Israel Says It Will Send Officials to First Mideast Climate Summit

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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A forest fire in the Jerusalem Hills, August.
A forest fire in the Jerusalem Hills, August.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Israel will be among the Middle Eastern countries to participate in two regional summits in 2022 to formulate a joint plan to tackle the climate crisis, sources in the Foreign Ministry and in Cyprus said.

Heads of state and ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Greece, Cyprus and Iraq are also set to take part in the summits. 

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The delegates will promote action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and plans to adjust to climate change effects, as well as advance the transition to renewable energies. The Middle East is seen as particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Sources in Cyprus said the first ministerial meeting is due to take place on the island next February, and a meeting of heads of state is due in the autumn of 2022.

Dozens of countries have declared a climate emergency, but Israel is not one of them. The government hasn’t passed a climate law that would accelerate preparations for climate disasters, and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett still hasn’t said whether he plans to go to the United Nations’ climate conference in Glasgow due to begin at the end of the month with the participation of senior figures and leaders of countries from around the world. The summit is intended to motivate countries worldwide to act and halt the most severe effects of climate change.

The world has heated up by 1.1 degrees Celsius compared to the pre-industrial age, and scientists agree that unless humanity reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent by 2030, the world will cross the 1.5 degree threshold, which would make it impossible to avoid the worst effects.

In the past two years the Cyprus Institute, a nonprofit research and educational center, has concentrated the work of 13 regional task forces, together with 240 scientists from the Middle East and international organizations, who are putting together their conclusions for regional action.

The Second International Conference on Climate Change in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East is taking place in Paphos, Cyprus this week, with more than 200 scientists and climate experts from 25 states, including Israeli diplomats and scientists from the Weizmann Institute and Haifa University. Scientists and diplomats from Egypt, Jordan, Iraq and Greece are also participating in the conference. Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades and Jordan’s Prince Hassan bin Talal spoke at the conference.

"[I]f we fail to act the impact on public health, ecosystems, agriculture, tourism and water resources will be unprecedented," Anastasiades said at the conference.

"Our region is classified as a global 'climate change hot spot,' being particularly vulnerable to its negative impact, with our countries already witnessing consequent serious challenges," he said. "Challenges which are to a large extent common: Record high temperatures and protracted heat waves, devastating fires and deforestation, increased water scarcity, droughts, floods and extreme weather pattern." He called on all the region’s states to work together.

The Middle East is one of the areas most impacted by the world climate change and is heating up faster than the world average. This means, according to reports by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and studies published in scientific magazines, that by the end of the century about half of the Middle East region and North Africa – some 600 million people – will be exposed to extreme heat waves of 56 degrees Celsius and higher, accelerated desertification processes, water shortages, droughts and flooding (because of shorter but more extreme winters), all of which are expected to undermine stability, increase terrorism and cause climate migration.

Gideon Bachar, the Foreign Ministry's special ambassador for climate change and sustainability, who is attending the Cyprus conference, told Haaretz: “The Middle East is in particularly great danger from climate change. The temperatures will become impossible to live in and it will have a dramatic effect on the entire region. We understand that cooperation of all the states in the Middle East is crucial to deal with the crisis.”

He said the leaders and ministers will meet at the summit to discuss this issue for the first time and draft a regional work plan.

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