Good morning! We're still shaking off jet lag from our trip to Scotland to cover COP26. The end of daylight savings time isn't helping. But first:

Egypt will host COP27 despite record on natural gas, human rights

COP26 is officially over. Thousands of delegates and activists have flown home from the U.N. climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland. The pavilions in the conference center have come down.

Those involved in international climate diplomacy are now shifting their attention to Egypt, which was selected to host the 27th U.N. climate summit, or COP27, next year. 

The conference will be held in Sharm el-Sheikh, an Egyptian resort town between the desert of the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea. It's known for sandy beaches and clear water — a sharp contrast from the cold rain of Glasgow.

Fossil fuel focus

But Egypt's continued reliance on fossil fuels will probably face criticism at COP27, just as the British government's potential approval of a proposed oil field drew pushback from climate activists at COP26. 

  • Egypt is the largest oil producer in Africa outside of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, or OPEC, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
  • "In 2015, Italian oil major Eni struck what might be the largest offshore gas deposit ever found in the Mediterranean, off Egypt’s northern coast. Over the next few years, the government worked with the German conglomerate Siemens to build three massive gas-fired power plants," Quartz's Tim McDonnell reported in a deep dive on Egypt's gas addiction.
  • Egypt has not set a target for reaching net-zero emissions, although it plans to increase its supply of electricity generated from renewable sources to 20 percent by 2022 and up to 42 percent by 2035.

💬 Quotable: "Egypt does not have an exemplary record or set of practices on climate. So what's the logic for hosting this thing in Egypt? Because they have a lot of hotel rooms?" Michele Dunn, a nonresident scholar with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told The Climate 202.

Despite its status as a top oil producer, Egypt's pavilion at COP26 featured a towering green replica of a windmill — a nod to its plans to build some of the region's largest wind and solar farms. 

When your Climate 202 host visited the pavilion on Friday, a spokesman said that Ayman Amin, deputy environment director in Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was unavailable for an interview. But Amin told Quartz that Egypt hopes to tout its renewable energy goals and advocate for the rest of Africa on climate finance at COP27.

Human rights

Beyond energy and climate, experts have also expressed concern about the human rights record of Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, a former defense minister. 

  • Sissi's crackdown on peaceful dissent has led to the arrests of thousands of people, including journalists and activists, The Washington Post's Siobhán O'Grady reported.
  • "By choosing Egypt, the world may effectively be giving [Sissi] a pass on what is probably the worst human rights record in modern Egyptian history," Robin Wright, a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson Center and a former diplomatic correspondent for The Post, told The Climate 202.
  • Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that world leaders "should press Egypt to release the thousands of people jailed solely for exercising their right to free speech and peaceful assembly, and halt criminal proceedings against civil society activists before committing to attend COP27.”

In a statement about COP27 that did not mention human rights, Sissi said that “no effort will be spared in hosting a successful COP with outcomes that would contribute to putting us on the path of environmental sustainability and climate-friendly growth; the path to 1.5 C.” 

Eyes on Dubai

Looking ahead two years, the United Arab Emirates was chosen to host COP28 in 2023, the ruler of Dubai said in a tweet last week. The UAE is an OPEC member and produces about 3 million barrels of oil a day.

💼 Two rather different jobs: The head of Abu Dhabi's national oil company, Sultan Al Jaber, also serves as the UAE's special envoy for climate change, the New York Times's Stanley Reed reported.

“COP28 host UAE exemplifies the role of OPEC+ members seeking a seat at the negotiating table to justify their own interests in an energy transition that includes a role for oil and gas,” Karen Young, founding director of the Program on Economics and Energy at the Middle East Institute, said in an email to The Climate 202.

On the Hill

All eyes are on Democrats' big spending bill

After Biden signed a bipartisan infrastructure bill into law on Monday, Democrats are planning to vote in the House this week on their $1.75 trillion economic package, which includes $555 billion in tax credits, grants and other policies aimed at cutting greenhouse gas emissions. If approved, it would be the biggest climate investment in U.S. history.

This month, many liberal lawmakers voted to pass the infrastructure legislation. In exchange, moderate lawmakers agreed to vote for the economic package, provided it doesn’t add to the deficit. A crucial input on that question could come Friday when the Congressional Budget Office is planning to release budget scores for the package, The Post's Marianna Sotomayor reported.

Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) is urging House Democrats to vote on the bill as soon as possible so the Senate can take it up, as our colleagues at The Early 202 reported. Schumer has said he is working with the Senate parliamentarian to ensure that the provisions in the bill meet the requirements for reconciliation, a budgetary maneuver that will allow Democrats to bypass the filibuster.

The Senate, however, will probably make changes to the bill. Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) told Automotive News last week that he opposed a provision in the bill that would give electric vehicle buyers an extra $4,500 tax credit if they purchased vehicles made using union labor. 

Agency alert

The EPA finalized the country's first recycling strategy

The Environmental Protection Agency on Monday finalized the country's first “national recycling strategy,” as part of its aim of recycling 50 percent of municipal solid waste by 2030, The Post’s Tik Root reports. The plan could get a boost from the infrastructure bill, which will provide $350 million for solid waste and recycling grants.

The strategy comes amid growing concern about waste from plastics, the majority of which are made from fossil fuels and some of which can take hundreds of years to decompose. The issue has taken on more urgency in the United States since 2018, when the Chinese government limited recycling imports, cutting off a primary endpoint for the world’s recyclables. 

The EPA's strategy has faced criticism, however, from some environmental advocates who say it should put a greater emphasis on reducing waste in the first place, especially from single-use plastics. 

Pressure points

Despite climate rhetoric at COP26, China is seeing record coal production

In response to an energy crunch, China has increased coal imports, expanded coal production and approved new coal mines. In October, the country produced 357 million tons of coal, a level not seen in six years, according to data released Monday by the National Bureau of Statistics, The Post’s Lily Kuo reports.

“For China to quit coal is like for a chain smoker to quit cigarettes. It won’t be pain-free. It won’t happen overnight. But it has to be done,” Li Shuo, senior adviser at Greenpeace East Asia, told The Post.

Extreme events

FEMA's billion-dollar program to prevent disasters is hampered by bureaucratic delays

As climate-fueled extreme weather events become more frequent, President Biden has directed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to shift more money toward minimizing the harm from future disasters. Biden has committed an unprecedented $5 billion toward disaster mitigation, and the infrastructure bill contains several billion more, The Post's Hannah Dreier and Andrew Ba Tran report.

A review of internal FEMA documents obtained by The Post, however, shows how difficult this shift might be. Over the past decade, FEMA has only spent $1.5 billion of the $11 billion allocated to disaster mitigation. The rest has been caught in bureaucratic delays that can leave counties waiting years for funding. 

Take Mount Olive Road, a street in Grass Valley, Calif. The local emergency management department had flagged the area as a fire risk, and the county in 2018 applied for a FEMA grant to clear dried grass and thin trees to reduce the risk. But that money still had not arrived by last August, when a fire burned 140 buildings on the street.

Data points

First in The Climate 202: The U.S. Conference of Mayors released a report on what mayors are doing to boost energy efficiency and combat climate change. The conference’s 2021 survey asked 103 mayors to select the three most promising technologies for reducing energy use and carbon emissions in their cities. 

Electric vehicles, selected by 55 percent of the mayors, were the most-cited technology, followed by low-energy buildings (49 percent) and solar electricity generation (47 percent). The most frequent challenges cited included local budget and funding constraints and high upfront costs. More than 2 in 5 mayors have already developed a comprehensive energy plan for their city, with nearly all others saying they will do so within the next three years.


Thanks for reading!