Cairo Climate Talks goes to Qena

Mar 13th, 2016

On March 13th, the South Valley University of Qena hosted the first edition of the “Qena Climate Talks.” In front of an audience of about 100 students and faculty members, Valentin Aich, senior researcher at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, gave a presentation on the general concepts of climate change before looking into its foreseen impacts on Egypt and the MENA region.

Opening remarks were delivered by University President Prof. Abbas Mansour,, and H.E. Julius Georg Luy, the Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Egypt. Ambassador Luy is convinced that raising awareness on climate change and discussing its ramifications and consequences with young academics outside of Egypt's capital is crucial: “We are happy that after organizing almost 40 Cairo Climate Talks rounds since 2012, we have finally managed to bring the Climate Talks to Upper Egypt.”

Mr. Aich emphasized the importance of the Paris Agreement, in which countries from around the world agreed to pursue efforts to limit global temperature rise between 1.5°C and well below 2°C, compared to pre-industrial times. The parties are set to sign the final agreement on April 22, during a ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York under the auspices of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon. Limiting the temperature rise to 1.5°C means that all emissions should be curtailed by mid-century.

Even if the international community manages to achieve this very ambitious target, climate change impacts on Egypt and the MENA region will be severe. Mr. Aich spoke the physical impacts of climate change (heat extremes, aridity, water scarcity, desertification and sea-level rise), the ecological impacts (energy crises, reduction of crop yields) and the human impacts (health risks, climate-induced migration).

As a climate scientist working with statistical models, he anticipates that the MENA region will experience higher average warming than than global averages. He predicts that Egypt will be disproportionally affected by sea-level rise in the Nile Delta, severe droughts and reduced natural water resources. In his conclusion, Mr. Aich pointed to the fact that climate change could very well be a threat multiplier by increasing the potential for violent conflicts due to dwindling resources and by multiplying population displacements due to food and energy insecurities in the region.

Following a question and answer session, Mr. Felix Hartenstein, lecturer at TU Berlin El Gouna campus, led an interactive workshop for selected studentsregarding the impacts of climate change on Egyptian cities. The workshop highlighted some strategies that urban centers could implement to adapt to the looming risks. Since cities contribute to 70% of global greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, they need to undertake serious mitigation and adaptation. The group discussed how strategies to help cities efficiently deal with climate change could be adapted to Qena and Luxor, for instance regarding climate-friendly architecture, as well as water and energy-saving technologies.