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A Green Blue Deal for the Middle East

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Authors: Gidon Bromberg, Israeli Director, Nada Majdalani, Palestinian Director & Yana Abu Taleb, Jordanian Director.

1. INTRODUCTION

The climate crisis is often described as a threat multiplier, where the weak adaptive capacity of a state or a region to deal with the negative implications of climate change can threaten stability and national security interests. In the Middle East, the failure to resolve the water scarcity challenges already faced in the region is a national security issue, that under conditions of climate change will be multiplied to a level that threatens regional stability. However, climate change can equally be seen as a multiplier of opportunities, where a nation or a region could see the threats posed by climate change as a chance to reconsider existing policies and decide to work across borders, in order to increase adaptive capacities so that challenges can not only be overcome but more sustainable, equitable and prosperous results can be achieved. The ‘Green Deal’ concepts in both the US and Europe are designed precisely for this purpose, where to date Europe is leading the global climate effort by adopting a set of targets related to climate adaptation and mitigation, including zero total carbon emmissions, investment in green jobs and infrastructure and advancing social equity by 2050. With the recent election in the US of a Biden-Harris Presidency, the US and EU will seek to return to working together productively to advance climate issues and this should help attract new investment opportunities including Arab Gulf funding towards Middle East Green Deal endeavors. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic crisis, many OECD countries have further added the term to ‘build back better’ focusing on climate adaptation and mitigation measures as their priority issues as a means to stimulate the economy and advance societal progress.

This report seeks to inform the policy considerations of Israeli, Jordanian and Palestinian policy makers, and the understanding of international stakeholders, as they work to meet the challenges posed by climate change in our region. The authors’ assessment is that a “Middle East Green Blue Deal” – one that gives additional emphasis to the particular importance of water and water scarcity issues in the region is a practical, feasible and effective policy approach to an urgent challenge, and one that can serve to address conflict drivers, advance a two state solution, based on 1967 borders and promote trust-building and cooperation in a conflict-mired region.

The recommendations in this paper build on learning from several programs and concepts developed and implemented by our organization, EcoPeace over these last 26 years. In the deeply complex conflict environment in which we work and live, and at a time of climate crisis, our shared consideration is that these recommendations represent solutions to urgent problems that are also “low hanging fruit,” - practical and solveable issues in the Arab-Israeli conflict context.

Our “Green Blue Deal” proposes harnessing the sun and the sea to create region wide desalinated water and energy security for all; highlights the need and opportunity to solve Israeli / Palestinian natural water allocations today to achieve water equity; proposes climate smart investments and green job development around the Jordan Valley; and recommends public awareness and education programs that can engage the stakeholder publics, especially the younger generations, to understand the importance of diplomacy in the water and climate fields as an effective tool for conflict resolution and peace building.

This report does not seek to propose a holistic policy program for the Middle East covering all issues related to climate mitigation and adaptation. On the contrary, the purpose of this report is to highlight regionally focused low hanging fruit; opportunities that can serve as entry points for policymakers seeking to maximize fulfilment of their own countries’ self-interests, spurring momentum toward governments creating their own holistic “green blue” plans and providing opportunities for mutual gain and dialogue on region wide integrated programs.

No less important, these recommendations provide relevant context for international community stakeholders, to weigh the foreign policy implications of their own varied programs and policy deliberations related to the environment. The EcoPeace report therefore also makes recommendations applicable to international community actors for paths that could not only contribute to climate security, cooperation, and development in the Middle East but simultaneously provide entry points for advancing Israeli-Palestinian and broader Middle East peace issues.