what am I doing here in Egypt?
A good question, seeing as I show no sign of leaving, what exactly am I doing here now that the UN Climate Negotiations in Qatar are over?
I am attempting to start a project up here, the brief of which I write below. Any contacts, ideas or feedback always welcome, just comment on this post.
Zero Carbon Egypt
The ʻenvironmentalʼ why?
There is nothing new in documenting the impacts of climate change on Egypt. As a large country in the MENA region it will suffer (if it isnʼt already) from rising sea levels affecting large populous cities such as Alexandria and Port Said; salt water intrusion killing off crops, polluting the fresh groundwater sources and fresh-water fish species; droughts and flooding down the Nile affecting the majority of the 4% of productive Agricultural land that Egypt currently has; increased waterborne diseases which affect the poorest in the population the worst; increased desertification; rising temperatures and potential for more extreme weather events such as dust storms etc. The effects of many such environmental stresses on Egypt are those prominent in public discourse today: rising food prices, power shortages, rising fuel prices, loss of rural livelihoods etc.
The political why?
The uprisings in Egypt over the last 2 years are indicative of many factors, resource scarcity and poverty being two very important ones; they affect the everyday lives of millions across Egypt and their anger directed at the politics dictating their lives can expect more as their situations deteriorate. Their asks cannot be ignored, and neither can the science which outlines how these people will be worse affected if climate change is not mitigated against and current societal structures adapted to become resilient to the worst and unavoidable effects of climate change. The power of the moral incentive to change was utilised to good effect during the uprisings, creating what could now be described as a semi-open political landscape with very little positive state-building policies to offer in return for the suffrage of the Egyptian people. This vacuum cannot be solely attributed to political illiteracy of opposition parties suddenly thrust into the limelight, but it should be used to the advantage of those working for a more stable, equitable and developed Egypt by putting forward potential strategies and policies which serve their moral incentives.
Having described the old news, hereʼs what is new however: the concept of pioneering a blueprint for how Egypt could develop into a country with:
1. better employment prospects for its burgeoning youth population;
2. greater energy and food security;
3. increased energy exports;
4. less reliance on imports;
5. less polluted urban areas and better provision of safe and efficient housing;
6. less reliance on foreign aid and loans to stimulate growth with a controversial and open-ended open door policy;
All in one set of interconnected policies with the best possible environmental and social integrity; or in legal language, bringing together social justice and environmental justice to contribute to an aspect of transitional justice in Egypt. The goal being to ensure that the policies catalyse long term changes and sustained methods of development, not short term fixes that are too rigid to provide resilience and adaptability to the changing climate Egypt will be so affected by.
By connecting up with an existing research institute in the UK – the Centre for Alternative Technology – who produced ʻZero Carbon Britainʼ in 2008 and are currently writing a toolkit for how to initiate similar research projects in other countries, it is intended to bring together Egyptian researchers using a similar structure and process. This research process, relying on existing data and reports, plus the generation of data appropriate to this project through modeling, will be brought together in a scientific, economic and political report, subjected to rigorous analysis for environmental integrity (using the zero carbon measure) but framed from the social justice perspective. That is, translating technical and alienating environmental and scientific speak into a framing that the average Egyptian person will relate to.
For example: policy A (which is zero carbon) will mean 1million jobs for rural Egypt For example: Policy B will generate 10 times as much as electricity than Egypt needs, therefore 90% can be exported to the EU and contribute to the wellbeing of the Egyptian economy.
Throughout Phase 1 the aim is to engage Egyptian organisations, research institutes and young researchers, to build their capacity and to forge working relationships that can be used beyond the lifetime of this project. Connecting up engineering, economic, agricultural, water-based and energy experts and researchers is a unique challenge, but one that will also contribute to a better-connected Egypt. Furthermore, the relationship with a UK research institute and possibly international organisations should provide opportunities to build the capacities of those Egyptians involved, and extend the learning and cultural dialogue of non-Egyptians involved.
Phase 2 is entirely different. It requires the mass engagement of civil society, syndicates, interested and disinterested people, political parties, the government and those holding power over the areas on which the policies touch. It will be a creative, academic and politically strategic phase of lobbying decision-makers and creating the mandate for the policies implementation by engaging with the people of Egypt. Through power-mapping and strategic systems intervention analysis a team of engaged and informed young Egyptians will seek to implement this set of policies as far as possible.
The time for a set of co-ordinated policies with deep social and environmental integrity is now. Politically active Egyptians throughout the the political spectrum have the ability to advocate, criticise and discuss what befits them and what serves their varying political ends, but the combination of social justice and environmentally sound objectives have not yet been combined within this context. Thus this is a unique opportunity to contribute to the transitional dialogue between Egyptians, in the hope of creating a legacy that will serve Egypt for its current and future generations.
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