Despite the many political crises that plague the Middle East, the region still has the capacity to become energy independent. The East Mediterranean Gas Forum formed by Cyprus, Egypt, France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Jordan, and Palestine in 2019, is an encouraging indicator that the countries of the region can unite to frame an ambitious energy strategy. Such a strategy can transform the body into a clean energy supplier for Europe and cut the West's dependence on Russian supplies.
The likelihood of this becoming a reality has been boosted after even Israel and Palestine signed an agreement, the first of its kind in history, to increase cooperation between Arab and European countries.
Relatedly, Middle East activists from the Centre for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) have raised expectations following their proposal for a "green-blue deal" to clean up Middle Eastern energy supplies and reduce emissions. The programme encourages Jordanian, Palestinian, Israeli cooperation to create a water and renewable energy exchange.
The climate crisis is often described as a multiplier of threats, where the weak adaptive capacity of a state or a region to deal with the negative implications of climate change can threaten stability and national security. In the Middle East, the failure to resolve already existing water scarcity challenges is a national security issue for many countries, which climate change is set to multiply to a level that undermines regional stability.
According to a report by EcoPeace Middle East, climate change can equally be seen as a multiplier of opportunities in the region, where a country or countries could view the threats posed by climate change as an opportunity to reconsider existing policies and decide to work across borders. By making these adjustments, these countries would increase their capacities to achieve more sustainable, equitable and prosperous results. The "Green Blue Deal" therefore proposes harnessing the sun and the sea to create region-wide desalinated water and energy security for all nations.
Such achievements will not come overnight. Countries in the region will have to resolve their differences before they can contribute to effective change. For example, Israel will have to ensure a fairer allocation of water supplies for the Palestinians in Israel as well as in the occupied territories. Likewise, there is also a need to achieve a more equitable distribution of water with Jordan. Full support must be given to Jordan's Green Corridor project – aimed at accommodating power generated by renewable energy sources – which runs along the backbone of Jordan between Aqaba and Amman. This will increase the green job opportunities and development around the Jordan Valley.
On the question of Russia's threat to European energy supplies, this can be addressed with imaginative solutions involving the entire Middle East, especially the main energy producers.
In this context the upcoming Global Climate Change Conference (COP27), scheduled to take place in November in Egypt, could be the ideal time and location for the parties to announce the expansion of the forum beyond gas to an energy-climate security forum.
Today, stakeholders are already planning how to utilise these opportunities. The Road to COP27 event organised by the Egyptian-British Chamber of Commerce in partnership with HSBC Egypt aims to identify current and future opportunities and plan strategies and goals. It will also plan how to increase green collaboration in the energy sector. CEO of HSBC Egypt, Todd Wilcox, has already highlighted the importance of the Suez Economic Zone as the best place for sustainable energy investment.
"The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is supporting the efforts of the Suez Canal Economic Zone (SCZone) to develop an efficient, competitive and eco-friendly business environment that is attractive to international investors. This is an amazing opportunity to build a sustainable energy environment for the EU and Middle East." Wilcox said, highlighting the SCZONE's $3 billion green energy deal with French company EDF Renewables.
Clearly, the path remains clear for the building of trust in order to achieve progress on the environment in 2022 between Europe and the Middle East. The Middle Eastern countries must however unite to combat climate-change and the energy oligarchs in order to build a strong alliance that supports European energy independence. There can be no losers in this scenario. It can only be a win-win situation.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.