Organized by the DAAD Regional Office Cairo in the framework of the project “Clusters of Scientific Innovation in the Middle East and North Africa” (COSIMENA), this event aimed to connect scientists and experts around the topic of climate change and to foster cooperation to tackle this issue. In acknowledging the need to intensify the call for climate action towards policymakers, industry and society, the meta-conference offered a platform to exchange views and sharing knowledge on the pressing issue of climate change, whose impact is increasingly manifesting in our daily lives. Specifically, the programme included blocks of presentations on three major topics, namely climate extremes and the impact on communities, CO2 emissions and the carbon footprint and the role of higher education for climate action. Throughout the two days, speakers reflected on the topic on agenda from a variety of perspectives, considering the impact of extreme events, the most appropriate ways to operate a shift towards renewable energy usage, the need to join forces between policymakers, scientists, the economic sector and the civil society, the role of higher education, scientific institutions and civil society and the most effective policies to be implemented. As a result, all attendees received valuable information on the topic of climate change, while raising new questions, which are central in the discussion of the possible ways to ensure climate resilience through climate action.
Since the call for climate action has become a top-priority issue, as highlighted in the greeting words from Ms. Isabell Mering, Director of the DAAD Regional Office Cairo, experts and civil society actors need to join forces to achieve durable results. Moreover, Mr. Philippe Maupai, Head of Science and Protocol (the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Egypt), and Eng. Sherif Abdel Rehim, Head of Central Department for Climate Change and the UNFCCC Focal Point, (the Ministry of Environment in Egypt), emphasised the need for cooperation and continuous exchange to face the pressing issue of climate change. Equally, the speakers expressed enthusiasm for participating in this event on the topic of climate change, keeping in mind the current preparatory steps happening in Egypt for the upcoming 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which will take place in Sharm el-Sheikh.
Then, the first day kicked off with a first section analysing “Impacts of Climate Change in Germany and the MENA region”. During this time, Prof. Dr Hermann Held (University of Hamburg, Germany) discussed “The 1.5°C Target: Chances and Challenges”, while Ms. Clara Hohmann (Koblenz-University of Applied Sciences, Germany/Jordan) offered a detailed presentation on “CapTain Rain: Capture and retain heavy rainfalls in Jordan”. Both speakers drove attention to the warning signals of climate change around the entire world, highlighting the role of universities and scientists to promote innovation and cooperation for climate action.
Furthermore, the conference moved to a series of presentations investigating different approaches to clean energy solutions. Various experts in the field analysed a number of studies and projects aiming to operate the transition to clean energy. Among others, Prof. Dr Adel Khalil (Cairo University, Egypt) presented “Egypt Renewable Energy Cluster Initiative (ERECI)”. Similar to other speakers, he highlighted the necessity to boost cooperation between different entities in the development of such projects, recalling the high potential in the region for the use of renewable energy such as solar and wind energy.
In the following section, Dr Tarek Hatem (British University in Egypt (BUE)) and Ms. Djalila Ben-Bouchta (Politecnico di Torino and University of Kassel, Germany) focused on the topic of “Energy and Sustainable Mobility Projects in (Sub-Saharan) Africa”. Remarkably, it highlighted the role of universities and academic research to stimulate work for climate action in a region faced with numerous challenges under the economic, political, geographical and social levels.
Finally, the first day of the conference tackled the issue of “CO2 emissions and Sustainable Mobility”. Through two informative presentations on the role of ‘Transformative Living Labs’ and on sustainable solutions in urban transport, attendees were invited to reflect on innovative ways to reduce CO2 emissions, keeping in mind the importance of accompanying the development of smart technologies with effective public policies.
During the second day, the meta-conference further delved into the analysis of the topic of agenda with two blocks of presentations. Firstly, Mr. Omar Tawfik (Siemens Energy Projects, Egypt) and Dr Amr Sobhy (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ)) outlined examples of successful projects operated by their respective institutions. Subsequently, the discussion moved to the topic of “Climate Action in the Framework of Higher Education and Research Institutions”. In this section, attendees received information on innovative centres focusing on environmental studies, such as ‘the Regional Centre for Sustainable Adaptation to Global Change in the Middle East (SAGE-Centre)’, ‘the Green Energy Centre (GECI)’, ‘The Centre for Climate and the Environment Central Asia’ and ‘the Energy Masters at the EUREF Campus in Berlin’. Additionally, Dr Sadeeb Simon Ottenburger (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT, Germany) offered insights on how to design renewable energy systems in a resilient way, focusing on the example of the ‘robust and resilient energy system planning’.
The day concluded with the highlight of the programme, involving a panel discussion to exchange views on future perspectives and climate action. Mr. Mohamed Kamal, from the Egyptian social enterprise ‘Greenish’, moderated this section with a round of questions investigating how to join forces in the fight against climate change. Remarkably, the speakers coming from various backgrounds, such as governmental institutions, academic institutes and civil society initiatives, highlighted the need to bridge scientific knowledge with society, as well as to strengthen the dialogue between the governmental institutions and the civil society actors.
As reaffirmed in the conclusive remarks by Ms. Isabell Mering and Ms. Nermine Abdelaty (DAAD Regional Office Cairo), the panel discussion identified cooperation and exchange of knowledge as indispensable elements to enhance climate resilience through climate action. Moreover, Isabell Mering concluded with an open call for all attendees and society as a whole to take concrete steps, stating: “It is now time to take climate action, but we need to start with climate education”.
Overall, the speakers and participants at the conference were able to exchange fresh insights, provide valuable information as well as raise new questions around the pressing issue of climate change. The combination of presentations from various experts in the field with time for exchange among all attendees managed to create a lively environment, where everyone engaged and benefited from each other’s knowledge. The dynamics of the event therefore represented a model for the desirable coordinated work between all members of society in order to take serious action in the fight against climate change together.