Editorial |

Climate Change Requires More Than Just Talk

Haaretz Editorial
Israel Climate Conference 2022 on Wednesday.
Israel Climate Conference 2022 on Wednesday. Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Haaretz Editorial

The inaugural Israel Climate Change Conference, held by Haaretz and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, took place Wednesday at the International Convention Center in Jerusalem. At the conference, which sought to place at the top of the agenda Israel’s unpreparedness for the climate crisis and the need for urgent action by decision makers, one could believe that all of Israel’s climate problems were about to be solved.

President Isaac Herzog, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, ministry director general Galit Cohen, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman and Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Leon all declared that the climate is the most important and worrisome issue, and heralded big plans. Herzog said: “This is a time of emergency. The global climate crisis is only intensifying, and it is striking us with full force. Unfortunately, this is only the beginning.” He proposed cooperation on the issue “with our neighbors in the Middle East”: Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and others, “and of course also our Palestinian neighbors.”

In her address, Zandberg pledged to get a binding climate law passed by the summer and said “a carbon tax is a fait accompli.” She said that in the cabinet’s upcoming budget discussions she would demand that government funding for the climate crisis be tripled and would fight Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked’s proposal to build more fossil fuel power stations. Cohen announced that a climate cabinet will be established, headed by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. She also said her ministry will endeavor to raise Israel’s 2030 greenhouse gas emissions reduction goal to 45 percent from 27 percent, the reduction needed to prevent more severe damage to the climate.

But in the warming world outside the conference, Israel has neither advanced climate forecasting technology nor a functioning flood prediction center. Air conditioners might blunt reality, but according to the Israel Meteorological Service the average temperature has already risen 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) and is expected to rise by another 1.5 degrees Celsius by 2050, for an increase of 3 degrees in 100 years.

Dr. Tamar Berman of the Health Ministry warned Wednesday of pandemics and disease due to warming. Prof. Yael Mishael of the Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agriculture, Food and the Environment warned of damage to food supplies. A panel of climate experts described the catastrophic reality that Israelis can expect if the state does not make the necessary preparations.

The politicians and officials who spoke at the conference have the power to prevent these disasters. Their success depends on their not making do with declarations, but implementing the plans while accepting the science regarding the dangers. The politicians will be judged by their actions, not their words; so far, the voice of action has barely been heard.

The above article is Haaretz's lead editorial, as published in the Hebrew and English newspapers in Israel.

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