Climate change poses an existential and global threat to humanity. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is expected to be impacted more than any other area. At the regional level, the predicted consequences of climate change are an accelerated rise in sea level, a significant increase in average temperatures, and changes in precipitation patterns. Some MENA states are better prepared than others to mitigate and adapt to these climate risks. States like Israel are well-equipped with technologies to deal with climate change, while the territories it occupies—namely Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights—are deprived of both their resources and the technologies necessary to protect them.
Israel is widely regarded as a world leader in green governance and technology, particularly with regards to water management and efficiency. It is often described by its advocates as ‘a superpower of sustainability.’ Israel has adopted advanced policies and plans to mitigate and adapt to climate change, including its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent in the next decade and its implementation of the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).
The Notre Dame-Global Adaption Initiative (ND-GAIN) Country Index, which is part of the University of Notre Dame’s Environmental Change Initiative, summarizes a country’s vulnerability to climate change as well as its “readiness” to improve resilience. The ND-GAIN ranks Israel as the 29th least vulnerable and the 32nd most resilient country to tackle climate change in the world. Meanwhile, the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) are not included in this index and are sidelined in most discussions on climate change altogether, even though they face a dual challenge. Not only are the OPT directly threatened by climate change, but the Israeli occupation prevents the Territories from adapting to it.
This presents a contradiction which is rarely accounted for by the international community. The ongoing Israeli occupation, now in its fifty-second year, enables the Israeli state to both exploit Palestinian and Syrian resources (notably water and arable land) and prevent occupied Palestinians and Syrians from pursuing measures to support climate change adaptation.
Prominent features of the occupation include restrictions on the free movement of people and goods; the Separation Wall; land grabs; settlement expansionand development; settler violence; and poor governance over physical and budgetary resources by the Palestinian Authority (PA), all of which increase Palestinian vulnerability.