Climate Consensus in the Middle East
The Middle East will face its own unique set of challenges in the age of climate change, from changing rainfall patterns and water scarcity to heatwaves and wildfires. While most of the region recognizes the need for more investment to tackle these issues, closer cross-border cooperation will also be necessary.
LUXEMBOURG – This week, I met a teenager in Ramallah named Miriam, who shared how much she has benefited from one of the 450 solar-powered schools that the European Investment Bank has financed in the West Bank. Speaking in perfect English, Miriam was fully aware of the challenges her region faces because of climate change. But she was also full of optimism and extraordinarily articulate in explaining why the Middle East needs to do more to harvest sunshine, one of the few clean-energy resources that it enjoys in abundance.
The following day, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reminded me that the EIB helped finance four of Israel’s six desalination plants, including one that will be the world’s largest when it becomes operational in 2023. He joked that almost two-thirds of the water in our glasses came from those EIB-backed projects. In a region with a growing population, Israelis know that water scarcity can easily lead to new conflicts. They want to develop greater desalination capacity so that they can potentially trade water for clean energy.
Changing rainfall patterns, water scarcity, and increasingly frequent and intense extreme weather events – including heatwaves and wildfires – affect Israelis and Palestinians equally, and the need to address the problem appears to be one of the few issues on which both parties agree. This was confirmed to me in talks with Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh. In a context of conflict, where most policies are viewed as zero-sum, climate projects are an exception.