COP27: Regional climate leadership needed in the Middle East - opinion

Against the background of political stagnation and targeting the two-state solution, choosing regional cooperation on climate issues can lead to new regional leadership and political climate.

  VIEW of a COP27 sign on the road leading to the conference area in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. (photo credit: Sayed Sheasha/Reuters)
VIEW of a COP27 sign on the road leading to the conference area in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
(photo credit: Sayed Sheasha/Reuters)

No matter the results of the elections to the 25th Knesset, it can be estimated with great certainty that the climate will not be a high priority, if at all, on the agenda of the next government and Knesset, whatever the length of the term.

Against the background of stagnation on a political level and targeting the two-state solution, choosing regional cooperation on climate issues can lead to new regional leadership and a new political climate.

Even with the coincidental timing of the proximity to the climate conference that will begin in Sharm El Sheikh in about a week, it still seems that although the acceptance of the existence of climate change is more and more an acceptable factual factor around the world, many heads of state and political leaders still refuse to recognize the political power of climate change as a generator of changes in the broad political perception as a shaper and facilitator of regional processes.

The preparation in Europe for a winter of energy poverty is in high gear, due to the war in Ukraine, sanctions on Russia and national energy transition plans will most likely result in not achieving the goals planned for 2030 in large parts of the continent. These processes accelerate the need to formulate a regional climate strategy not only in Europe.

 Interrelated crises with reciprocal feedback: Pollution, Climate change and Activity that Impairs Biodiversity (credit: studiovin/Shutterstock) Interrelated crises with reciprocal feedback: Pollution, Climate change and Activity that Impairs Biodiversity (credit: studiovin/Shutterstock)

Trying to mitigate climate risks, strengthen climate security in the region

In new research initiated recently by Tahadhari Center for Climate and Migration in Euro-Med region (Brussels), aimed to future assessment of mitigation of climate risks and adaptation towards climate security across the Mediterranean region, and untying the linkages between climate change and National security are discussed vis-a-vis the current geopolitical landscape and associated transboundary challenges in defined geopolitical regions, as the Middle East or Northern Mediterranean.

As for our region of South Mediterranean, prospective climate security risks, including migratory pressures, climate refugees, water stress and food insecurity, are reviewed.

Preliminary findings for the case of Israel are correlating the state’s potential role in climate-security politics to positive economic benefits. Given a scenario of regional Climate Change Leadership, and proposing an alternative pathway for regional cooperation and geopolitical stability through the promotion of old-new Middle Eastern-Mediterranean Alliances. Foremost, this vision aligns to a core strategic national masterplan, Leveraging for Geopolitical Cooperation and Regional Transformation, designed to strengthen each country’s commitment towards a climate-compatible future.

What regional collaboration towards a Climate compatible future means is that the fundamental assumption is that it is in the self-interest of each country in the Middle East region to address the security implications of climate change by adopting a series of policy measures at the national level, in bilateral regional relations, at the multilateral level and in regional perspective in ways that advocate a climate leadership position in the Middle East in conjunction to the region’s sensitive geopolitical dynamics.

Here are a few of the understandings and policy recommendations to promote geopolitical cooperation and regional transformation in response to the predicted socioeconomic and environmental pressures of climate change.

IN SEVERAL ways, Israel can leverage for geopolitical stability and new economic opportunities by developing its regional and global presence in the arena of climate change policy. As a prerequisite, Israel must solidify its national climate change plan. One of the key factors the research was focused is the move from stagnation to innovation. This should develop state actors and private agents committed to national targets armed with a repertoire of climate change tools, and composite awareness of the climate-security spectrum.

They should also have a deep understanding of the importance of the regional dimension in the implementation of climate policy not only for the benefit of economic profit but as a strategy for achieving regional sustainability, aimed at economic and social prosperity that includes reducing gaps in the ability to deal with the consequences of climate change between neighboring countries. Policymakers should seek to harness the transformative power of education by promoting climate justice and engaging the public in climate stewardship.

The degree that the Israeli government prepares and responds to the security risks of climate change will determine the impact levels of migratory pressures, water scarcity, food security and climate disaster events, establishing the overall resilience of Israel. Climate contingency planning is a necessity in Israel and policymakers should strive to build a climate-resilient economy by integrating the diplomatic-security dimension of climate change into the national security agenda.

The prioritizing of a credible mitigation and adaptation plan in conjunction with maneuvering for stronger geopolitical cooperation, will better situate Israel to deal with the security challenges posed by climate change. Through leadership and exchange, Israel can exercise the necessary tools for mitigating risks and capitalizing upon the emerging socioeconomic and diplomatic opportunities presented by the climate change era.

A climate adaptation mindset should steadily become the policy norm and bring with it fresh governance methods towards a new National Climate Plan – Leveraging for Geopolitical Cooperation and Regional Transformation. Israel’s new precedent revolves around strategizing for accountability and responsiveness while targeting peace-building and peacekeeping efforts toward a climate-resilient economy and climate-protected society.

Our conclusion for addressing Climate Change Leadership should be part of the government’s long-term objectives and include building interregional and intergenerational security and justice in Israel and the Middle East by making climate change a top strategic priority.

Climate change can evolve into an opportunity for working towards geopolitical stability, as opposed to surrendering to regional instability. This critical shift is possible under a new fabric of governance that takes to heart the full set of risks at hand, whereby climate change mitigation, adaptation and protection meet their primacy. Once climate contingency planning starts to solidify, security mechanisms can develop through different avenues to create a more climate-protected society, in which security challenges and environmental values coalesce.

The precondition is having the leadership for regional climate strategy. And as Ecclesiastes, the wisest person, said “To everything there is a season,” this is the season for regional climate leadership in East and South Mediterranean.

The writer is a climate governance expert and co-founder with policy advisor and diplomat Mark Causon (Malta) of Tahadhari Center for Climate and Migration in Euro-Med region, a think tank for research and advocacy of regional climate policy through a social and economic prism.