Egypt’s responsibility: Showcasing COP27 as a collective human-interest conference and transiting from its national interest to collective regional interest on the Nile

The Government of the Arab Republic of Egypt will host the 27th Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC (COP 27) to build on previous successes and pave the way for future ambition to tackle the global challenge of climate change effectively. Egypt believes COP27 will be an opportunity to showcase unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation – a conference the world transits from negotiation to implementation, where the international community collectively embarks on a sustainable path and a greener future for coming generations. It should be a summit where nations shift from the twentieth-century national interest to the 21st-century concept of human interest. Climate change is a common issue affecting the world at global, regional, and local scales at different temporal duration and intensities. The concept of national interest is no longer tenable in Africa and the 21st-century world. The world must transition to human interest rather than national interest to best utilize climate change as an opportunity rather than a catastrophe. The best way the global economy can expand in the 21st century is when the world transits from the age-old national interest to the human interest project. By the same token, the best opportunity for Egypt to flourish sustainably in 21st-century Africa is through collaborative development and management of the Nile River basin. Therefore, Egypt must display its responsibility at COP27 and return to the Nile basin cooperative framework agreement for rapid solicitation of finance and human resources for joint projects that maximize water saving and ecological sustainability. The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) under construction in Ethiopia is becoming a worthwhile project against the genuine fear of Egyptians and pseudo-scientific articles feeding misinformation and raising public and government anxiety in Cairo. Subsequent sections show the benefits of GERD and the way forward that can be raised at COP27 for collective Nile resolve.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) and COP27

Ethiopia started construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) in 2011 and is at the completion stage. The dam is being constructed smartly so that filling proceeds during the wet season while construction pursues during the dry season. Since the start of the filling of GERD in 2020, the Aswan reservoir (Lake Nasser) in Egypt has never reached its full level over the last 30 or more years (Figure 1). GERD filling in Ethiopia has continued with positive contributions delivering water at Lake Nasser smartly. This extraordinary situation is mainly due to Ethiopia’s wet hydrology and GERD’s evaporative control. As GERD is a hydropower dam, it stores water during the wet season in Ethiopia, where it is a high evaporation season in Egypt (summer season), and releases water through fall and winter, where evaporation is relatively less in Egypt. The dam acted as an intelligent reservoir storing water in cool highland Ethiopia during the most evaporation season and gradual release in the low evaporation season. Egyptians are understandably worried about climate change impacts. The construction of GERD has also increased their anxiety as invasive misinformation, and disinformation campaigns from pseudo-scientific articles and media distort reality. GERD is a beneficial project for Egypt and Sudan. Egypt must take COP27 as an opportunity to realize there are three ways for the 21st-century world to sustainably flourish – cooperation, collaboration, and hydro-solidarity (CCHS).

Climate change and its impact has global, regional, and local dimensions and must be faced with regional and international collaboration for both adaptation and mitigation. The comprehensive approach for the Nile basin’s economic growth and sustainable development in the 21st climate change era is to jointly develop a grand century scheme Nile sustainable development roadmap that includes beneficial water infrastructure development, ecosystem management, and economic cooperation and integration leading to hydro-solidarity.

Egypt desires to showcase COP27 as an opportunity for unity against an existential threat that we can only overcome through concerted action and effective implementation. Action starts from home. COP27 can be an opportunity for Egypt to showcase its alliance with Nile region countries in general and Ethiopia in particular. Some practical actions may include i) curbing a misinformation disinformation campaign on the GERD construction and continuing to engage in substantive issues of agreement; ii) promoting saving water losses in its expansive irrigation schemes at home. Studies indicate Egypt can save as much as 40 billion cubic meters (BCM) from its water utilization scheme; iii) Egypt and Sudan can initiate cooperative projects with Ethiopia for more cascades storage facilities to be built in cooler Ethiopia to gain lost evaporation from expansive lakes in Sudan and Egypt. Ethiopia must also show resolute courage and understanding of the Egyptian position to cooperate better, collaborate, and build hydro-solidarity based on human interest, not self-interest. Cop27 will pass as one of the extraordinary conferences if Egypt shows the Nile is all about collective development for the future sustainability of the region. As the organizing country-Egypt put it rightly, we wish the COP27 engagement be an opportunity to translate negotiation into collective action for the interest of humanity. There should be no more self-interest and national interest in the 21st-century planet – ONLY HUMAN INTEREST at a regional and global scale.