions here. One, this could be coming out of generosity, and this could be very much a call of optimism in this regard. Others say, well, it could be out of fairness. Those who have been polluting the world for almost two hundred years may realize today it’s about time to contribute. The third aspect could be—which is more relevant—could be about efficiency gains; the mutual benefits of investments in mitigation and adaptation, but in a new way to make adaptation with reward to those who are investing in it, including from the private sector.
And then if you are not really going to be convinced of any of the three arguments, there are the fear factor, and it’s either fear about the planet or fear about your livelihoods; that it’s a very serious argument that if we are not going to get our act together—not just about the impact of global warming and what will happen in 2030, 2050 and beyond, but immediately we see the threats of forced migration. Immediately we see the fear of new phenomena with climate refugees.
And there is an interesting book on this by a good author. It’s called The Nomad Century, with a heat map that we know now that it happened that low-income countries, poorer countries are in warmer areas of the planet. They will be forced to leave their villages and towns, and there will be nothing to stop them unless there is something that we can do today to prevent that from happening. So the loss and damage, the kind of—the prevention act that this definitely will be costly, but the cost of it will be much less than if we wait and wait for the outcomes of doing nothing.
DAN MURPHY: It’s a perfect setup for my question to Damilola, as well, and good morning to you, Damilola, because what we also know is that equity and inclusivity are critical tenets here, too, and of course the concept of a just transition was also principal in the Paris Climate Accords.
So explain to us a bit more about your role and why this concept of a just transition is also critical in this climate conversation.
DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI: Well, good morning to you, and thank you for having me here at the Atlantic Council.
Why the notion of a just transition is so important is because when we’re talking about transitioning, we forget that a lot of people don’t even have sufficient energy. So when we talk about the developing world and my continent, Africa, we’re talking—the just transition to them is getting enough energy to survive, getting enough energy to live a dignified life. We’re starting at a scenario where the, you know, per capita the average African with the installed capacity has barely 404 kilowatt hours in Sub-Saharan Africa. That is kind of twenty times less than the average American.
So the just is really important. For the first time in history, we actually truly have the chance for when people are getting energy, it to be clean, it to be renewable. But you can’t forget the fact that a lot of economies, they want to industrialize. There’s a lot of things people want to do with energy. So we shouldn’t just look at, you know, one side of the world and forget another side. There’s no way in our climate promises where you can—you can go ahead and hit net zero and leave a billion people in energy poverty. It just doesn’t happen that way.
So as we’re talking about the just, as we’re talking about equity, as we’re talking about just the right thing to do, we also have to talk about the reality that this will mean more energy for a certain region in the world, and it means that the developed world had to use less. Energy efficiency is the best fuel source to try and, you know, mitigate. You have to use less to make sure other people have more and they—and they can come up again.
So in our work at Sustainable Energy for All, we really, really focus on that. And we have different partners, and some are here today—Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet—to say what is the best way of making sure people are truly not left behind. And it’s not about, you know—no offense to people in the solar systems space, but it’s not about giving a solar lantern and ticking a box that you’ve electrified somebody. It’s giving enough energy for people to live dignified lives.
DAN MURPHY: Damilola went viral just recently. Was it—was it a Vox documentary that landed on Netflix?
DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI: Yeah.
DAN MURPHY: You were speaking inside this documentary—which is incredible, by the way, and you can find it on the internet and watch it. It’s very, very good. But within the documentary it was revealed that by 2030 climate change is expected to push an additional 132 million people into extreme poverty, and many of them are going to be women, girls, and marginalized communities. So, Damilola, just how serious is that challenge and the issue that policymakers are facing today in addressing it?
DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI: I think sometimes when we are in these forums or we are in countries like this we sometimes forget that the people that we are really trying to help, at least in my role, are people who it’s the difference between life and death. So, for example, a woman cutting down trees, using fuel wood could die prematurely because of this. It does happen. About a million women, you know, already die because they’re using fuel every day—fuel wood, sorry, every day instead of using other, cleaner sources of energy.
