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Former foes Israel & Jordan team up to combat water and energy scarcity
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Former foes Israel & Jordan team up to combat water and energy scarcity

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

In a act of climate barter Jordan is getting ready to supply solar energy for Israel in exchange to desalinated water. The deal forms the basis of a climate cooperation arrangement between the two nations, which was signed in 1994.

Under this brave new deal, water-scarce Jordan would export about 600 megawatts of solar-generated electricity to Israel, which in return would supply its neighbor with up to 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water.

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.

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 to the Middle East” a detailed plan that advocates for cross-border climate security with an emphasis on Jordan, Israel and the Palestinian Territories.

“The deal creates a new model of healthy interdependencies between nations in our region,” Yana Abdul Taleb, Jordanian Director for 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.

How can solar power be used to influence politics?

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 the climate security we’re achieving and all the economic benefits that the country is gaining.

A solar panel in the desert

A solar power station located in the Jordanian Desert

A region that has been hard hit by climate change

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 is having an impact It has a profound impactThe entire Middle East region surrounding Israel and Jordan.

Colin Price, head of Tel Aviv University’s Porter School of Environment Studies, stated that the planet is warming faster than any other place on the planet. “Over the past two decades, there has been a significant warming of the Mediterranean and Israel. Our summers are becoming 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 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. However, the new deal could allow Jordan to receive as much as 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 buy or sell,” adding that there is “good reason to be cautious optimistic” in terms of both environmental and political issues.

Edited by Tamsin Walker, Stuart Braun

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