Director’s blog: The Arava Institute at COP28

The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference, or Conference of the Parties (COP28), will be held in Dubai for the next two weeks. As in previous years, and despite the current war in our region, we are sending a delegation to represent the Arava Institute. Our participants will be Director of International Development Dr. David Lehrer, Center for Transboundary Water Management Assistant Director Fareed Mahameed, Environmental Diplomacy Intern Angelina Heil, and myself. 

This year’s COP is unique because it will emphasize the peace element of environmental work, and the role of the environment in building bridges. In addition, there are high expectations following last year’s conference, during which a lot of promises were made to finance developing countries to cope with climate change adaptation and mitigation; this year’s decisions on implementation of these promises will shape how the developing world will be able to deal with climate change in the coming years. For the Arava Institute specifically, the location of COP28 in a Gulf country also holds great potential for academic and scientific partnerships, especially because of the United Arab Emirate’s impressive involvement in climate actions. 

Our representation at COP28 is of course heavily marked by the ongoing war. We have had to make adjustments to our participant list to ensure the safety of our staff and colleagues, and our focus on content has shifted slightly. Our original plan had been to send a large delegation from the Institute together with our Palestinian and Jordanian partners, to show that significant stakeholders in the Middle East are working in regional cooperation to face the challenges posed by climate change – to show the world that this is possible. Now our mission is to show that it is needed more than ever.  

It is important for us to discuss “the day after” the war. As our partners will not be able to attend the conference, we will be presenting their challenges. The Arava Institute has a lot of experience providing off-grid water technologies in Gaza, in full cooperation with our Palestinian partners. We believe that there is a solid foundation to continue this work after the war, and these technologies will be needed immediately: lack of or insufficient water production, wastewater treatment, solar electricity production, and energy storage are some of the most serious issues facing the Gaza Strip, and these needs have been exacerbated by the war. Our continuous relationship with partners and professionals in Gaza, even now, has not only led to the successful implementation of on-the-ground solutions aiding communities, but also established a mutual trust, upon which I hope we can continue building in the aftermath of the war. 

A big priority from our perspective is to build a coalition to prepare a “Marshall Plan” for Gaza, an action program on how to rebuild the Gaza strip after the war to establish security and end the current humanitarian crisis. We are hoping to discuss this proposal with key diplomats around the world at COP28. 

The horrifying events of the current war only emphasize to us that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is building trust and cooperation, through dialogue and active cooperation. Building peace and a better future in this region is not only possible, it is the only way out of this violent conflict. We must continue to work together, and jointly manage the environmental resources shared by Israel and Palestine, in order to ensure climate justice and security for all those living in the region. 

Dr. Tareq Abu Hamed, Executive Director of the Arava Institute 

Watch our website and social media platforms for regular updates from our delegation at COP28: 

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