Green smart investments have been mentioned repeatedly in economic reform programs as well as in efforts to deal with the repercussions of the pandemic and to seek restoring the pace of development and progress both in developed and developing countries and emerging markets. Green smart investments mean those that apply digital transformation and achieve sustainability goals in the light of two considerations:
The first consideration: relates to the smart component of growth and development programs, which requires investment in data systems, information networks and security, as well as the development of human capital through education and training, especially in emerging areas associated with the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution, including the usages of the artificial intelligence and the handling of major databases.
The second consideration: relates to the sustainability approach. Despite the seriousness of climate change, it is extremely wrong to have the issue of sustainability limited on climate change alone, or to favor certain actions considering that only they can deal with the deterioration of climate conditions and the low quality of life on Earth. The international consensus reached in 2015 with the Sustainable Development Goals Declaration has made addressing climate change among the 17 SDGs. Climate goal, which is Goal 13, along with Goal 14 on underwater life, and Goal 15 on life on land represent an integrated set of environmental dimensions, conservation of its diversity and implementing climate action under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement commitments.
But limiting sustainability to one goal, with the assumption that investment in addressing climate change will be accompanied by co-benefits to achieve the desired development, threatens to entrench disharmony by creating two divergent paths: A quick path to which investments and tools of financing are directed and frequented by developed countries that support the narrow concept of sustainability by limiting it to climate change, and a slow path with few resources in which developing countries struggle to prioritize to achieve the rest of the Sustainable Development Goals, which will not be automatically achieved by the leftovers of the promised co-benefits of climate action investments.
Developing countries had the opportunity in Sharm El Sheikh to review this holistic approach to sustainability and determine the requirements for its success, reinforced by the selection by the Egyptian presidency of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) of the slogan "Together for Implementation" to hold the conference. This reflected a conviction that it is imperative to move forward quickly and within a comprehensive methodology towards the practical implementation of commitments and pledges related to addressing the climate change crisis. As part of its efforts to chair and host COP27, as well as within the framework of its efforts to implement its Vision 2030 and the National Climate Change Strategy 2050, Egypt has been keen to provide a leading applied model in the field of sustainable development, digital transformation and dealing with the effects of climate change. The Supreme Committee on Preparing Egypt's hosting of COP27 chaired by the Prime Minister on June 23, 2022 launched the National Initiative for Smart Green Projects in the governorates of the Republic. This initiative emphasizes the seriousness of the Egyptian state in dealing with the environmental dimension and digital transformation within the framework of its efforts to achieve the sustainable development goals by setting a map of smart green projects at the governorate level, linking them to financing institutions and attracting the necessary investments for them.
The initiative is based on creating a competitive framework among all governorates of the republic to provide smart green projects in the context of an annual national competition, these projects are divided into the following six categories, large-sized projects, medium projects, small projects especially related to the Decent Life initiative, projects submitted by startups, development projects related to women, climate change and sustainability, and non-profit community initiatives and participations. In a short period since the activation of the initiative, 6281 projects from all governorates in the six categories have been submitted through a unified electronic platform created especially for the initiative.
The executive committees of the initiative in all governorates headed by the governors announced 162 projects that were selected for final qualifiers, then a national jury headed by the Climate Change High Level Champion for Egypt and UN Special Envoy on Financing 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda, and included specialized technical experts, announced 18 winning projects nationwide with three projects in each of the six categories, as well as a project that represents each governorate selected according to the criteria and priorities specified by the governor. These steps were followed by a national conference in November 2022 under the auspices of the President of the Republic and in the presence of the Prime Minister, relevant ministers and representatives of the related ministries, including the ministries of Planning and Economic Development, Local Development, Environment, Communications and Information Technology, to present the winning projects in the presence of representatives of various national and international entities. These projects were then presented during COP27 in coordination with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Egypt presidency of the conference in the distinguished presence of international institutions, private sector, banks, universities, research centers and civil society organizations.
In this regard, it should be noted that an opinion poll conducted by the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research (Basira) to measure Egyptians' knowledge of climate change issues conducted before Sharm El Sheikh conference in August and October 2022 showed that 69% of Egyptians have never heard of the “climate change” term before. In addition to the practical solutions provided by the Green Smart Projects Initiative that contribute to job creation, investments increasing and growth, conducting the initiative on an annual basis will contribute significantly to raising awareness to address the negative effects of climate change, empowering all segments of society at local levels including youth and women to play an effective role in this regard. The initiative involves organizing training programs to introduce sustainability, climate change and digital transformation and how they relate to projects implemented in the governorates.
In preparation for conducting the second version of the initiative during 2023, work is proceeding to build on the success of the initiative in cooperation with international development institutions, banks and private sector, mobilize the necessary national efforts to develop the initiative, increase awareness about it and provide technical support to project applicants within its framework, beside working on mobilizing finance from different sources, whether to support and develop existing projects or to contribute to the beginning of new projects as distinct models for the localization of sustainable development.
“The article was published in (Climate Horizons) magazine issued by Egypt Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center“