As a longtime advocate of climate awareness, Israeli President Isaac Herzog addressed the 27th United Nations Climate Change conference.
By Erin Viner
Herzog was among about 90 heads of state and representatives from more than 190 countries attended the conference (also known as the UNFCCC, COP27 or the Conference of the Parties), being held from 6 – 18 November 2022 in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.
“With studies forecasting imminent, severe consequences for our region, the Middle East is on the brink of catastrophe,” President Herzog told those gathered, while reiterating “the State of Israel’s solid commitment, as relayed last year in Glasgow, to achieving net zero carbon emissions and to transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050.”
Saying that “Israel is prepared to assume far greater responsibility” and “lead the effort towards regional climate resilience,” the President expressed his intention to “spearhead the development of what I term a Renewable Middle East—a regional ecosystem of sustainable peace.”
Pointing out that Israel and Greece are already working on electricity connectors to supply green electricity from Israel to Europe, Herzog said that “in the foreseeable future the solar energy produced in the deserts of the Middle East will be available for export to Europe, Asia and Africa. The “ultimate example of creative, win-win-win partnerships, which will contribute to the stability of the entire region,” said Herzog, is “The Prosperity Green and Prosperity Blue partnership” involving Israel’s envisioned supply of desalinated water to Jordan in exchange for provision of of green electricity, with the direct involvement and support of the United States (US) and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“I believe that the entire Middle East, all Middle Eastern nations, abundant with sun and technology, will have the ability to connect the rest of the world to a magnificent source of renewable energy. In a region undergoing accelerated desertification, Israel also has the capability and know-how to deflect severe water shortages and to offer solutions to food insecurity. We are eager to share all our expertise and practical tools: that is what a Renewable Middle East is all about,” he said, while inviting the audience to view some of his country’s “brilliant ideas” at its “beautiful pavilion” at the COP27.
“Friends, this crisis threatens the very existence of the future we wish for our children. It transcends politics and geographic margins—and so must we. I say to all nations at COP27 and particularly to our neighbors, near and far: this state of emergency demands we work together. Not tomorrow: today. Let us turn the climate emergency into an opportunity to address twentieth-century conflicts, thereby advancing desperately needed twenty-first-century collaborations. Let us leverage vital regional partnerships as a path towards inclusivity, stability and prosperity, to form this shared, Renewable Middle East,” he stressed.
Concluding with a spiritual message, the Israeli President said, “In the spirit of our hosts in the region, I would like to teach from the Quran, which teaches us to be good to others, as Allah has been good to us, and to not seek to corrupt the land. And as our Holy Bible says, ‘God settled man in the Garden of Eden, to till it and tend it.’ Let us save the world God gave us, for we have all been created in His image. Thank you.”
President Herzog also took the opportunity to meet with several world leaders while in Sharm el-Sheikh, including UAE President Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Conversation focused on Israeli-Emirati cooperation on climate issues and regional developments in the Middle East.
Also participating in their meeting was UAE President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan (MbZ).
President Herzog went on to meet with Jordanian King Abdullah II, with the two discussing Jerusalem-Amman cooperation on energy and water, as well as the southern Jordan River rehabilitation project. They also spoke about the advancement of Israeli-Jordanian relations and regional issues.
He also met with Moroccan Prince Moulay Rachid.
For the first time, President Herzog held talks with new British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who entered office last month. After congratulating Britain’s new leader, Herzog described Sunak as “a great friend of Israel,” going on to characterize relations between the United Kingdom (UK) and Israel as “incredible relationship” and “one of the closest,” which has “developed throughout the years.”
The two leaders discussed deepening the friendship between Israel and the UK and joint economic climate ventures, noting Britain’s involvement as a result of economic developments fostered by the Abraham Accords,” said a statement from the Israeli President’s Foreign Media Advisor obtained by TV7, adding that, “they also discussed security challenges, chiefly the Iranian nuclear project.”
Herzog emphasized that, “We have so much to speak about from climate change to economic development and cooperation, security challenges, and of course, maintaining regional stability.”
The UK Premier responded by thanking the Israeli President for his “very warm words,” and said, “It’s a great pleasure to spend some time with you.” He then echoed Herzog’s words, stating, “Israel is one of our closest friends, our closest allies, and there is an enormous amount for us to continue working on together, whether it’s economic cooperation, security cooperation, or indeed climate change, that we’re here discussing. So, I look forward to our time together. We should get to work!”
During the collective world leaders’ photograph at COP27, President Herzog turned to the leaders standing next to him and introduced himself, as manners dictate.
As for the Prime Minister of Tunisia and Prime Minister of Lebanon, who were standing nearby, when the leaders introduced themselves to each other, but as it was understood among them that they could not speak, that was the extent of their conversation.
President Herzog later underscored that, “The climate crisis threatens the very existence of the future we wish for our children. It transcends politics and geographic borders—and so must we. I say to all nations at COP27 and particularly to our neighbors, near and far: this state of emergency demands we work together. Let us leverage vital regional partnerships as a path towards inclusivity, stability and prosperity, to form this shared, Renewable Middle East. Let us save the world God gave us, for we were all created in His image.”