COP27: an opportunity for the Climate-Water Nexus

COP27 will take place in 2022 in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. It will be an opportunity for Egypt to showcase issues and solutions related to the climate crisis and water availability.

We often think about climate and water as two separate entities, but the two are intrinsically related.

Water is often an input for energy production. Large quantities for water are used in fossil-fuel based energy production for cooling purposes. Water can also be an important input for low-emissions generation—around 10 litres of water will be required for every kilogram of hydrogen produced. If energy that is used to extract and distribute water is emissions-intensive, overall emissions can rise with increased water demand.

A changing climate can alter rainfall patterns and lead to increasing temperatures, which affect water demand and supply. The latest IPCC reporting highlights the climate crisis is intensifying the water cycle, leading to more flooding, which can destroy water infrastructure and contaminate water sources; and more droughts, which can affect health, food security and productivity.

Egypt has a notoriously dry climate with hot summers and mild winters. It receives between 20 and 200 millimetres of average annual rainfall along its Mediterranean cost, decreasing to near zero in central and southern parts of the country.

Egypt’s natural resources are placed under further stress by a fast-growing population and increasing energy demand. Further stress on water availability together with extreme weather events could have severe socioeconomic and environmental consequences.

The Nile is Egypt’s only perennial water source. While the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in recent years has elevated tensions, cooperative agreements between Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and others have shown a propensity for countries in the Nile Basin to negotiate in good faith over their shared resource.

With less than 0.5 per cent of its total energy supply coming from renewable sources, Egypt faces an uphill battle to implement an energy transition in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement.

Climate-smart solutions that integrate sustainable water management alongside mitigation and adaptation strategies can facilitate continued use into the future, allowing economic systems to continue to support sustainable development.

For example, water efficiency measures can reduce the need for energy inputs, leading to avoided emissions. Declining technology costs may make renewable energy a viable option for desalination systems.

For many countries around the world, mitigation of greenhouse gases is just one of many climate-related issues that require attention in the 21st century. Issues such as food security, biodiversity loss, energy poverty and the availability of water require strategic long-term plans and mobilisation of resources to implement them.

As newly announced host of COP27, the Climate-Water Nexus provides an opportunity for Egypt to showcase climate and water issues to the world and open up discussion on innovative solutions that can lead to a more prosperous and sustainable future.

Update February 2022:
Egypt is planning to construct a $1.5 billion renewables-powered desalination plant. The current proposal involves a 400-megawatt solar-power facility and a desalination plant able to process as much as 1 million to 2 million cubic meters per day. For reference, 1 million cubic metres (1 billion litres) is roughly the total daily consumption of drinking quality water in Sydney.

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