Coming up to the stage three hours later than scheduled, Israel’s president Isaac Herzog addressed a room full of global representatives at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP27) in Egypt. The president spoke for about five minutes, unlike some other speakers like French President Emmanuel Macron who took the mic and executed a long-winded and over-the-time talk of 20 minutes or more.
In his address, Herzog promised net zero carbon emissions by 2050, despite Israel’s Attorney-General Gali Baharav-Miara deciding to prevent the government from pushing the bill through. Former Prime Minister Naftali Bennett had promised such a deal last year. Now, Israel and Turkey are the only countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) to not have made the pledge official and followed through on it. Despite the attorney general saying there was “no special urgency” to make the decision, Herzog repeated the idea in front of the crowd.
“Here, in Sharm e-Sheikh, I wish to reiterate the State of Israel’s solid commitments to achieving net zero carbon emissions and to transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050.”President Isaac Herzog
“Here in Sharm el-Sheikh I wish to reiterate the State of Israel’s solid commitments to achieving net zero carbon emissions and to transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050,” Herzog said.
Touting Israel's cooperation with Jordan on clean energy
Herzog spoke following the President of Slovenia, Borut Pahor. The most concrete part of his English-language speech was his focus on how Israel is working with its neighbors to make the entire Middle East region more sustainable. Referencing a deal penned in 2021, Herzog touted the country’s cooperation with its eastern neighbor Jordan, which is expected to yield clean energy for Israel and, as Herzog says, eventually get exported out to Europe.
While President Herzog was photographed having a friendly sit-down with Jordan’s king Abdullah II just hours earlier, the head of state did not name Israel when lauding a green-energy agreement signed between three nations — Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.
The 2021 cooperation deal, in short, calls for Masdar, a UAE government-owned renewable energy company to build a solar-energy farm on Jordan’s abundant land, have the kingdom export the clean energy to Israel and get desalinated water in return It seemed Abdullah had intentionally left Israel out, as he highlighted Jordan’s cooperation with the Emirates and spoke of the deal at length. Herzog, for his part, named all the participants in the trilateral agreement.
“The Prosperity Green and Prosperity Blue partnership, reflecting Jordan's intention to supply Israel with green electricity, and Israel’s intention to supply Jordan with desalinated water, with the direct involvement of the United States and the United Arab Emirates, is the ultimate example of creative, win-win-win partnership, which will contribute to the stability of the entire region,” Herzog said.
Herzog meets with world leaders
The remarks followed a full day of meetings and events including a warm welcome from Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres. Herzog also met with the first participant of the Abraham Accord, United Arab Emirates’ President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, as well as the country’s foreign minister. The heads of state discussed regional cooperation on climate issues.
Herzog met with Great Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and agreed to “get to work” on economic, security and climate change cooperation. The Israeli president also met with Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco, one of the Arab nations to have signed onto the Abraham Accords and normalize ties with the Jewish state. Cooperation with Morocco is increasing; at the end of this past October, Morocco hosted a music festival that was partially funded by Israel’s government and even hosted 60 Israeli artists.
Most heads of state gave cookie-cutter speeches regarding the importance of implementing climate change agreements before it’s too late to save the human race.
Among the most interesting was the address from Seychelles’ President Wavel Ramkalawan who spoke artfully and called on the world to press forward to prevent climate change. According to him, despite the fact that the small African island produces virtually no carbon footprint itself, it is most at risk of being washed off the map due to rising seas. Yemen’s representative ended his talk by calling for an end to war in Ukraine.
Herzog finished with some words in Arabic and said the following:
“Dear friends, the Quran teaches us to be good to others, as Allah has been good to us, and to not seek to corrupt the land. And in the Bible we read, ‘God settled man in the Garden of Eden, to till it and tend it.’ Let us save the world God gave us, for we have all been created in His image.”
The Arabic language delighted some young Egyptian women sitting in the crowd.
“I really appreciated when the president of Israel spoke in Arabic, especially with words from Quran, because I'm Muslim and I believe in peace,” said Maya, an Egyptian volunteer. “We all stand on one foot and in the same boat, so we have to implement and leave no one behind.”
This is the first time Israel has had a pavilion at the UN Climate Conference, where it will host 35 events over the course of the conference. Herzog inaugurated the pavilion along with other government representatives like Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Education Minister Yifat Shasha-Biton, Innovation, Science, and Technology Minister Orit Farkash-Hacohen and Regional Cooperation Minister Issawi Frej, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“It is no coincidence that the first country in the region that signed a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979, is also the first country where Israel has built a COP pavilion," Frej said. "The climate crisis threatens us all but it’s also a tremendous opportunity for transnational regional cooperation and new agreements, and that’s what we must emphasize.”
Herzog will spend one more day at COP27, which is one day longer than originally scheduled. Prime Minister Yair Lapid pulled out of the conference after results of the November 1 election showed he would no longer remain as head of state.