Even though the global climate crisis has become more serious and disastrous, the developed world has remained resistant to carry out a decisive and comprehensive action on climate change. Climate change, according to environmental scientists, is one of the most alarming worldwide issues of the 21st century, and they [scientists] are consistently advocating and pressuring politicians and policymakers to take mitigating steps to minimize greenhouse gas emissions while simultaneously making efforts to adapt to the changes brought about by climate change.
While the Global North covers climate change factors more regularly, the Global South focuses on the issues and repercussions for the society as a whole. In this regard, the annual UN Climate Change Conference continues to promote global climate talks, mobilize action, and provide a significant opportunity to look at the impacts of climate change as well as innovation and solutions.
The 26th episode of the United Nations, Glasgow Climate Change Conference of Parties (COP26) was hosted by the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland in November 2021. The upcoming 27th edition of the conference will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, from November 7 to November 17, 2022.
The COP is the convention’s supreme decision-making body, and it meets annually to review the implementation of the climate convention and any other legal instruments it has adopted. It also takes decisions believed to be necessary to promote the effective implementation of the convention, including institutional and administrative arrangements.
In recent years, though the climate change problem by itself remains the toughest and most intractable political issue, in the forthcoming Sharm el-Sheikh summit, Egypt is preparing itself to bring the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) as another political issue along with the main agenda of the climate conference.
In recent weeks of the Egyptian government’s preparation for the climate summit, despite the fact that the conference is called an African COP, officials from Cairo are endeavoring to link and table the Great Ethiopian Renaissance Dam agenda at COP27, according to Egyptian media reports.
According to a Middle East-based media outlet report published on May 9, 2022, Egyptian Environment Minister and Cop27 ministers’ envoy coordinator Yasmine Fouad (PhD), in a meeting held with Italian Ambassador to Cairo Michele Quaroni, underscored that Egypt will raise the water issue during the COP27 as a new topic in climate conferences.
An Ethiopian environmental and climate analyst, speaking with The Reporter in anonymity, said it is the natural behavior of the Egyptian government to bring the issue of the Ethiopian dam project to any form of gathering anywhere in the world to divert attention and gain political currency.
According to the data obtained from the UN portal, the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) has brought together 120 world leaders and over 40,000 registered participants, including 22,274 party delegates, 14,124 observers, and 3,886 media representatives.
The expert asserted that the forthcoming Sharm el-Sheikh conference gathering will bring comparatively equal or more participants. And he believes that the greater the number of participants at the event, the more opportunities for the Egyptian government to frame and create a polarized agenda over the dam. Even though the main conference may not allow them to talk about the GERD issue, they can hold side events.
In this context, he stressed the need for full-fledged preparations and undertakings by the Ethiopian government ahead of the meeting to host similar events in order to counterbalance “unsubstantiated Egyptian rhetoric about the Dam.”
In a pre-conference welcoming speech posted on the Egypt COP 27 website, Fouad, conveyed a message about how higher temperatures, severe storms, increased droughts, rising oceans, and flash floods result in the loss of species, food insecurity, water scarcity, increased health risks, rising poverty and displacement.
According to the expert who shared his view with the reporter, while the minister is mentioning water scarcity as an issue of climate change, her speech is something like an open letter to manifest the common outcry of the Egyptian government to relate the climate issue to GERD.
Though officials in Addis Ababa persistently argue that the GERD will have no major impact on water flow into the Nile, stating that the hydropower dam will provide benefits to countries in the region, including as a source of affordable electricity, Egypt says it fears major disruptions to its access to the Nile’s waters. It originally intended to prevent even the start of the GERD’s construction.
However, Ethiopian officials and experts defined Egyptian propaganda about the GERD as politically motivated and full of hostile interest towards Ethiopia’s aspiration to be an African industrial hub and make economic progress.
An article published on the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), affirms the Egyptian government’s dogged pressure against the GERD. The report mentions the underlying motive behind Egypt’s securitization and politicization of the GERD. It is beyond the project’s externality over its immediate water supply; instead, it is viewed as a declaration of Egyptian hegemony over the utilization of the shared water resource of the Nile, as stated in the article.
Besides, Egypt fears that the dam will give Ethiopia more power and control over the water supply, thereby weakening Egypt’s sphere of influence over the basin.
Egyptians’ tenacious stances on GERD are obvious; the form of their engagement may change, but the content remains consistent, according to veteran diplomat at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Dina Mufti (Amb.).
“If you remember, since the commencement of the construction of the dam, they have been dealing with multiple actors to interrupt the process, but now we have reached the third filling and the construction is also going well,” said Dina.
“It is obvious that they have taken the agenda to the UN Security Council, the Arab League, and any other forums and platforms, but the crucial thing is that the ball is in our hand and the dam is in its third round of filling, and Egyptian propaganda will continue either in international diplomatic arenas or their affiliated media platforms,” Dina added, articulating that nothing is new on the Egyptian side beside the usual rhetoric.
Dina also noted that nothing is surprising when they are trying to bring the agenda to the COP 27 conference. He believes it is a manifestation of their continued trend and they will not give up.
Mensur Dessie is a Multilateral Environmental Agreements Negotiation coordination director at the Ethiopian Environment Protection Authority. The director is already aware of Egypt’s active use of the conference to advance its own agenda on GERD, though the country was given a chance to host the agenda on behalf of the African continent.
“As Egypt tries to link the GERD with any type of agenda, it will not be surprising to see that Egypt tables the GERD by any means in similar international arenas,” Mensur said, adding “Ethiopian participants are fully equipped with the necessary information and skills to address participants in parallel events.”
Ethiopian negotiators are currently preparing themselves to effectively deliberate at the main climate conference as well as other related side events in order to provide the necessary information to alert and educate the international community, according to Mensur.
The forthcoming COP27 summit is expected to bridge the mitigation gap to help limit global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees c, deliver high-quality and scaled-up finance flows, especially to the most vulnerable, enhance efforts to implement adaptation measures, secure finance for loss and damage, and implement the Paris rulebook to hold countries and non-state actors accountable.
Similarly, the crucial issue that remains unanswered since COP26 regarding the availability of climate funding to assist nations in adapting to the effects of climate change is expected to be tabled at the summit.