Herzog at the climate change conference
Herzog at the climate change conferenceHaim Zach (GPO)

Israeli President Isaac Herzog spoke Wednesday at the Haaretz and Hebrew University Israel Climate Change Conference 2022 in Jerusalem.

This year’s conference is being held in the wake of the COP26 summit in Glasgow and amid growing public debate in Israel about the climate crisis.

"This is a time of emergency," Herzog began. "The global climate crisis is only intensifying, and it is striking us with full force. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning."

"The climate crisis is a crisis for the whole world, and we in the Middle East must understand it chiefly at the regional level, because its implications will be dramatic." He added, "The many scientific studies addressing the Middle East, by the Chaikin Chair in Geostrategy at Haifa University, the Environmental Protection Ministry, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and many other research institutes predict in our region an average rise of 4°C in temperatures; 10-20 percent less precipitation on average; and an intensification of floods, torrential rains, and heatwaves. And one especially disturbing forecast: rising sea levels."

"For anyone who does not understand what this means, let me explain: this spells a genuine catastrophe. A catastrophe for everyone, for anyone living near the sea, for inhabitants of areas that will turn into deserts, for victims of lethal floods and heatwaves. It means fears of millions of refugees uprooted from their homes in Africa and the Middle East; it means a potential crisis in Gaza; it means disasters in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey. It means grave consequences for all of us, for everyone who is blessed to call this beautiful region 'home.'

"This is not a future catastrophe; these are not future statistics. We are talking about the here and now. This is a fully-fledged existential threat."

Herzog emphasized that, "We cannot confront this crisis individually, each state on its own. I believe that latent in every crisis is an opportunity, and here too, we are faced with an opportunity of historic proportions."

"I believe that it is time for a 'Renewable Middle East.' This is not a mere catchphrase or lip service but a paradigm based on deep analysis and conversations with leaders in our region, and also with influential actors in the region and the whole world."

"When it comes to renewable energy, this region possesses immense potential. The reality speaks for itself: let us consider the Eilat-Eilot region, an area that has become a model and an example for the whole world. It is a region of nearly 750,000 acres—about the size of Houston, Texas—that now produces renewable energy for 150% of the area’s daytime needs and is projected to produce 100% of nighttime by 2025.

"We are talking about the entire area’s energy needs being met by the sun, by renewable energy. All of it! This fantastic reality is the basis of the historic agreement between Israel, Jordan, and the UAE, of water for energy, which Energy Minister Karin Elharrar signed, and it is the basis for the status that she received at the recent conference in Egypt.

"Collaborations in diverse fields are already taking place on the ground, from the Gulf of Eilat through to desalination and joint R&D at almost every moment, all the way to biological pest control with barn owls."

Noting that "global crises are the best and most important engine for partnerships," Herzog urged, "We must fight for this with all our strength and keep working until we achieve this Renewable Middle East."

"It is time to work together, hand-in-hand, for the sake of a better world. This is not our right; it is our duty. For as Genesis says: 'work it and take care of it' - and not a second sooner."