Israel’s new environment protection minister has ambitious goals. She believes her office can play an important part in the global fight against climate change and promote peace in volatile Middle East.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Tamar Zandberg outlined her agenda ahead of the U.N. Climate Conference in Glasgow. She believes that Israel, despite its small size, and inability to achieve the global goal to zero net emissions by 2050 is a potential player.
Zandberg stated that Israel is open to sharing its knowledge in green technologies. Israel is widely recognized as a leader in areas like solar energy storage, sustainable protein options, agriculture technology, and desalination.
She stated that these are areas where Israel is at the forefront of global innovation. “We hope that small Israel can help larger countries adapt better to the new climate reality.”
China and India have been major markets for Israeli environmental technology. Zandberg stated that she has already met with her counterpart from the United Arab Emirates. The UAE established diplomatic relations with Israel over a year ago and the two countries have teams working on issues such as agriculture and water in the dry Middle East.
Last week, Jordan and Israel signed a new water-sharing arrangement. Zandberg stated that the two countries have been having extensive talks on various environmental issues.
She said, “Our neighbors share our area and our climate.” It’s only natural to face them together. This can help with climate change and regional stability, as well as peace in the Middle East.
Zandberg was elected to office as part of Israel’s new government in June. This diverse coalition of small and medium parties spans the political spectrum. There are deep ideological differences about how to deal with the decades-old conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is the leader of an ultranationalist religious party that opposes the creation of a Palestinian state. Bennett was a former leader in the West Bank settlement movement and has rejected peace talks with Palestinians.
Meretz’s Zandberg party is the most conservative member of the eight-party alliance and supports a two state solution with the Palestinians. All members of the coalition were required to compromise their core beliefs as part of the agreement. This was done to stop the country from losing a fifth election within a span of two years.
Zandberg admitted that she was frustrated by the limitations of the political reality. However, Zandberg said that environmental cooperation offers an opportunity to improve the atmosphere as well as lay the foundation for future negotiations. She stated that she had met with her Palestinian counterpart and that professional teams meet regularly for discussions on matters of mutual concern such as the protection of shared water resources.
She said, “We live together. We share the land, we share air, and we share water.” “The more we communicate, the better our communities will live,” she said.
Zandberg is a busy person at home with a long list of things to do.
Israel acknowledged that it will not achieve the international goal of zero net emissions by 2050. It plans to reduce its emissions by at least 85% by then. Environmentalists blame the lack of political will from previous governments, as well as the dependence on newly discovered natural resources for energy to achieve the lower targets.
Zandberg stated that this figure was largely based on the situation that had been inherited from previous governments. She said that Israel’s high population growth is a problem. She said that while Israel is not meeting its renewable energy targets, the government is committed to helping the world achieve the zero-emissions goal through technology exports as well as domestically.
She stated, “That’s our goal is to close that gap.” “We are currently working on new climate legislation in Israel for the first time. We are currently working on a series of implementation plans to make the low-carbon economy governmental declaration a reality in all sectors of energy, transport, and agriculture. We are serious.
Other challenges exist. Slowly shrinking is the Dead Sea, a salty lake located at the lowest point on Earth. This is due to years of water diversion from Jordan River for drinking, agriculture, and damage by mineral-extraction firms. There are concerns that an oil spillage could result in the destruction of the Red Sea coral reefs. This is despite a secret oil pipeline agreement between Israel and the United Arab Emirates. These coral reefs are highly valued by scientists because they have a remarkable resilience to rising seas. Pollution and sewage are threatening water resources in Israel and the occupied West Bank.
Zandberg stated that her team is actively involved in negotiations to ensure Dead Sea factories, Israel’s most polluting, address environmental concerns when licenses are renewed over the next years. She said that the government is currently reviewing the Israel-UAE pipeline. “We will voice our concerns during those discussions.” Zandberg has been advocating for a new tax on single use plastics that will go into effect next year.
Gidon Bromberg is the Israeli director for EcoPeace. This environmental advocacy group has offices in Israel Jordan and the West Bank. He said that it was too early to evaluate Zandberg’s performance. He said that Zandberg’s appointment had raised hopes that Israel could finally address long-standing issues.
Bromberg stated that “we’re in an extremely unique position where we can have a minister for environment who is extremely committed and wants to succeed.” “You have an environment minister that is an environmentalist.”
He said that her political skills and her relationship with Bennett will be key to her success. Bromberg stated that despite their differences, they seem to have a good relationship so far.
It’s still early days. He said that the issues are huge.