The US National Intelligence Council’s recently released “Global Trends” report is warning that after the world recovers from the Coronavirus pandemic, the ravages of climate change — most notably shortages of water and food — will cause the next dramatic global shakeup.
Over the past three decades, successive United Nations Secretary Generals have predicted that water, not politics, will likely be the main source of future conflicts and environmental experts have long cautioned that access to essential natural resources could lead to major geopolitical unrest.
This week, as we mark Earth Day, and highlight the need for immediate and decisive action to prevent these prophecies from becoming reality, there is also room for some optimism. In the very region that former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali felt sure there would be “war over water,” an entire ecosystem is now booming — searching for solutions to the impending crisis — thanks to the recent normalization agreements signed between Israel and four Arab countries.
In fact, the very catalyst that some predicted would be a cause for war has invariably – in a few short months — been turned into a solid opportunity for peace. And, in a region where all countries share the same arid climate, I believe it is vital to expand the Abraham Accords to bring in many more Middle East countries. These shared and pressing concerns might also be used to draw Palestinian leaders into a peace process they have long resisted.
As President Biden convenes his Leader’s Summit on Climate at the end of this week and urges states to take bold steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the severe consequences of climate change, he should also push for greater unity and collaboration in the world’s most volatile region so we can fight this climate war together.
And world leaders who join the summit to discuss our shared environmental legacy should be paying close attention to how these very threats are actually serving to cement relations between countries that just a year ago had no formal ties.
What we have witnessed since the signing of the peace accords last summer is that faced with the very real prospects of water scarcity and food shortages in the not so distant future, Arab countries that for years avoided interaction with Israel now realize that by working together there might be a chance to provide a better future for our children.
Even before the ink dried on the agreements — in a frantic search for solutions to the Middle East’s water conundrum or alternatives to outdated fossil fuel energy sources — industrious and forward-thinking Gulf investors looked to connect with Israel’s best Greentech innovators.
A US-led collaboration with Israel and the UAE established in October has already provided a lucrative framework for creating options for renewable energy, establishing alternative energy resources and developing water desalination projects. And, in recent months, Israeli green technologies offering goods such as energy-efficient heating and cooling systems or technology aimed at improving indoor air quality, as well as those dealing with water recycling and waste management are beginning to find their way to our new partner countries.
At President Biden’s summit this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will share with the world many more examples of the incredible innovative and technological green solutions Israel has developed to address its own scarce water supply and dire agricultural needs. He will also emphasize how Israel can be a key player in this field and how we are eager and willing to work with and share our expertise with any country that needs help.
In 2007, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon cautioned that “Water scarcity threatens economic and social gains and is a potent fuel for wars and conflict,” but in Israel, we believe that lack of water, and the quest to find it, can actually be a uniting factor that prevents the next war.
It is no longer enough for each country to commit to changing habits alone. We must ramp up this fight and recognize that just as the climate crisis crisscrosses borders, so too must our shared work in preventing it. If we are truly serious about preserving our planet for future generations, then it is time for more Arab countries to put aside their hostility towards Israel and work with us to combat this shared challenge.