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Climate security: Jordan and Israel’s water-for energy swap
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Climate security: Jordan and Israel’s water-for energy swap

A person rides a camel, with another trailing behind, in the desert

In a climate barter, Jordan is preparing to supply solar energy to Israel in return for desalinated waters. This trade-off is the basis for a climate cooperation agreement between the two countries, which was signed in 1994.

Under this bold deal, Jordan, which is water-scarce, would export approximately 600 megawatts to Israel of solar-generated power. Israel would then supply its neighbor with as much as 200 million cubic metres of desalinated waters.

According to media reports, a United Arab Emirates-based firm would build a Jordanian solar farm, with the transmission lines, that would connect it to Israel by 2026. Israel has five desalination plants on its Mediterranean Coast, and two more are in the planning stages.

“It’s a win-win situation and a model for out-of-the-box thinking on climate security,” said Gidon Bromberg, co-founder and Israeli Director of EcoPeace Middle East, an Israeli-Jordanian-Palestinian environmental NGO.

A person rides a camel, with another trailing behind, in the desert

Climate change is making Jordan’s deserts dry and water-scarce.

The organization is credited for helping to create the foundation for the cooperation and for a more regional approach towards the climate crisis. EcoPeace published this document in December 2020. “Green-Blue Deal for Middle East” a detailed plan that advocates for cross-border climate security with an emphasis on Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

“The deal is creating an innovative model for healthy interdependencies among countries in our region,” Yana Ab Taleb, the Jordanian Director at EcoPeace MiddleEast, stated in a statement.

It comes as Naftali Bennett’s new Israeli government has made it a priority build better relations to Jordan. Also, Israel signed the Abraham Accords as a step towards normalizing relations between the UAE and the UAE.

Use solar power to gain political leverage

Jordan is bordered by a small portion of the Red Sea. This means that there is not much coastline along which to build desalination plants. Since long, the kingdom has been dependent on water sales from Israel.

Taleb sees the new deal as an opportunity to level the playing field by giving Jordan “something of real value” to sell back to Israel, thereby resulting in much-needed new political leverage.

Because while Israel which is aiming to generate 30% of its energy from renewables by 2030 has limited space for large-scale solar energy installations, Jordan is home to vast, sun-drenched desert land that is suitable for constructing massive photovoltaic power arrays.

Taleb stated to DW that Jordan could become a regional center for renewable energy, selling energy to the entire region and not just Israel. Imagine all the benefits to the country from the climate security and economic gains that we are achieving.”

A solar panel in the desert

A solar power station located in the Jordanian Desert

Climate change has impacted a region in need

Israel has already defined the climate crisis a matter of national security, which Bromberg said must come with the understanding that the threat is region-wide.

Bromberg stated that Israel wants to be considered an international player and a leader in climate issues. “And it has must play ball and meet these commitments.”

Already, climate change has an impact It has a profound impactThe entire Middle East region surrounding Israel and Jordan.

Colin Price, the head of the Porter School of Environment Studies in Tel Aviv University, said that “it is warming faster then the rest of the globe.” “We have seen a significant warming of the Mediterranean and Israel over the past two decades. Our summers are getting longer and hotter.

According to the “severe scenario”, Israel’s Meteorological Service projects a rise of 4 degrees Celsius (7.2 Fahrenheit) in the average temperature by the end this century. Price says that the wider Mediterranean region could see a 20% decline in rainfall by the century’s end.

He said, “That’s what’s already being noticed in many countries like Greece, Italy and Spain. This also extends into an increase fire season and more severe wildfires.”

Are you a cause for cautious optimism?

Jordan too has been experiencing an increasing shortage of fresh water supply in recent years, and in the capital Amman, citizens have become used to having water delivered to their rooftop tanks.

“The whole region is water scarce, naturally,” said Yana Abu Taleb. “We have very limited groundwater and surface water resources, and Jordan is among the poorest countries in the region in terms of water availability.”

However, the severe shortage can also be partly due to other factors like water management and population rise. Over the past few years, Jordan has received nearly 800,000. 

Israel agreed to double its annual desalinated water supply to its neighbor, to 50 million cubic metres annually, last summer. That is very welcome. The new deal allows Jordan to receive up to four times the amount.

Despite reports from the Reuters news agency that the planned project triggered protests in Amman against what some perceive negatively as “normalization” with Israel, Bromberg said he feels positive about the agreement particularly as parts of it are private sector-led and not dependent on donor money.

Bromberg stated that “both sides are sort of coming together with each having something to sell and something to buy”, adding that there is “good reason to be cautious optimistic” in terms of both political and environmental issues.

Edited by Tamsin Walker and Stuart Braun

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