Israel is changing its mind on the climate, but promises are not enough

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett leads a large Israeli delegation, including Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg and Energy Minister Karin Elharrar, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow this week.
Israel is a small country, especially compared to Russia, China and India, the three biggest contributors to carbon emissions, but it has a role to play. The Israeli delegation emphasizes its innovative high-tech sector, which is bursting with creativity in a wide range of fields, including the development of alternatives to meat, desalination, desert agriculture and solar energy.

The National Security Council, which recently adopted the issue of climate change under its auspices, set several goals for the country: reduce greenhouse gas emissions; prepare for emergencies caused by extreme weather events, such as wildfires, floods, and snowstorms; and leveraging Israel’s assets, such as innovation in climate-related areas and advancing regional cooperation.

Climate change has been determined to be a national security issue due to the huge local and regional ramifications. Drastic changes in climate, from droughts to torrential rains, are disastrous for agriculture, wildlife, marine life and fisheries, contribute to fires and floods, and damage infrastructure, including accelerating erosion of cliffs a along the long Mediterranean coast.

At the geopolitical level, the effects of climate change are likely to include “climate refugees” and alterations in the food chain. War scenarios fought over food and water shortages should not be ruled out, even among Israel’s neighbors.

A banner announcing the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), during which world leaders will discuss how to address climate change on a global scale, is seen inside the conference area in Glasgow, Scotland, Great Britain, the October 30, 2021 (credit: REUTERS). / YVES HERMAN)

Israel is striving to play its part in addressing this global crisis. The program for a “Transition to a Low Carbon Economy” has continued, in accordance with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change. Last week, before the Glasgow conference, Bennett pledged to accept the net zero carbon emissions target by 2050, an essential component in the global goal of limiting temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Bennett’s presence at COP26 in Glasgow obviously aims in part to further his own position as a statesman, but it is also a sign that the government realizes that the issue of climate change is not something esoteric. Climate change must be treated with the seriousness of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

There is no vaccination for climate change, but there are measures that can and should be taken, such as prioritizing renewable energy over fossil fuels and improving energy efficiency; improve public transport to make it an attractive and viable option compared to the use of private vehicles; and ensure that construction meets green standards, including green buildings and the conservation of public green spaces and the provision of shade in open areas. Part of the revenue from the country’s gas fields should be used to help develop renewable energy and a gradual transition to green energy in the future.

A recent report by the State Comptroller’s Office warned that the country is not prepared for climate change emergencies. The government has now created a “climate change task force” and approved a program designed to address climate change.

Moving forward, Israel should focus on energy storage, carbon capture, green infrastructure, education, energy conservation and innovation, Bennett’s office said. However, Zandberg warned that Israel needs to change its energy strategy to move away from developing oil and gas fields.

It remains to be seen whether the government will be able to implement the ambitious new zero emissions target by 2050, when the earlier lower targets were not met.

Promises and words are not enough. A change needs to be made in the way we approach the issue of climate change and environmental protection in Israel.

The Knesset must pass the so-called climate law. Above all, it must be understood that the fight against climate change has to go beyond narrow political concerns. It is not about left and right; This is essential for our children and grandchildren.

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