Government ministers from Israel, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates signed a declaration of intent on Monday to build renewable electricity and water desalination capacity and address the threat posed by climate change on energy and security in the region. The historic deal is said to be the largest-ever regional cooperation agreement ever undertaken by the three countries.
The signing, which took place at the UAE Leadership Pavilion at the Dubai Expo, was witnessed by Dr. Sultan bin Ahmed Al Jaber, Industry and Advanced Technology Minister and Special Envoy for Climate Change, and John Kerry, US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
The declaration was signed by the UAE’s Climate Change and the Environment Minister Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, Jordan’s Water and Irrigation Minister, Mohammad Al-Najjar, and Karine Elharrar, Israel’s Energy Minister.
The outline of the deal will see an Emirati firm construct a 600-megawatt solar generating facility, which Israel will then purchase. In return, Jordan will purchase water from an as yet-to-be-constructed desalination plant to be constructed on Israel’s Mediterranean coast. As part of the 1994 Peace Treaty signed between the Jewish State and the Hashemite Kingdom, Israel already provides much of Jordan’s potable water. In October, after a period of strained diplomatic relations between the neighbors, Israel agreed to double the amount of freshwater it supplies to water-poor Jordan to some 50 million cubic meters. According to the deal, Israel could supply Jordan with up to 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water.
Feasibility studies for the project are due to commence in 2022.
The signing of the Abraham Accords in Washington in September 2020, was said to be a key driver in encouraging the deal to take place. Several phone calls between Kerry, Jordan’s King Abudllah II and Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid were instrumental in pushing it over the line, US news site Axios reported.
According to Axios, an agreement was set to be signed in Glasgow at the recent COP26 climate conference,but Israel’s Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had asked it to be postponed in order to not hinder the passage of the country’s budget, which the Knesset (Israel Parliament) had not voted on for some two years.
Elharrar said, “The declaration of intent that we are signing today is not just good for the State of Israel and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, but for the region as a whole and will send a strong message around the world about how nations can work together to battle the climate crisis,” according to Emirates News Agency WAM.
“I am grateful to all of our Jordanian, Emirati and American partners, who have worked tirelessly with us to develop and promote these innovative solutions that will help us in the region deal with the effects of climate change.
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“Two countries with different needs, different capabilities, with each helping the other meet their challenges in a cleaner, greener, and more efficient manner. Jordan has an abundance of territory and sunshine which is perfect for solar panel fields, good for energy solutions and storage, and Israel has desalinization plants that can help Jordan with its water scarcity,” she concluded.
Commenting on the declaration, H.H. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Minister, said, “Climate change is already having a major impact on countries and communities in the Middle East. As we prepare to host COP28 in the UAE in 2023, we demonstrate with this declaration that all nations can work together to further the energy transition, and build a more sustainable future for all.”
“The United Arab Emirates is pleased to play a role in bringing Israel and Jordan together in an initiative that reinforces both countries’ climate security and common interests. This declaration is just one of the positive outcomes of the Abraham Accords that is serving to reinforce regional peace, stability and prosperity, while improving the lives and the future prospects of all the people of the region.”
“Climate change and the influx of refugees have further exacerbated Jordan’s water challenges, however, there are many opportunities for regional cooperation to help increase sustainability in the sector,” Al-Najjar added.
“Water desalination is an important component of our overall strategy for the water sector’s sustainability, and we are continuously looking at different ways to help increase water supply, such as receiving up to 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water as part of this declaration,” reported Reuters.
Kerry remarked that, “The Middle East is on the frontline of the climate crisis. Only by working together can countries in the region rise to the scale of the challenge. Today’s initiative is a welcome example of how cooperation can accelerate the energy transition and build greater resilience to the impacts of climate change.”
Jerusalem’s Deputy Mayor, Fleur Hassan-Nahoum, who is also Co-Founder of the UAE-Israel Business Council, said of the cooperation between the three countries that, “The Abraham Accords has lifted the entire region from remaining stuck in the past to moving toward a bright future of peace and mutual prosperity. Trade has multiplied with Jordan and Egypt in 2021 and we look forward to 2022 and the strengthening of ties across the region.”
In June, Israel signed a first-of-its-kind agreement with the United Arab Emirates to launch a joint Israeli-Emirati Water Research Institute in an effort to bring clean water to the UAE and other regions.