Israel’s new environment minister has set some lofty objectives for herself, believing that she can utilize her position to make a significant contribution to the worldwide fight against climate change while simultaneously fostering peace in the turbulent Middle East.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Tamar Zandberg outlined her plans for the next United Nations climate summit in Glasgow. Despite its modest size and inability to meet the global target of zero net emissions by 2050, she believes Israel has the potential to be a major role.
According to Zandberg, the government is ready to share its green technology knowledge. In fields like solar energy storage, sustainable protein alternatives, agriculture technologies, and desalination, Israel is often regarded as a world leader.
“These are sectors where Israel is already at the forefront of global innovation,” she added. “We believe that this is something that little Israel can offer to help larger nations adjust to the new climatic realities.”
China and India, among other major countries, have become key customers for Israeli environmental solutions. Zandberg said she had previously met with her colleague in the United Arab Emirates, which established diplomatic ties with Israel just over a year ago, and that the two nations are cooperating on topics such as agriculture and water in the dry Middle East.
Last week, Israel and Jordan signed a new water-sharing deal, and Zandberg said the two nations are in “intensive negotiations” on a number of environmental problems.
“Our geography and climate are shared by our neighbors,” she explained. “It’s only natural that we’ll go up against them jointly.” This has the potential to contribute not just to climate change, but also to regional stability and Middle East peace.”
Zandberg was appointed to Israel’s new cabinet in June, which is made up of a patchwork of small and midsize parties from across the political spectrum. This includes profound ideological divisions over how to deal with the Palestinians’ decades-long struggle.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is the leader of a religious, ultranationalist party that opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. Bennett, a former leader of the West Bank settlement movement, has ruled out peace discussions with Palestinians.
Meretz, Zandberg’s party, is the most dovish of the coalition’s eight parties, supporting a two-state solution with the Palestinians. As part of the coalition agreement, all members were obliged to compromise on their basic views in order to avoid the country’s fifth election in two years.
Zandberg admitted to being frustrated by the constraints imposed by political realities, but added that environmental collaboration offers a chance to improve the mood and build the basis for future talks. She stated that she has met with her Palestinian counterpart and that professional teams meet on a regular basis to work on matters of common interest, such as water resource protection.
“We share the land, the air, and the water because we live here together,” she added. “Our people will live better if we communicate better.”
Zandberg has a huge to-do list at home.
Israel has admitted that it will fall short of the international community’s objective of achieving zero net emissions by 2050. By that time, it hopes to have cut emissions by 85%. Previous governments’ lack of political will, as well as the country’s reliance on newly found natural gas for energy, have been blamed by environmentalists for the lower objective.
This amount, according to Zandberg, was determined primarily based on a scenario left over from past administrations. She also mentioned that Israel’s very rapid population increase is a challenge. While Israel is falling short of its own renewable energy targets, she said the government is committed to helping the world achieve the zero-emissions objective through technological exports and doing more at home.
“Closing that gap is our objective,” she stated. “For the first time in Israel’s parliament, we’re working on new climate laws.” We’re working on a number of implementation strategies to turn the government’s low-carbon economy statement into reality in the areas of energy, transportation, trash, and agriculture. So we’re taking this seriously.”
There are additional obstacles to overcome. The Dead Sea, which is a saline lake at the lowest point on the planet, is gradually decreasing. Years of water diversion from the Jordan River for drinking and agriculture, as well as harm caused by mineral-extraction firms, have resulted in this situation.
A covert oil pipeline agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates has sparked worries that an oil leak might wipe out the Red Sea coral reefs, which are coveted by experts for their particular resistance to rising waters. Sewage and pollution endanger the water supplies that run through Israel and the occupied West Bank.
Zandberg said her team is in talks with Dead Sea companies, which are among Israel’s biggest polluters, to guarantee that when their licenses are extended in the future years, they address environmental issues. The government is now reviewing the Israel-UAE pipeline, and “we will convey our concerns in those discussions,” she added. Zandberg has been advocating for the implementation of a new levy on single-use plastics, which will take effect next year.
It’s too early to assess Zandberg’s performance, according to Gidon Bromberg, the Israeli head of EcoPeace, an environmental advocacy group with offices in Israel, Jordan, and the West Bank. However, he stated that her appointment has given him optimism that Israel would be able to make progress on long-standing challenges.
“We’re in a really unusual situation,” Bromberg said, “where we have an environment minister who is highly devoted to the subject and wants to see it succeed.” “You have an environmentalist as your environment minister.”
He believes her success will be determined in part by her political abilities, particularly her connection with Bennett. Despite their disparate backgrounds, Bromberg believes they have a strong connection thus far.
“We’re still in the early stages.” “The concerns are massive,” he stated.