The United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, kicked off Sunday, where Israel is expected to present its new climate targets, though the country's approach to tackling climate change significantly lags behind the rest of the world.
Israel sent a particularly large delegation to the high-stakes summit. In attendance are Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Energy Minister Karine Elharrar and some 120 representatives from the government, Knesset ministries, civil society, academia, business, municipalities, and journalism.
Bennett is expected to announce at the UN podium his plan to lower Israel’s net carbon emissions to zero by 2050, aligning himself with American and EU climate commitments. According to the prime minister, the goal was crafted with the support of Elharrar, though the energy ministry had vehemently opposed raising the target until now.
At the same time, however, the prime minister has not declared a change in Israel’s interim target of 27 percent reduction by 2030, which is about half of the 50 to 55 percent that the United States and European countries have pledged.
Due to Israel's lack of action, diplomatic sources and environmental groups hope that Bennett's attendance at the conference and his plan to present Israel's modest climate goals could help the prime minister realize the urgency of the crisis. Officials also hope that it will push Bennett to take more substantial action. Thus far, Bennett has only hosted one professional discussion on the matter, which took place ahead of his August meeting with President Joe Biden.
In an interview with the UK's Sunday Times, Bennett acknowledged that he needs to get “Israeli entrepreneurs to pivot from making another cool web app to working on something with significance.”
“We have a huge potential in the region to create partnerships in the energy field. Israel is a very small state, in territorial space. We’re in a region where water is scarce but most of our neighbors don’t lack for empty desert space, and in 2021, that space means energy. And energy means water,” he said.
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Israel is one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate crisis. The pace at which average temperatures are rising in Israel has tripled in recent decades, and the total increase recently crossed the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, new data from the Israel Meteorological Service shows. In addition, the rates in which temperatures in Israel are warming are double in comparison to the world average.
Despite this, Israel lags behind most countries in its approach to the crisis. Israel belongs to a small group of 25 countries who do not have an approved plan to deal with the crisis within the country's borders. Israel has no binding climate law, no carbon tax, and has not yet declared a climate emergency.
Though the government is working to pass a climate law, spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the plan is still opposed by Israel's energy and finance ministers.
Bennett is expected to stay at the conference over the next few days, and speak at the podium Monday, as well as attend various discussions with world leaders. Bennett will also be attending the summit's opening ceremony, hosted by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Prince Charles. The prime minister is expected to highlight climate innovation and Israel's potential to contribute to the issue.