Happening Now: John Kerry, Top Israeli Officials Speak at Haaretz Climate Conference

The conference will include interviews with top decision-makers, activists and international experts – including Israeli President Herzog, Environmental Protection Minister Zandberg and the U.S. special envoy for climate John Kerry

Helicopter drops water over to extinguish a fire near Athens, last year
Helicopter drops water over to extinguish a fire near Athens, last yearCredit: ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP

Haaretz and Hebrew University are holding the Israel Climate Change Conference in Jerusalem on Wednesday, just three months after the International Climate Conference in Glasgow and amidst a growing public debate on the climate crisis in Israel.

John Kerry's interview

The conference includes interviews with top decision-makers, activists and international experts – including Israeli President Isaac Herzog, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg and John Kerry, the U.S. government’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate and a former Secretary of State. Kerry was interviewed ahead of the conference by Haaretz Editor-In-Chief Aluf Benn, and commented on the administration’s global climate agenda and the challenges it is facing on the subject.

The discussions at the conference, which is being held at Jerusalem’s International Convention Center, are intended to seek forward-looking solutions and options for emerging from the climate crisis. The roster of speakers appearing alongside Haaretz editors and journalists are being asked to discuss the challenges before us in a constructive, active and realistic way in the face of the intensifying crisis.

A plastic bottle and deep cracks in the bottom of the Studena Dam, near the city of Pernik, about 30 kilometres from the Bulgarian capital Sofia. - Located at the foot of Vitosha Mountain, the massif Credit: NIKOLAY DOYCHINOV / AFP

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While most discussions and speeches are in Hebrew, one panel, slated to take place at 11:20 A.M., is in English: a discussion on how climate change is impacting the Middle East, and whether it will lead to more wars and violence in the region, or create opportunities for cooperation. Haaretz journalist Amir Tibon will present this question with Gidon Bromberg, Israel director at EcoPeace, and officials from Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Cyprus and Slovenia, will share their own government’s efforts to tackle the local and regional aspects of climate change.

The government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has put combating climate change on the national agenda in a way previous administrations have not, although there is still significant work left to do.

Last summer, Israel's cabinet unanimously approved an ambitious plan to cut greenhouse emissions by 85 percent by 2050, but many important clauses fell by the wayside due to heavy pressure by the Energy Ministry and the budgets department of the Finance Ministry.

Left out of the plan, for example, are goals for generating electricity from renewable sources and a requirement for net-zero-energy building constructions. Required reporting of the costs of burning polluting fuels was also eliminated, as was a requirement for the state to examine every new infrastructure project also by its environmental impact.

Israel was obligated to declare its reduction goals by 2020 under the Paris Climate Accords, but failed to do so due to opposition from various government ministries, in particular the finance and energy ministries, to many of the plan’s provisions.

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