OpinionMiddle East

The climate crisis is an opportunity to bring the Middle East together

The key to achieving our global sustainability goals is collaboration.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, Dec. 5, 2022. Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog meets with his Emirati counterpart Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan in Abu Dhabi, Dec. 5, 2022. Credit: Amos Ben Gershom/GPO.
Ambassador Amir Hayek
Ambassador Amir Hayek is Israel’s ambassador to the United Arab Emirates.

Over the past decade, Israel has become a leader in the climate tech space, with a booming ecosystem of start-ups, investors and support organizations dedicated to building innovative solutions to the world’s most pressing challenges. While we have built many of the most cutting-edge technologies that help address global and regional challenges in this sphere, our country is small, and to make the most impact, we are working closely with our regional partners to develop regional plans to address these issues. With our technology and the size of the wider region, we are poised to have that impact together.

Despite the heinous attacks by Hamas on Oct. 7 that claimed the lives of 1,200 Israelis and saw more than 240 civilians taken hostage, forcing a war upon us, we feel it is important to participate in COP28—the 2023 U.N. Climate Change Conference—because we are committed to achieving our goals at this international event. We are on the front lines of climate innovation and bring with us experience in areas such as water, agriculture, alternative proteins and food security, renewable energies, and nature-based solutions that can be applied regionally and globally and help us reach our common climate goals.

Environmental challenges are becoming a priority for countries in the Middle East and are increasing cross-border cooperation—including between Israel and its Arab and Muslim neighbors. Such cooperation assists in tackling climate change both regionally and globally. It also fosters regional stability, maintains and expands circles of peace and normalization, and increases prosperity and economic development.

Various Israeli ministries are involved in these efforts. They have identified a range of opportunities for enhanced regional cooperation, as well as a broad set of challenges that need to be overcome. These are being explored and tackled by the Israeli Climate Forum, established in 2021 by President Isaac Herzog as part of his vision of a “Renewable Middle East.”

To create a larger impact, the MENA countries must work together towards our collective regional climate goals. An alliance between Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the GCC countries, Jordan and Morocco, with the support of the United States, creates an opportunity for us to work on climate issues that threaten the entire region.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is considered a climate “hot spot,” based on models that predict a rise of 20% in average global temperatures and increasing numbers of extreme weather events, as well as shrinking water sources, wildfires, rising sea levels, desertification and sandstorms. Therefore, a successful transition in global energy requires that the MENA countries scale back the production of fossil fuels and develop their own renewable and clean sources of energy.

We are seeing many countries in our region adapt to changing energy trends. The United Arab Emirates unveiled the UAE Net Zero Strategic Initiative, which conducted a comprehensive study, evaluation and proposal of national climate pathways to attain net zero emissions by 2050. With the endorsement of the plan by the UAE cabinet, it unveiled this month a range of enablers and initiatives that will expedite its path to becoming a climate-neutral country.

The Saudi Green Initiative aims to reduce the use of fossil fuels and move to 50% clean energy. Bahrain’s Vision 2030 outlines measures to protect the natural environment, reduce carbon emissions, minimize pollution and promote sustainable energy. The National Energy Efficiency Action Plan (NEEAP) and National Renewable Energy Action Plan (NREAP) set 2025 targets of 6% and 5%, respectively, for national energy efficiency and national renewable energy, with the NREAP target increasing to 10% by 2035.

The key to achieving our global sustainability goals is collaboration. Due to the Abraham Accords and the growing relationships between Israel and our Arab neighbors, this is the time for us to work together to achieve our regional climate action goals together. The climate crisis presents an opportunity to establish such collaborations, and they must be included in any economic, scientific, environmental and business plan.

Given the fact that Israel is a highly technologically advanced country but geographically small, with a small domestic economy, this international cooperation is particularly important to us. The United Arab Emirates has played a pivotal role in moving the region’s sustainability goals forward and has been a wonderful partner for us. The UAE’s leadership in coordinating regional climate action and cooperation is something we are excited to be part of.

I extend my best wishes to H.H. Mohammed bin Zayed and the people of the UAE for hosting this prestigious event, which I have no doubt will be a great success. Thank you for being wonderful partners as we work together on climate action initiatives to benefit our countries and the region in general.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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