A coalition of four NGOs announced their resolve to resist the government’s decision to approve the use of coal for energy production and to work on cancelling the decision.
The joint statement, released on Wednesday and signed by the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights and the Egyptian Centre for Social and Economic Rights, stated that the government’s decision violates the constitution on sustainable development and will have “devastating consequences on health and the economy”.
The government approved coal usage after a cabinet meeting on 2 April, a decision that was made to address the country’s energy shortage, which worsens in the summer.
The NGOs said the decision came “despite strong objections and repeated warnings from local and international environmental experts, activists, NGOs and the ministries of Environment and Tourism”.
Minister of Environment Laila Iskandar has vocally opposed using coal as an energy source, stating that it will cause health problems for Egyptians after 30 years and will lead to sanctions from the international community.
The signatory NGOs said coal is the most polluting among all traditional sources of energy, “whether in terms of the quality and quantity of harmful substances and carcinogens, or in terms of the greenhouse gases” produced from using it.
In addition to health and environment, the tourism sector will also be heavily affected when the ports of the Red and Mediterranean seas are used to import coal, the NGOs added. They said that the transport sector and infrastructure will also have to bear the burden of transporting and storing “massive amounts of coal”.
The government said on 3 April that it plans to use the “latest technologies” to reduce harmful emissions to the lowest possible levels. The NGOs, however, highlighted that the government’s decision did not mention the costs of this technology or practical steps regarding how it will be used. They said that even with the most advanced technology, the dangers of coal remain present.
“The decision goes against the justifications used to pass it as a cheap solution to the energy crisis,” the NGOs said, adding that coal usage requires major adjustments in the operation techniques of factories and power plants. “These adjustments will require a large amount of investments,” they added.
The NGOs asserted that there is another solution to the energy shortage, adopting a package of measures to raise efficiency, adjust subsidised energy provided to the industry and moving towards a greener economy and renewable energy.