For me, it’s quite upsetting because that’s not seen as an emergency. And everything has to be seen as an emergency. Apart from the deforestation it causes, it’s actually affecting human life. Before we talk about all the insurgencies or all the refugees that are actually leaving because of climate, there are key emergencies happening now. And these are solvable problems, right? We always talk about technology breakthroughs, which are so important, but everything we need to provide power to the people who don’t have it—electricity and clean cooking—exists today. What doesn’t exist, which Mahmoud was talking about, is the financing to do it.
And even the political will exists. In my continent, I never thought I would see presidents coming and saying: We want to do the energy transition. Tell us how to do it. So we’re sitting down with them. We’re planning with them. But honestly, we don’t know how it’s going to be financed, which isn’t a good place to be.
So that’s why we’re looking for different, innovative ways of financing. And one is what we’re also presenting at the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, which is the African Carbon Market[s] Initiative. How do we massively scale up the use of high-integrity carbon markets that people can buy from Africa as a way to fund the transition, of which energy access and provision of energy is at the heart of it?
DAN MURPHY: Minister, this is an issue that you know all too well in Egypt and across the continent. How did COP27 move the needle on inclusion and equity, if at all?
YASMINE FOUAD: OK. Thank you very much. Egypt was actually very keen since we started the process of preparation to make sure that it is an inclusive COP.
So, first of all, when we—every year we have what’s called the World Youth Forum, and that took place in January and we made different sessions to include the youth. We worked even together with the UAE in the last year Sustainability Week in order to engage a group of the Arab youth working for climate. That was one part.
Another part is that we worked together with the Secretariat to include a number of African NGOs that were not usually part of the UNFCCC process because we wanted to make sure that they were represented.
And our famous story of the green zone. The green zone is a part that usually it’s the responsibility of the hosting government to do it to present its cases and so forth. Our president was very keen that our green zone would be walking distance from the blue zone, that’s number one. Number two, that it does not only include the national—[inaudible]—so it’s not telling the story of Egypt but it included parts where we invited different international organizations such as universities from the academic and international NGOs, and even indigenous people and local communities from around the world, to present their cases if they are not allowed through the regular UNFCCC process. And last but not least, as we designed the blue zone on different thematic days, the same thematic days were taking place in the green zone to ensure that their voices are discussing the same issues that we would like to discuss as part of the presidency program. So all that was efforts that were done over eleven months to ensure that an inclusive COP is meaningful, is implementable, and comes out with tangible results.
DAN MURPHY: Mahmoud, can you add to that as well?
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: Right. In terms of the actionable measures and the levels of action that you want all of that to be translated in—how to get finance, investment into the right direction—these are with three levels.
First, I would say the local level. And there have been a great deal of localization of efforts of climate action, not just to raise awareness but there are opportunities. And the final impact will be where people live—in their townships, in their cities, in their urban areas or rural areas. And we had a very good initiative called the Green Smart Projects in which we managed to mobilize the interests of the private sector and all of the businesses, from the microenterprises to the megaprojects, with two notions, green and smart, as the main transformation for the future. And that is basically an area of work that’s going to be a permanent feature of the work, and Egypt with an idea as well through the partnership with the UN that we want to scale that up as well.
At the regional level, I’m happy I see my good friend the director for the Africa region of the—of the champions, Bogolo, here—that we had five regions of the UN, including Africa. And in partnership with GFANZ, with consultancy firms, we have a pipeline of projects because that was always a big question by investors. We have the money. You remember the GFANZ promise of asset-backed entities ready to direct funding, but they say, well, we have the money but we don’t have the pipeline of projects. So we worked hard for, like, five, six months in order to have pipeline of projects, and they are available in compendium on the UNFCCC and on the five regions of the UN And you’ll—you will see good mix of projects. Many of them, as you may expect, could be more on the mitigation front than energy, including renewables. But we saw growing interest with better packaging and incentives in areas related to adaptation as well.
