October 26, 2010: Israel and the Palestinian Authority are among 15 Mediterranean nations who have just signed a historic agreement to work together to combat the effects of climate change, one month ahead of the next United Nations conference on climate change, meeting at Cancun in November.
The Mediterranean Climate Change Initiative was inaugurated by Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou to develop common Mediterranean positions on climate change and was signed by the prime ministers or top environmental officials of 15 countries who agree that climate change threatens their way of life as peoples of the Mediterranean.
Most remarkable of all, both Israel and the Palestinian Authority signed on to the initiative.
Signatories included a wide assortment of countries: EU members like France, Spain, Italy, and Greece; Eastern European countries like Turkey, Croatia, Romania and Macedonia, and Middle Eastern countries, like Libya, Syria and Egypt.
The declaration called for contributing to the emergence of low carbon, resource efficient and climate resilient economies.
Israel’s president had committed the nation to reduce carbon emissions 20% by 2020 at Copenhagenlast year. To achieve the reduction in carbon, Israel’s state-owned electricity company the IEC (Israel Electric Corporation) which supplies nearly all of the electricity for both states, would need to supply a higher percentage of the total electricity (about 12,000 megawatts) that currently powers the two tiny states – with clean energy.
A few solar CSP, solar PV and wind farms would make an enormous reduction quickly, given that the total electricity used is relatively small.
Both Israel and Palestine are acutely aware of their vulnerability to climate change, which is expected to make water resources even more scarce for what is already the most water-stressed highly populated area in the world.
The region faces a potential 4 degree rise in average temperatures and a 70% drop in precipitation. Sea level rise is expected to further contaminate nearby aquifers such as the coastal aquifer of Gaza that provides water to 1.5 million Palestinians. The annual decrease in rainfall is already raising farm prices for fruits and vegetables, and creating a two-tiered class system for water: those who can afford to pay, and those who can’t.
One diplomat at the meeting said “It is a new way of doing diplomacy because all these countries have a lot of problems to deal with — economic crises, political instability and other issues — and the conflicts between them.”
“However, they sat around the same table realizing that they all face the same threat to their culture and their way of life.”
To a US observer like me, it seems remarkable that all of these nations, let alone Israel and Palestine can agree on something that has become so contentious here in the United States that one entire party here (the Republicans) not only will not agree to any reductions in fossil fuel dependence to address the catastrophic climate destabilization problems created – but won’t even admit that there is any problem to address.
So congratulations to Israel and Palestine on your declaration of war against climate change.