Climate change an opportunity for Israel-U.S. cooperation

Although the Paris Agreement has been signed and ratified in Israel, the problem of climate change, which stems from human behavior, does not attract much attention.

January 21, 2019 22:47
2 minute read.
People walk next to Wadi Besor in the south.

People walk next to Wadi Besor in the south.. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The National Climate Assessment (NCA) report, published recently by the US government, creates opportunities for cooperation between Israeli and US companies and academic institutions to deal with global warming and climate change, a problem that poses a fundamental threat, especially to weaker populations.

The NCA report stresses the need to promote mitigation processes on a global level and to adapt to the new situation on a regional level. Mitigation processes focus primarily on reducing greenhouse gas emissions – an international effort that is struggling to achieve its goals. The major challenge facing humanity lies in reducing increasing temperatures to less than 2 degrees Celsius, while an increase of 1.5 degrees is likely between 2030 and 2052.

Although the Paris Agreement has been signed and ratified in Israel, the problem of climate change, which stems from human behavior, does not attract much attention, neither from politicians nor from the general public. This can be explained by the more immediate concerns regarding security that often directly affect Israelis in a very tangible way. However, Israel does contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a determined transition from coal-fired power plants to natural-gas power plants. In addition, there is a (relatively modest) target to adopt renewable energy. By 2022, all electricity in Israel will be produced mainly from gas or from renewable sources.

With regard to adaptation to climate change, the Israeli government adopted a resolution titled, “Israel’s Preparation for Adaptation to Climate Change: Implementation of Government Recommendations for a Strategy and National Action Plan.” This resolution, based on the Environmental Protection Ministry’s detailed preparation plan, relates to damage to life and property, sustainability of the biological environment, promotion of research and knowledge, education and public awareness, and the promotion of international cooperation. Despite the impressive scope of the plan and its strategic importance, it has barely resonated with the public.

Israel’s resolution regarding climate change and the publication of the NCA report in the US opens a window for closer cooperation between Israel and the US regarding adaptation to climate change, especially in the promotion of knowledge and technologies. A recently adopted US-Israel initiative may prove to be impactful by increasing collaboration in climate change related topics such as energy and water.

In June 2018, US Secretary of Energy Rick Perry and Israeli Energy Minister Dr. Yuval Steinitz signed an agreement to establish a US-Israel Energy Center (the US-Israel Center of Excellence in Energy, Engineering and Water Technology). The aim of the center is to promote research projects through joint consortia, including academia and industry from both countries.

The initiative began with congressional legislation within the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 and was first allocated funds by Congress in fiscal year 2018. In parallel, the Israeli Energy Ministry together with the Innovation Authority successfully promoted a government decision to increase the budget allocated to US-Israel cooperation in energy. Four main areas were defined for the Energy Center: energy storage, energy infrastructure protection, energy-water nexus and fossil energy (mainly natural gas).

Israel has significant know-how and capabilities that may contribute to adaptation to climate change. The new US-Israel Energy Center can also contribute by promoting relevant research and technologies such as in water and infrastructure protection.

The writer is the executive director of the BIRD Foundation.

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