On the work on the regions, I’m happy as well to see debt-reduction mechanism being tested, including investments that are required to link—to be linked to debt reduction and get the investments into nature and into climate. Good examples came from Seychelles, from Belize. A fantastic project as well from Barbados, which is basically having KPIs linked to the NDCs of, in the case of Barbados, that could be really replicated elsewhere. And here we can really see the beauty of partnerships between governments, private sector, and credit enhancers.
Then the big—the big work, which was basically about the global level. Here, of course, we’ll talk about the future of financing the one hundred billion dollars. The COP26 with COP27 have produced this piece about a good costing exercise for what’s required. What we need as a minimum is one trillion dollars from now until the end of 2025. This figure will be no less than $2.4 trillion after 2025 until 2030. And here, the idea of getting more efficient long-term finance with improved terms of funding, I’m arguing for no more than 1 percent to be spent on climate-related activities. Maturities shouldn’t be—no less than ten years, grace period ten years, and maturity for no less than twenty years. And there are some models in different multilateral development banks that already have something similar to that like IDA, like the IMF with the Resilience and Sustainability Trust Fund, and of course the good example of the carbon-credit market.
This is a very big area of work that requires global standards with good capturing of the value, good regulations. And I’m happy that Egypt just a couple of days ago issued the regulations for the carbon-credit market. And again, with the initiative on Africa and capturing the value, we have something similar with GFANZ Africa.
So I see the movements at the three levels—the local, the regional, and the global. But basically, what we need, quoting a prominent economist, Esther Duflo, she says, well, the solutions are not very different from what the minister and my good friend Damilola just mentioned. It’s about finance, technology as you mentioned. But there is something missing, which is leadership. It’s not just the political leadership; leadership in sectors, leadership in the civil society. And we hope through this process and the world that we’ll be seeing in the road to COP28 we can really get this kind of leadership more and more materialized into action, because without that we wouldn’t have got some of the main achievement[s] that we had during the previous COPs.
DAN MURPHY: Just on this issue of financing, clearly a major challenge. And to go back to what Dr. Sultan was saying, in his speech he said, and I quote: “To achieve the Paris goal, global emissions must fall 43 percent by 2030 at a time of continued economic uncertainty, heightened geopolitical tensions, and increasing pressure on energy security, that so-called energy trilemma.” So certainly not an easy backdrop. How do you de-risk this for investors? And how do you incentivize governments to be moving money in the right direction here?
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: I was very pleased to see in the conclusion of this survey conducted by the Atlantic Council that there is a great interest in investing in renewables. As we know, roughly speaking between 2021 and 2022 the investments were ranging between [$]365 billion to $400 billion in the renewables. This figure needs to be multiplied. The factors are between six to seven. The good thing is that the reward for such investments are realized.
The issue of risk mitigation is the main issue of concern. And here, the multilateral development banks—the like of the African Development Bank; the World Bank, my former employer—and many others, including for the private sector, can do a great job in this area. But for that to work, I’m worried about a drift in terms of action. That holistic approach that was emphasized by Francesco, by the minister, by Damilola. You cannot really say: Well, we are going to be taking only energy and renewables and leave the rest of the story. In this time of crises—multiple crises—you need to have inclusive growth for jobs to deal with the poverty reduction. Now we are at levels much worse than what we started with the SDGs in 2015. It’s not the expected 130 million added that Damilola mentioned because of problems related to energy. We already had lost almost a decade of work in that front.
So the private-sector work is very much realized in mitigation. What we need, some sort of nudging help and some sort of packaging of the projects, especially in the frontier markets.
When it comes to adaptation, here I would really argue that the very able and competent ministers from developing economies should ask for more funding for adaptation and give the way to the private sector and don’t crowd out the private sector because the private sector need just to be leveraged in that front. And then we’ll see in the coming weeks through the replenishment of the Green Climate Fund, through the work of the loss and damage fund how the good ideas floating around the importance of finance and technology are going to be materialized in the world. That would be a great test by the time we are here again in the UAE in November to discuss these issues.
