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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. The trade-off forms part of a climate cooperation arrangement between the two countries which was established in 1994 by a peace treaty.

Under this bold deal, Jordan, which is water-scarce, would export approximately 600 megawatts to Israel of solar-generated power. Israel, in turn, would supply Israel with up to 200 millions cubic meters of desalinated waters.

According to media reports, a company based in the United Arab Emirates would build a solar farm at Jordan and the transmission lines that would connect it with 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 water-scarce deserts drier.

It is credited with helping to lay the foundations for cooperation and a regional approach to 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, the new Israeli government, has made it a priority for better relations with Jordan. Israel also signed the Abraham Accords to normalize relations with the UAE and other Arab nations.

Use solar power to gain political leverage

Jordan is surrounded by a small section of the Red Sea. There is no long coastline to build desalination facilities. 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 said that Jordan could be a regional hub of renewable energy and sell renewable energy to the whole region, not just Israel. Imagine all that climate security we are achieving, and all the economic benefits for this country.”

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, “Israel wants be seen as an internationally active player, as a kind of world leader on climate problems.” “And it has must play ball and meet these commitments.”

Already, climate change is having 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.” “Over the past 20 years, we have seen a significant warming both in Israel and the Mediterranean. Our summers are getting longer and hotter.

According to Israel’s Meteorological Service, the IMS projects a 4 degree Celsius (7.2 degree Fahrenheit), increase in the average temperature by the middle of this century. Price says that the wider Mediterranean region could see a 20% decline in rainfall by the century’s end.

“That’s exactly what we’re already seeing in many countries, such as Spain, Italy, and Greece, and it also extends to an increased fire season, and more severe wildfires,” said he.

Reason to be cautiously optimistic?

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 few surface and groundwater resources, and Jordan, amongst the countries in the region, has the lowest 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 last summer to double its annual supply to neighboring countries, bringing it to 50 million cubic meters per year. This is a welcome move. 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 said that both sides are “sort of on an equal footing with all having something to sell and something to buy.” He also stated that there is “good cause for cautious optimism” in both political and environmental terms.

Edited By: Tamsin and Stuart Braun

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