On 2 September 2021, the Planetary Security Initiative of the Clingendael Institute along with partner organization EcoPeace Middle East organized a digital dialogue ”Climate change: Entry point for regional peace in the wider Middle East?” Four distinguished speakers from the MENA region reflected on the potential options for environmental peacebuilding in the wider Middle East where conflicts over identity and history are exacerbated by the impacts of climate change.
Speakers discussed the potential merits of environmental peacebuilding in one of the world’s most politically sensitive regions. Regional cooperation on building climate adaptation and mitigation measures can lead to sustainable peace between past, current and potential future rivals. As pointed out by Yana Abu Taleb, Director of EcoPeace Middle East – Jordan,
“The rationale behind environmental peace-making is that cooperation over the environment and shared resources helps prevent future conflict from arising and creates necessary conditions for addressing future threats that do not recognize national boundaries.”
Yana went on to reflect on the practical policy approaches to environmental peacebuilding through the ‘Middle East Green Blue Deal’ that addresses water scarcity issues in the region through harnessing renewable energy and climate-smart investments.
Climate related-risks emerging in the region are largely in the form of unbearable heatwaves, water scarcity, desertification and saltwater intrusion undermining local food production. This significant sea-level increase could cause a catastrophic impact on human security in the region. Prof. Alon Tal, Member of the Knesset, explained,
“The Middle East is a climate change hotspot; if the world’s sea level rises at approximately two millimetres per year, [it rises] as much as 10 off the Mediterranean coast and Israel”.
At the same time, speakers viewed climate change as an opportunity for collaboration among opposing actors by exploring possibilities to kick-start renewed dialogues overbuilding climate resilience measures. In fact, during the event, Dr. Shaddad Attili, Advisor ranking Minister at the Negotiations Support Department - PLO and a Former Water Minister, and Knesset Member Alon Tal agreed to meet for coffee in East Jerusalem to discuss potential roadways that would give Palestine greater ownership of their natural resources and pursue a green trajectory in the future. Dr. Shaddad Attili stressed the importance of mutual cooperation,
“We are a signatory to the Basel Convention, we are a signatory to the Paris Agreement, we are a signatory to the Biodiversity Convention – and Israel too. So, what prevents Israel and Palestine from working together. All obligations under these international agreements cite that Israel and Palestine put themselves together and sign an environmental protocol.”
To this end, Rene Van Nes, Head of Division of Conflict Prevention and Mediation Support at European External Action Service, explained that climate change is the EU’s most urgent priority and that the EU is aware of the necessity to address climate-related conflict risks.
“We have an early warning system that looks at countries at risk of a violent conflict and now we do include climate and water-related indicators as part of that early water mechanism, so that means the EU will respond where it sees climate or water is triggering violence. We are adopting a climate-sensitive focus when we make a conflict analysis by looking at a large number of countries.”
Watch the dialogue here.