DAN MURPHY: And Damilola, I think to tie all of this together, the ultimate question that we’re trying to answer here is: How is this move away from fossil fuels ultimately going to impact socioeconomic development? And how do we ensure that that move away doesn’t cause a backsliding in socioeconomic development? Your view?
DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI: I mean, it’s important to understand the energy needs and what the energy is used for. That is very fundamental. So just from my engineering background, it’s really important to understand how energy systems work—what it means for baseload, what types of energy you need—and then to understand how people want to develop. There’s no scenario where you can actually achieve without having energy development and climate together.
And that’s what we’ve been trying to do in saying that, you know, when you’re telling countries—because this is a whole shift of an economic change in countries. You have to go and say: What exactly is your energy-transition pathway?
So if we take my country, Nigeria, Nigeria made it very clear we needed to uplift one hundred million people out of poverty and we needed to uplift our industrial base. And if you can do it clean, that’s your problem but figure it out.
So we need to take in consideration what the country wants. What we do a lot of time is take these regional approaches to a very localized problem. There’s a vast difference from the energy transition plan in Nigeria to our neighbors in Ghana, to Kenya. You know, but you say, oh, Africa as a whole. Africa is full of different countries and different nuances. Even in my country what happens in northern Nigeria is different from what happens in southern Nigeria.
So you have to understand that. That’s the just and the energy part of it. And you also understand this takes a long time. The Nigerian president at COP26 announced they will get to net zero at 2060, not 2050, because when you looked at the transport sector, the industrial sector, the oil and gas sector, it was—it just wasn’t possible. So being realistic about what a country has to do is important.
And, lastly, I have to touch on the finance again because for a country like Nigeria to get to net zero with perfect policies, perfect political stability, between now and 2060 will cost in the region of $1.9 trillion.
So we need to really be realistic when we talk about the numbers of what you’re asking countries that are easily spending 80 percent of their revenue on debt servicing—on interest-only debt servicing—how exactly they’re going to do it.
So I don’t know the solutions but I’m excited to find how we’re going to crack this. But this financing issue is really at the heart of the entire energy transition.
DAN MURPHY: We have about ten minutes left on stage here. But if anyone has a question for the minister or our other panelists, please raise your hand and we can get a microphone over to you.
It’s also your opportunity to ask some questions as well. So, by all means, if you do have a question, please raise your hand.
But to continue the conversation, I think we can also look at this other issue of just energy access as well. Eight hundred million people around the world still don’t have access to energy. As I understand it, the global population will probably reach around 9.7 billion, ten billion, people by 2050. We’re going to need 30 percent more energy than what we currently have today.
So what would be your view, Damilola first, on the biggest transition risk right now? What do you see it as?
DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI: I mean, like I said, it’s eight hundred million without access but it’s actually one billion people in energy poverty, because because you have electricity doesn’t mean you have it constantly, and what those figures don’t talk about is the 2.4 billion people that don’t have access to clean cooking as well. So when we talk about energy we have to talk about both.
I mean, the greatest risk is leaving those people behind. It’s continuing with growing demands of energy elsewhere and leaving those people behind, and that’s why energy efficiency is just so important.
And we’ve seen it around Europe. When people got high energy bills they started using less, and that’s the thinking. You know, in developing countries there’s hardly any waste because people don’t have enough to use in the first place.
So we really need to come together and look at what is the social return on investment. By giving power to these people affects GDP, affects jobs. It creates whole industries if we do focus as well with our effort for places that don’t have it.
It’s also important because if those people get electricity the way the rest of the world has, using very dirty fuels, we’re going to go back in about two decades again saying we want to transition again, and we don’t have to do that.
DAN MURPHY: Mahmoud, can you speak to that?
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: If I can build on that. There are two things, one at the global level. If we’re not going to be dealing with the problem that is very much upon us, it is going to derail all efforts related to finance and investment because what we see on the recession, fears of stagflation, low growth in developing economies and advanced economies, investments prospects in ’23 and ’24 are, on average, less than where they were in 2020 by 5 percent to 8 percent.
