Updates from the Israel Presidential Climate Forum

The Israel Climate Forum recently held its spring conference in collaboration with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem’s Center for Sustainability. The conference, which was held in the presence of President Isaac Herzog, Minister of Environmental Protection Idit Silman, State Comptroller Matanyahu Englman, and Hebrew University President Asher Cohen, was attended by over 100 members and companies from the Forum along with other partners from various sectors. The conference featured lectures by Center for Sustainability scholars, roundtable discussions, and presentations on proposed strategies for addressing the climate crisis in Israel.

In the words of President Isaac Herzog, “Despite the ongoing controversies, the issue of climate should transcend disputes. We face an existential, challenging, and highly dangerous crisis in all areas of our lives. I wish everyone success in their endeavors. I take great pride in the fact that this climate forum is held under the auspices of the President’s House, fostering a partnership that generates inspiring ideas and outcomes. Thank you very much!”

State Comptroller Matanyahu Engelman emphasized the need for Israel to collaborate with other nations and play a leadership role in combating climate change. He called upon the Minister of Environmental Protection and Minister of Finance to establish a carbon pricing mechanism in Israel. Engelman highlighted positive developments following the release of the 2021 audit report, which indicated that the state of Israel is not ready to contend with the climate crisis. According to Engelman, several government ministries made decisions related to climate change after the report’s publication. He stressed the crucial role of the state comptrollers in ensuring effective implementation of climate policies and adequate preparation for climate change.

Dr. Dov Khenin, Chair of the Climate Forum, (and Heschel alumnus) urged the government to adopt the climate law proposed by the Ministry of Environmental Protection. This law sets an ambitious target of a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030, aligning with scientific requirements and Israel’s international obligations under the Glasgow Climate Pact. Dr. Khenin pledged the Climate Forum’s commitment to support Israel’s transition from its current state of lagging behind, to becoming a frontrunner in addressing the climate crisis for the benefit of all Israeli residents.

During the conference, leaders of each working group, like Heschel Co-Director Rony Erez, had the opportunity to engage in personal conversations with President Herzog, his wife, and the Minister of Environmental Protection. Rony used this opportunity to emphasize the significance of urban sustainability and the principles of sustainable planning in combating the climate crisis.

During a presentation at the plenary session, Rony presented the most urgent issues identified to address within urban sectors, namely reducing emissions from private vehicles, infrastructure deployment and construction, and protecting open areas. Roni explained to interested parties and forum members that these principles should be promoted by inverting the traffic pyramid to deprioritize private cars and grant pedestrians top priority; maintaining open areas while carrying out high quality/density construction and urban renewal; and emphasizing local community, economy, and consumption of maximum services within a walking distance of up to 15 minutes from one’s place of residence.