Minister of Environment Khaled Fahmy said he will cooperate with the parliament in ratifying the amended environmental law, following the recent cabinet reshuffle.
A number of different strategies will be employed to review the energy issue in Egypt with the cabinet, including nuclear energy, coal use and petroleum, in addition to renewable energy strategies such as solar and wind power, Fahmy said.
A controversial decision to start integrating coal in the industrial energy mix by the end of 2015 was issued in April 2015 by former prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb. The conduct of the environment law was amended to allow coal import after it was prohibited previously.
The move followed an acute shortage in natural gas supplies for factories, raising major concerns among environmental activists and families living near factories and power stations.
The ministry has already issued approvals for the import of coal and its use in about 20 cement factories. “It is not logical to shut down cement plants when the country is going through a process of industrial development,” Fahmy told Daily News Egypt earlier.
He said in an official statement on Friday: “The law prohibits coal use in steel, aluminium, and cement industries except with valid permission from the ministry. There have been strict rules for using coal and deciding on its kind, quantity, and transporting phases.”
The amended Environmental Law 9/2009 also toughens penalties for facilities that cannot prove proper disposal of hazardous emissions by enforcing a fine of at least EGP 20,000 and 15 years imprisonment.
According to Fahmy, the real threat of coal use is during the transporting phase, not its emissions.
A specialised coalition called Egyptians Against Coal was formed in December 2013, grouping together many environmentalists who are concerned by the usage in factories.
“We are against coal because it will increase the rate of premature deaths to 200 cases per month,” one coalition member Islam Abdel Wahab previously told Daily News Egypt.
“It is also the largest contributor to CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions, which cause climate change. We started with the goal of spreading awareness on the harm done by coal, especially for those living near industrial facilities.”
Meanwhile, Fahmy said it is expected that the dependence on renewable energy will reach 20% by 2022.
Egypt contributes 0.6% to the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, according to Fahmy. Yet, Egypt is among the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change..