So, here, we need to see what kind of investment effort that we need to push in order to deal with the problems related to climate action as it is part of sustainable development, not an isolated one.
The second thing, that we have more than 60 percent of developing economies and emerging markets are in some form of debt distress. If you are a developing economy you are either at a debt challenge or a debt crisis or a debt catastrophe, and that cannot really be left for time to be solved. And there could be some relaxed folks around there because they say, well, advanced economies and their financial systems are protected. It’s not the global financial crisis.
Now, but that may have triggering effect as part of the supply chain and if we are going to be seeing these scattered fires that will catch the rest of the economy. So we need to have through G7, G20, it is good that both Egypt and India and the United Arab Emirates are invited as guests for the G20. So, hopefully, the issues related to priorities for climate action are going to be reflected in the discussion in India.
And then at the project level what made the news in Glasgow, what made the news when it comes to projects in Sharm El Sheikh, are the projects related to what’s called JET P projects—just energy transition initiatives—and South Africa was first. Then we heard about Indonesia. Then another project in Vietnam. And all of these projects are ranging between eight billion dollars to more than fifteen billion dollars.
What we need to see is some serious actions in these country platforms that are going to be transformational. The way that they are designed are fantastic—phasing out from fossil, investing in renewables, dealing with the impact on community. This is really nice when it comes to design.
What is missing so far is, basically, the kind of action that we need to see not just in these three countries but in the rest of the countries, including in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
DAN MURPHY: Minister, would you like to add to that as well and, perhaps, offer a view on what you see is the biggest transition risk from here?
YASMINE FOUAD: Thank you.
I think the transition risk is that not only as Dr. Mahmoud has mentioned on the part related to the finance or the projects but also one important part on the transition risk is very much related to the culture and the mindset.
Even when you started earlier discussing the public perception, the just transition—as we need to invest in technology, we need to invest in finance, and we need to invest on plans and time and give countries that part. We need to invest in changing the mindset of the public of how can that be done.
For example, Egypt, as a country, has been facing for quite a long time the waste—the municipal solid waste—and every time we started engaging in that discussion we fail on that part on different fronts—on tackling the informal sector, on putting the laws in place, in including the private sector, in even collecting and doing more infrastructure work.
Part of the change that we have been trying to do is investing in the way people looking at the garbage and how that can be dealt with. The first part that we have done beside the law is the way we have been addressing the young people and school children in order to change the mindset and how can that be done.
Two things that we have been trying to do, first, working on what kind of green jobs could be done within the waste sector, what are they offering, and how can that be included. Secondly, working with the youth and the young children. Even we have in Egypt a very famous group of young people who clean up the Nile and they are called the VeryNile, and the moment we went down with them everyone—by the way, and that’s part of the public perception—was getting ironic and sarcastic, saying, why are you cleaning the Nile when your streets are still full of garbage. But that is taking a lot of courage and being bold to do that kind of work.
So one thing that I would recommend for a just transition is to invest in the human resources, changing the mindset and the culture, and doing that kind of and alternative jobs that could be provided and how could those jobs come at the very local level, and here I talk about the rural areas.
For an example, part of what we’ve been facing is the burning of the rice straw that comes up with the methane and with the increase in greenhouse gases and air pollution, and all Cairo would be a black cloud over two and a half month[s].
Part of what we’ve been providing is a job opportunity of the recycle of the rice straw, getting compost, getting fertilizer, but including also the women in the rural area for providing clean energy.
So that’s, I think, is very important and key because finance and technology will not solve if we keep the same mindset within the same reach.
DAN MURPHY: It’s a very good point and very important to add. Thank you, Minister.
And we have a few minutes left. Does anyone in the room have a question for the minister or any of our other panelists? I thought I’d open the floor, give you the opportunity to have your say.
All right. I think we’re OK. Oh, in the front. Sir? We’ll try and get a microphone over to you if we can.
Q: Thank you. I would like to ask Dr. Mahmoud, how does he see the energy transition contributing to economic diversification in the MENA Region?
