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A water-for-energy agreement could help to prevent climate conflict in Middle East

A water-for-energy agreement could help to prevent climate conflict in Middle East

Water-for-energy deal could help prevent climate conflict in the Middle East

The climate crisis is both an aggraverator of security crises and a driver for new threats. This relationship between a worsening climate and conflict means that both need to be addressed together, according to Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli director of EcoPeace Middle East, the world’s only NGO that combines environmentalism and peace-building.

At the end of 2021, Israel, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates signed a declaration of intent that was a world first—an agreement to move forward on the ‘green–blue deal’ that would see the UAE building solar farms in Jordan to produce energy that would supply energy-poor Israel, in exchange for water produced by expanding Israel’s state-of-the-art desalination facilities on the Mediterranean.

Bromberg states that the agreement reached between three countries with historically difficult relations is a testament of the strategic imperatives surrounding climate change.

EcoPeace has been championing the ‘green blue’ approach for many years and has been instrumental in providing research and advocacy support for the Israel–Jordan–UAE deal. And in late January, the organisation briefed the UN Security Council on the imperative of expanding the green–blue approach to the entire Middle East region.

‘It is truly a breakthrough agreement,’ says Bromberg. ‘For the first time, countries are saying that they are willing at least partially to be dependent on their neighbour in a neighbourhood where countries have seen each other as an enemy.’

The inspiration behind the green–blue concept came from the lessons of post–World War II Europe, particularly the coal and steel agreement that aimed to stop the historical antagonists from going to war again by combining their national resource advantages to the benefit of both counties. ‘The Middle East equivalent is in harnessing the respective advantages of the sun and the sea,’ explains Bromberg.

But, he says, this breakthrough could occur because for the first time there’s a real alignment of security, political, and economic interests across the three countries.

Apart from the growing alarm about climate change in a region that will suffer some of the most devastating effects, a new government in Israel allowed a reset of relations with Jordan’s King Abdullah II, whose consort Queen Rania has been a long-time advocateThe Middle East needs a green and sustainable economy.

Another important factor is that the economics make sense. ‘The deal does not require donor assistance. And that helped move the deal forward very quickly,’ Bromberg says. And while the governments are still working out the fine details ‘there is a strong economic and geopolitical engine moving this forward’.

Countries in the Middle East are realising that in a heating world, they will no longer be able to guarantee sufficient water supplies for agriculture and human consumption without creating what Bromberg calls ‘healthy interdependencies’.

New York TimesThomas Friedman, columnist, is a former colleague. written extensivelyLearn more about EcoPeace’s work Recently arguedThe Middle East’s existential climate realities will fundamentally change the geopolitical frameworks of the region.

If countries have in the past organized their security around resistance against an external enemy, the current climate crisis means that legitimacy for national security will depend on the ability of governments to achieve climate-change resilience.

Because no country can achieve sustainable climate resilience by itself, it may be necessary for traditional enmities to end if countries are to survive.

This understanding may be driving reported Saudi attempts to unravel the mysteries. IncipientDeal by offering to take over Israel’s role as a source for desalinated water. Bromberg believes that this is a healthy competition for climate leadership in Middle East.

The Saudis have worked tirelessly to achieve this. Push back against the phasing-out of fossil fuels. But now there are signals, like the new ‘Saudi green initiative’, that the kingdom’s rulers realise that it must at least appear to be participating in inevitable global transition to cleaner, cheaper energy.

Unfortunately, it seems that the plan involves greening Saudi Arabia’s own energy consumptionSaudi Arabia will continue to develop and export oil for decades to follow, Saudi Arabia is an example of a country that is moving away fossil fuels. Investing in the collapse of US and Russian suppliesSaudi Aramco will fill the gap over the next 20-years.

But any delays in phasing out fossil fuels will mean endangering the imperative of limiting global heating to 1.5°C. Mitigation failure is also possible Hit countries in the Arabian PeninsulaMany cities may find it difficult to live there. Warming up on the peninsula is much higherThe global average is lower.

Saudi Arabia doesn’t have any permanent water sources. Groundwater is shrinkingto dangerously low levels, which could threaten agricultural production. Demographic trends will drive a lot of the growth. increasing water demandover the next two decades. Although experiments have been underway to replace groundwater by desalinated water in agriculture (but not yet commercially viable), they haven’t yet proven cost-effective.

This is one of the reasons Bromberg argued for a regional green–blue deal that encompasses the Euphrates, Tigris and Nile regions at the UN Security Council in January.

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Bromberg also demanded that the Security Council take a stronger leadership role in the climate crisis.

‘There is a very urgent need for the Security Council to recognise that the climate crisis is a threat to peace,’ he says.

‘That cannot be more clearly highlighted than in the case of the Middle East, where water insecurity is an underlying issue for so many of the conflicts in our region, including Israel and Palestine, Syria and Ethiopia but also Iraq, Turkey, Egypt and Ethiopia.’

He asks the Security Council to declare that the climate crisis is a threat to global safety. Article 39Climate is now part of the security mission of the body.

He also believes that the Security Council should repurpose UN instruments like the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Forum to facilitate the regional clean energy and climate resilience deals that he believes will underpin the region’s future security.

‘The forum was built on the concept of moving natural gas found in the eastern Mediterranean to markets in Europe, but the climate crisis means we need to turn the forum into one for renewable energy and climate security.

‘It includes interesting countries like Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan, Israel, Cyprus and Greece and has special status to the EU, US and UAE. So it can be the institution that can help advance these issues.’

But can green–blue water-for-energy approaches be used beyond the Middle East? Bromberg believes yes, but it is still unexplored territory.

‘There is a little bit of work which I am familiar with in Africa and in Caucasus. But there need to be more resources invested in understanding the relationship between climate and peace so that we can draw the lessons that we’ve been able to develop from the Middle East to other parts of the world.’

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