At the end of 2020, the UAE took several dramatic steps to meet the urgent challenge of climate change, in line with the leadership’s vision to transform the country into a world leader in sustainability. Israel too, has recently set ambitious green goals. Expanding UAE-Israel cooperation in the field of greentech innovation can not only assist both countries in achieving their climate goals, but can help build a greener future for the entire region.
Sustainable development figures prominently in the UAE’s strategic roadmaps, such as UAE Vision 2021 and UAE Centennial 2071, developed by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The UAE Government’s Environmental Plan, approved in November 2020, includes targets such as cutting energy consumption by 40 per cent by 2030, treating 85 per cent of municipal waste by 2035, and increasing urban farming by 60 per cent by 2050. In December, the UAE committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 23.5 per cent by 2030, in the framework of the UN Convention on Climate Change.
The great challenge facing the UAE and Israel is how to reach these green goals while ensuring continued economic growth. The UAE has experienced phenomenal growth in recent years in infrastructure, population, tourism, and economic activity. However, such rapid growth has the danger of expanding a country’s ecological footprint. Indeed, according to the official UAE Government Portal, “On a per-capita basis, the UAE’s energy, water and carbon footprints are amongst the highest in the world.”
The solution to this challenge is green technology, or greentech.
Naturally, key Emirati actors are well-aware of the crucial role that technology will play in enabling sustainable economic growth. In the words of Saeed Mohammed Al Tayer, CEO of the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority: “Dewa is guided...by the vision of HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, to make Dubai a global model for clean energy and green economy by using the disruptive technologies of the Fourth Industrial Revolution such as AI, unmanned aerial vehicles, energy storage, blockchain, IoT and many more.”
Israel, with more start-ups per capita than any other country, is home to over 600 greentech start-ups and companies. Many of these companies are on the cutting edge of critical fields such as energy efficient utilities, water recycling, waste treatment, solar energy, smart construction and precision agriculture.
According to the latest Global Cleantech Innovation Index, Israel ranked second in the world in emerging cleantech innovation, and sixth in cleantech overall. The report notes that Israel “has developed an entrepreneurial population, excellent research facilities, and a wealth of…capital accessibility to create an extraordinary pool of innovative start-ups working in the cleantech sphere…innovation in the cleantech sector has evolved as a clear focus in both the public and private sectors to help ensure a future-oriented technology development of the nation.”
The potential for UAE-Israel cooperation in the field of greentech is almost unlimited. Both countries are technologically-advanced, entrepreneurial and face similar environmental challenges. The UAE-Israel Abraham Accords Peace Agreement envisions cooperation to “promote environmental innovation for the sustainable development of the region and beyond”.
In addition, both countries are home to leading universities and research centers at the forefront of developing new solutions to climate challenges. For example, Israel is developing the DeserTech hub in its Negev Desert as a regional center for the research and development of technologies for arid climates.
Integrating Israeli technologies can help Emirati entities reduce their ecological footprint, while also becoming more cost-efficient, thereby proving that green development makes good business sense. Bringing together Israeli and Emirati entrepreneurs and experts can help accelerate the pace of innovation in both countries. Successful UAE-Israeli greetech initiatives can also serve as a tangible example of the mutual benefits of peace.
In fact, the benefits of UAE-Israel green cooperation are not limited to the region. Both countries are dedicated to providing development assistance to the world’s most vulnerable populations. By joining hands, Israeli and Emirati governmental bodies, aid organisations and start-ups can help empower millions of people throughout the developing world to meet challenges such as access to clean water, reliable electricity, and environmental preservation.
In the lead-up to the 26th UN Climate Change Conference in November 2021, the international conversation will focus more and more on finding solutions to urgent climate threats. Green innovation will be high on the agenda. In this global context, Israeli-Emirati greentech cooperation can provide a model not only for the countries of the region, but for the entire world.
Asher Fredman is CEO of Gulf-Israel Green Ventures and a Founding Member of the UAE-Israel Business Council