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: Well, this is a very good question that has been raised before the time of COVID and before the war in the Ukraine. And there was a very important piece that came out from the IMF about where the demand for fossil fuel in the GCC will be reaching its peak. There was some similar work as well that was conducted for Norway. And here the discussions were basically about the peak will be some year like 2027 or 2029, based on different models. And then we got this piece by Daniel Yergin on The New Map. And then, of course, the idea there is not a factor of time; it’s a factor of technology.
We are where we are today in energy and diversification of the sources of energy because the huge investments in invention in countries like the US and Europe, and development—research and development at scale in China. That’s why you see some projects, including here in Masdar, in Egypt in Benban, in Ouarzazate in Morocco with a fraction of their cost only nine or ten years ago.
But diversification here is not just about diversifying the sources of energy, but being in Abu Dhabi I’d just like to emphasize this point, that this country have been prepared for that. When Masdar was established in 2006, I listened carefully to His Excellency Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed when he said that the day that the UAE will be exporting the last barrel of oil will be a day of celebration because we are going to be prepared for it. We are going to be with diversified sources of energy and diversified economy that’s not going to be mourning the day that we lost this source of energy. So it’s good to have this kind of mid-term, long-term planning.
The first part of the investments that are required for the GCC countries have been all those—the investments in skills. When the discussions, especially with the—we have talks about the fourth industrial revolution, about the investments in the fourth industrial revolution-related kind of investments, skilling up the population, and how to do the digitalization better, this was a source of interest here.
And then investments in areas related to the services sector and manufacturing that could be with high value-added component. There are many good examples that we can get from countries especially, from Latin America that were very much dependent on commodities and they were hit by the ups and downs of the cycles.
So it’s all, I think, there is a great deal of learning by doing in this region, and we have seen the prices of oil in the one hundreds-plus, and we saw the in the negatives during the—in the futures market in COVID, so I think it’s basically about how to diversify better. I’m not worried about the areas related to investments in fiscal and on the finance, but more are needed definitely on matters related to the skills and the human—the human capital.
But I would borrow from my good friend, Damilola, here—is basically when you talk about the region at large, there could be these kind of generic kind of suggestions. But what could be good for Bahrain may not be necessarily good for the UAE or Qatar or Saudi Arabia. So some sort of granularity on the design as we see it. In the vision for 2030, for instance, in the UAE and Saudi Arabia, the first and last line in those reports were basically starting with diversification and the last point was basically gaining the momentum from the diversification investments.
So it’s in the mind of the policymakers, and we’ll see some sort of a good pace in that direction. But that needs to be done in a faster pace and not to be misled by sudden prices in fossil fuel because we know that they don’t last forever.
DAN MURPHY: Excellent question. Does anyone else in the room—over here, sir. We’ll try and get a microphone to you. There it is over there.
Q: Hi, good morning. Thank you very much.
I’d like to ask a question to Damilola with reference to the point you astutely made that it’s very easy to talk about the urgency of things like the refugee crisis, but there is an urgency obviously that’s preexisting and is, as indicated by you, to do with how many people are living currently, whether or not they are moving across into different countries.
What would you like to see—what would you think would be an impactful way to approach this year’s COP in order to land that understanding so that action could be more effective?
DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI: Thank you. I think I’ve mentioned it a few times. It’s all about money right now. You know, there has to be a concerted effort on funding the transition in developing countries knowing that energy access is at the heart of that transition and, you know, developing industry and jobs. People don’t like to live where they are—leave where they are because they just want to. They leave because they don’t feel that they can get, you know, what they need from their locality.
And we see that, you know, the climate issue has caused lots of conflicts—of course, lakes drying up. There’s a lot of things happening, you know, on continent in developing countries that can be avoided if there was just this effort. And this effort isn’t just going to come from the private sector. It’s hard for the private sector sometimes to even fund emerging economies, not to talk about developing countries. So sometimes a public-private partnership is an understanding that you do have to fund government. And developed countries that have caused a lot of these problems do have to put money on the table because there is a social return on investment which will keep people hopefully in their localities and bring the economic growth that we want for everybody.
