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    By Her Excellency Dr. Rania A. Al Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, Arab Republic of Egypt

    We no longer have the luxury of paying lip-service to environmental initiatives. We must plan, act and push for progress. We stand at the precise moment of a transformational period in human history—a moment that requires scaling up interventions and solidarity to change our world for the better.

    As Egypt’s Minister of International Cooperation, I have put all my support behind the push for cooperation around a green and circular economy. The years 2020-2021 must be the ‘Years of Multilateralism,’ as we push the frontiers of international cooperation by building back greener through public-private partnerships.

    In Unity, Lies our Strength

    Political will creates the DNA for going green. It is the most important step to turn promises into realities. The government of Egypt has been committed to achieving an environmentally sustainable future through pushing ahead with homegrown structural reforms, which focus on achieving a more sustainable, inclusive, green and private sector-led economy.

    An important lesson to take from Egypt’s reform experience is its ability to create a predictive policy environment that helped pave the way for a more transparent macroeconomic framework, which in return creates a stable environment for the private sector and strengthens private-public dialogue. 

    To reinvigorate green growth, Egypt was able to forge ahead through public-private dialogue and international cooperation. This approach ensures that public leadership meets national priorities and objectives and at the same time engages the private sector to encourage innovation and growth according to the environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.

    To foster dialogue, we mobilize the international community through Multi-Stakeholder Platforms, launched in April 2020. This strengthens partnerships for achieving values-centered results through regular interactive and participatory consultations with all development partners.

    Since the launch of the platform, a number of participatory workshops have been organized to engage with development partners and persistently monitor the progress of projects, which include an agreement with the Agence Française de Développement for funding allocated to the Energy Sector Budgetary Support Program, as well as the African Development Bank’s financing of Egypt’s Electricity and Green Growth Support Program, which aims to enhance the financial sustainability, improve the management and the operational efficiency of the energy sector.

    All projects are streamlined and harmonized under our Global Partnerships Narrative: People at the Core, Projects in Action, and Purpose as the Driver, which aims to ensure that no crisis derails us from pushing forward with the Sustainable Development Goals, and transparently showcases the impact of our projects in boosting inclusive growth and bolstering credibility for the SDGs.

    A ‘people first’ approach

    We are currently seeing a shift in the conversation on ways to achieve a green future, with the introduction of new concepts such as the people first or ‘people-centered’ approach to ensure that people gain the most among all the other stakeholders in a project. A people-first approach essentially pushes for inclusivity to protect the most vulnerable and ensure that ‘green’ and ‘growth’ go together hand-in-hand, striking a balance between expanding economic opportunities and addressing environmental pressures.

    The approach achieves these goals through: unlocking social and economic benefits; delivering these benefits to rural or vulnerable populations; and restoring ecosystems in parallel with raising people’s incomes and improving their well-being.

    This is reflected in our Global Partnerships Narrative, which focuses on putting people at the core of every project to push Egyptians towards realizing their full potential and identifying the direct impact that our projects have on people.

    Egypt’s long-standing partnership with the European Investment Bank (EIB) includes several projects that address climate change. These include the renovation of Cairo Metro Lines 1 and 3, which reduce the number of cars on the road and thereby help reduce traffic congestion and pollution. On top of that, the project impels us towards a more inclusive economy, because it connects remote or rural districts with cities and business districts.

    In addition, recently the Board of the European Investment Bank approved a €1.1 billion loan to part-finance the restoration of the Alexandria tram network, the electrification of the Abu Qir-Alexandria railway and the extension of Cairo Metro Line 2.

    Another important success story in the partnership with the EIB includes the construction of a 200 MW wind farm on the west coast of the Gulf of Suez. This will contribute to supporting Egypt’s energy reforms that aim to increase the share of renewable energy to 30% by 2030 and promote sustainable growth in Egypt’s economy.

    To integrate coastal restoration with other national development plans, Egyptian-Dutch cooperation includes the project 'Enhancing Climate Change Adaptation on the North Coast of Egypt’, which helps the construction of dikes to prevent the flooding of people’s homes and farmland due to rising sea levels and extreme weather changes.

    Touted to become the world’s largest solar park upon completion, the Benban solar park is being implemented in partnership with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the International Finance Corporation. It is an illustrious example of how we can put people at the heart of sustainable and clean energy projects. Currently, more than 10 000 Egyptians work at the site during construction. It will employ 4 000 people once the park is fully operational.

    Overall, there are also more than 1 000 companies and nearly two million Egyptian workers currently working on national megaprojects, which include 23 projects in the electricity and energy sector with a total investment of $4 896 million and 10 projects in the irrigation and water resources sector for a total of $982 million in investment.

    To protect the health of Egyptians and improve their productivity, we also recently signed a $200 million project with the World Bank to support Egypt’s initiatives to reduce air and pollution from critical sectors and to increase resilience to air pollution in Greater Cairo. It is part of the six-year Greater Cairo Air Pollution Management and Climate Change Project, which supports Egypt’s efforts to reduce both air pollution and pollutant emissions in line with the country’s Sustainable Development Strategy.

    From mitigation to adaptation

    We are going even further by supporting Egypt’s adaption to climate change, prioritizing integrated solutions that strengthen resilience from future shocks.

    For example, Egypt adopted a comprehensive water strategy in 2018 to mitigate water scarcity resulting from climate change and growing consumption. The European Development Partners contribute to the financing of the water and wastewater projects to adapt to climate change. This includes the Kafr El Sheik Wastewater Treatment Plan to which the EIB provided €77 million, the Fayoum Wastewater expansion project with an EIB contribution of €126 million, and the Kitchener Drain project, to which theEIB provided €214 million.

    Resilience is at the heart of our project to support one million farmers in 500 villages in partnership with the World Food Programme. This successful partnership helps smallholders face future environmental threats through the use of solar power plants and promoting sustainable water management and efficiency through irrigation water supply modalities.

    To promote food security, a number of development programmes are being implemented in partnership with USAID, which includes the new Luxor wastewater stabilization and treatment plant. This has the capacity to serve up to 332 000 people through 2037 and uses energy-efficient technologies, as well as learning centres that train farmers on how to increase their productivity through applying smart farming technologies.

    Harnessing the opportunities

    It is time to recognize the opportunities that exist in going green. We are shifting our narrative from one that focuses on threats to one that puts emphasis on the opportunities of growth, collaboration and implementation of successful projects.

    We have to turn the risks into the impetus for radical change, a change to promote a cleaner environment, healthier citizens, a productive and an inclusive economy and choose our people and planet as the main stakeholders.