US pledges funding to help Egypt move to solar power

CAIRO — The United States is planning to increase funding to Egypt to help it convert to solar energy and move away from fossil fuels, U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry said in Cairo on Wednesday.

Egypt is “blessed to be the number one country in the world” when it comes to making use of solar energy, Kerry told reporters following meetings with Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shukry.

Egypt remains reliant on fossil fuels for its energy needs, and a gigantic cloud of air pollution often hovers over its capital of Cairo, home to some 20 million people.

But President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi’s government is taking steps towards renewables. El-Sissi has said that he aims to take greater advantage of the country’s optimal solar and wind conditions for energy harvesting. Officials have said they plan to get 20% of the country’s energy needs met by renewables before 2022, and 43% by 2035.

Kerry said that switching to renewable energy could help Egypt create jobs as well. Roughly a third of Egyptian citizens live below the poverty line, according to a government study from 2019. And the effects of the coronavirus pandemic have also hit hard the tourism-dependent nation.

Kerry also told reporters that the world has a long way to go before it meets international goals that were set by the historic 2015 Paris climate accord.

President Joe Biden, who has said that fighting global warming is among his highest priorities, had the United States rejoin the historic Paris accord in the first hours of his presidency, undoing the U.S. withdrawal ordered by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Major emitters of greenhouse gases are preparing for the next U.N. climate summit, due in November in Glasgow, U.K. The summit aims to relaunch global efforts to keep rising global temperatures to below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) as agreed in the Paris accord.