DAN MURPHY: Fantastic. Is there—perhaps time for one more question. Yes, sir, in the front here.
Q: Just in relation to finance, should we not be talking about the value created—so, you know, that’s a huge opportunity—rather than how much it’s going to cost.
The other aspect is—to put it to the panel—you know, we also might need to make the link between energy and health care because, from an air pollution, that’s a huge cost. And also our health system—you know, we’ve seen from COVID huge pressure. So there’s a huge opportunity to make a link between global energy and health care. So I put that to the panel. How do we deal with that?
YASMINE FOUAD: Thank you. Let me touch base on that because one part that we have been doing in COP27, two parallel global initiatives: one that was talking about the nutritions—and the nutrition and what kind of food that you need to change in the practices of the sustainable food, and what kind of emissions that are related to that; and another part on the gender as we are very much—not only interested, but believing also on the parts related to the woman is the energy, water, and food nexus. One part related to that is the more you are using your energy in making that just transition, even at the local level and at the level of the small and medium household, and using that renewable energy for irrigation and for food systems, that would make a very good package. It’s a package that will be at the heart of the human development process, but it’s a package that would strengthen the resilience of the woman, provide the food you are using the renewable energy, you are making access to water, you are working on the nutrition and the food practices. The whole package that I’m talking about is making us more resilient to the diseases. We’re making us more strength and more power. And we are making the kind of a shift in the energy transition and using it properly in a circular way.
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: If I can, in just a couple of seconds, the issues related to health, the impact on nature are not adequately factored in the decision making. So you—[inaudible]—the cost, but when we do the counting of—the accounting for the returns, we do only the accounting for the financial returns of the projects. If we are putting into consideration the cost to the health system, as you mentioned, to the nature at large, and many—very few even OCD countries are doing that in their natural accounting. That needs to change. The regulatory structure and the incentives need to be changed. And that would be the way in order to provide the proper incentives in addition to the nexus up road the minister mentioned, but there is an issue related to regulations.
And one very final thing: the issues about—I don’t like to leave it in a worrying part, but the issues related to forced migrants because of climate, issues related to refugees are not an issues of far distant kind of a problem. These are imminent problems. If we check what happened in this region in Yemen and Syria before the developments that we all know in 2011, it had something to do with the climate. And I refer you to the Ian Bremmer book on the—on the crises. And while I wouldn’t—[inaudible]—to the estimates of 1.2 billion refugees in 2050 by Zurich and others, but basically look now and how many millions in Pakistan, for instance, are displaced within their country, and how many of them are looking for opportunities outside Pakistan because of what they are in today.
So it’s basically we have the solutions, finance, technology. What is missing? Leadership. And basically, hopefully, through COP28 we can get some better solutions into that action.
DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI: So just very quickly, totally agree on health care. We actually launched a Powering Healthcare guide yesterday with IRENA, which is looking at how to provide power to ten thousand health facilities across the African and part of Asia as well. These are easy, deployable, renewable solutions that can be used to actually treat people, because it is estimated about a billion-point-two people, I believe, go to health-care centers and have no access to electricity, so they have no access to health care. Thanks.
DAN MURPHY: Well, this has been a fantastic conversation. I want you to thank my panelists.
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: Oh, thank you.
DAMILOLA OGUNBIYI: Thank you.
DAN MURPHY: Minister, Mahmoud, and Damilola, thank you so much.
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: Yeah. Thank you.
DAN MURPHY: Appreciate it.
MAHMOUD MOHIELDIN: Thank you. [Applause.]
DAN MURPHY: Thank you for listening. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday. And thanks again to the Atlantic Council.
Joining us up onstage next is going to be the Atlantic Council CEO, Fred Kempe, alongside John Kerry, Elizabeth Yee, and Andrew Steer. Please make them feel welcome. Ladies and gentlemen, thanks again and good morning. [Applause.]
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