World leaders must unite and grab the unique opportunity presented by a post-Covid world to refocus on green goals and climate change strategies to ensure disadvantaged and vulnerable societies are not left behind.
This was the message from a high-level panel entitled ‘Climate Action in a Post-Covid-19 Context: A Twofold Challenge’, held at the inaugural Egypt - International Cooperation Forum (Egypt-ICF) which runs from September 8 to 9 in Cairo.
Addressing the panel, Selwin Charles Hart, Special Adviser and Assistant Secretary-General for Climate Action Panelists, described the world as being on a “climate cliff” if it fails to meet the 1.5 degrees Celsius Paris Agreement goal – but stressed that the aftermath of the Covid-19 pandemic provided a unique opportunity to refocus green efforts.
“We face this really great opportunity if we are able to address, in a comprehensive and coordinated manner, this dual crisis of climate change and Covid-19,” he said. “Covid-19 represents a once in a generation opportunity to do just this.”
Without action, sea levels will rise, water scarcity will increase and devastating weather catastrophes, including wildfires, floods and droughts, as seen across the world in 20201, will become a more common occurrence, Hart told the Forum.
Hart urged countries to deliver on a $100 billion pledge – the annual sum needed to tackle climate change, adding that the world “cannot give up hope” on delivering on the Paris Agreement.
Dr Yasmine Fouad, Egypt’s Minister of Environment, addressed the Forum saying that the Covid-19 pandemic has placed increased strains on MEA countries, testing their social, economic, and environmental resilience.
She said climate change is “not an environmental challenge. Climate change is a developmental challenge. It hits all development processes hard,” she stressed. “It doesn’t differentiate between a rich, poor or developing country.”
She highlighted Africa as a case in point, noting that despite comparably low carbon emissions, will be of the hardest-hit nations affected by climate change.
Ferid Belhaj, Vice President, Middle East and North Africa, World Bank Group, described climate change as “an existential crisis for the Middle East and for Africa” saying urgent action is needed before it is too late.
“We need to move forward, we need to move fast, we need to move green, and we need to move now,” Belhaj said. Climate change, however, is not only about safeguarding the planet for future generations but presents “huge opportunities” for job creation, he added.
Adding that he was encouraged by the plans and commitments taken by Egypt, Belhaj said climate change was an “immense business bonanza” for green growth that creates jobs, from scaling up climate-smart agriculture activities and decarbonising heavy industry and the grid with renewable energy.
With the MEA region facing a “youth bulge” that will need the creation of 300 million jobs, creating employment in the green sector could be the answer.
Dr Fouad urged countries to act collectively to create policies and said efforts addressing climate change should be made by the people and for the people.
Ian Bremmer, President and Founder of the Eurasia Group and GZERO Media, pointed out that the world needs to learn lessons from the Covid-19 outbreak, pointing out that less than two percent of Africa have been vaccinated against the virus. As with the pandemic, poor nations such as Africa will bear the most severe brunt of climate change, he warned.
Dr Zainab Shamsuna Ahmed, Minister of Finance, Budget and National Planning, Nigeria, also addressed the Forum saying the world is failing to deliver on the promises of the Paris Agreement, describing it as a “rolling train and doors are about to be shut.”
However, Harry Boyd-Carpenter, Managing Director for Green Economy and Climate Action, EBRD, said “time has not run out yet” and urged global leaders to send “strong signals” through policy prescriptions such as setting a net zero target and to set a “carbon price” on emissions.
This would send a very powerful message to private sectors, businesses, and societies to switch to greener habits, he said.-- TradeArabia News Service