Visiting US climate envoy Kerry meets ministers on water, solar projects with Jordan

In Jerusalem, former top diplomat talks with Israel Katz about plans to swap energy for desalinated water, discusses moves to combat warming with Idit Silman

US climate envoy John Kerry (left) and Energy Minister Israel Katz shake hands at a meeting in Jerusalem, June 2, 2023. (Oded Karni)
US climate envoy John Kerry (left) and Energy Minister Israel Katz shake hands at a meeting in Jerusalem, June 2, 2023. (Oded Karni)

John Kerry, the Biden administration’s climate envoy, held separate talks in Jerusalem on Friday with Energy Minister Israel Katz and Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman on advancing regional cooperation on major green projects.

Kerry and Katz discussed a plan to build a 600 MW capacity solar plant with storage in Jordan, and for Israel to export 200 million cubic meters of desalinated water per year to its neighbor, the Energy Ministry said in a statement. The projects are known respectively as Prosperity Green and Prosperity Blue.

They also discussed strategic cooperation between Israel, the US, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates.

According to the statement, the energy minister thanked Kerry, a former US secretary of state under president Barack Obama, for his efforts to help advance the projects.

“The historic Abraham Accords prove the strength of the State of Israel in the region and the great potential that lies in these agreements for the prosperous future of the Middle East,” Katz said.

Israel and Jordan’s deal to swap water and solar energy was brokered by the UAE and signed in 2021. A renewed memorandum of understanding reaffirming the countries’ commitment to the projects was signed in 2022 at the UN COP27 climate conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh. Both deals were signed in Kerry’s presence.

Energy Minister Israel Katz (second left) meets with US climate envoy John Kerry (second right) along with Energy Ministry officials in Jerusalem, June 2, 2023. (Oded Karni)

The agreement will see Israel purchase solar power from the Jordan-based facility, which will be constructed by an Emirati firm, and Jordan buy water from an Israeli site to be constructed along the Mediterranean coast.

The deal represented the latest byproduct of the Abraham Accords, a series of normalization deals Israel signed with the UAE and several other Arab states in 2020 under the auspices of the Trump administration. The Biden administration has pledged to build on those agreements while remaining adamant that they are not a replacement for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Jordan is one of the world’s most water-deficient nations and its cooperation on water with Israel dates back to before the two established formal relations. The nation, nearly landlocked, faces dire water prospects as its population expands and temperatures rise.

Israel is also a hot, dry country, but its advanced desalination technology has opened opportunities for selling freshwater.

During her meeting with Kerry, Silman told him she was working on a climate law with “ambitious goals” and emphasized the importance of meeting standards set by advanced countries, according to a spokesperson for the minister.

US climate envoy John Kerry (left) meets with Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman in Jerusalem, June 2, 2023. (Courtesy)

Silman also expressed her desire to further cooperation on climate action with the US. Jerusalem was expected to renew a memorandum of understanding with the US Environmental Protection Agency, the statement read.

Kerry warned during the meeting that international climate targets will be missed without immediate action to reduce greenhouse gasses by all countries.

The stop in Jerusalem was part of a broader foreign trip for Kerry, which included a visit to Amman — where he attended the royal wedding of the Jordanian crown prince — as well as swings to Dubai and Oslo.

Kerry is not a particularly popular figure among many coalition lawmakers, following his intense efforts to broker a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians during his time as secretary of state for president Obama.

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