By Dr. Jeremy Benstein
The Heschel Center stands at the forefront of the mobilization of Israel’s civil society for addressing climate change in activism and policy. As part of the Heschel led initiative, and with the support of the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany, we brought in an expert on the German experience addressing climate change, Christoph Zeiss of the Wuppertal Institute, to travel to Israel and dialogue with business executives, civil society leaders, and government officials.
On Wednesday, Nov. 8th, Victor Weiss and Dr. Jeremy Benstein from the Heschel Center, together with Mr. Zeiss traveled to Jerusalem for a meeting at the Ministry of Energy. Present at the meeting were six representatives of several branches of the Ministry of Energy, including the associate director general of the Ministry. Mr. Zeiss gave a detailed presentation of the German experience, which led to a lively discussion regarding the government’s role, its relationship with other stakeholders, particularly industry, and the obstacles that need to be overcome in order to implement climate change mitigation actions. Despite obvious differences between Germany and Israel, the group felt that there is much to be learned from the German experience and that similar processes could be initiated in Israel. Senior Energy officials expressed a keen desire to be part of such a process.
The learning workshop took place the following morning at the Porter School for Environmental Studies. The workshop was by invitation, to key players in government and civil society; we were hoping for 20 participants, and there were close to 30 people in the room, including 12 representatives of four government ministries (Energy, Environment, Health, and Transportation). We were especially pleased that the chief scientist of the Ministry of Environment was able to participate and is an enthusiastic supporter of the overall process.
The program was split between Mr. Zeiss’ detailed presentation (“Participation as a Success Factor in German Climate Politics”), and the lively discussion it engendered, and the division into four working groups: local authorities, business/commercial, NGOs/ foundations, and government ministries. Each group was asked to list the biggest challenges they perceived to the implementation of a large-scale, and to brainstorm how best to overcome them.
The workshop had two overall goals: education (learning about the German model) and enlistment, creating the willingness to partner on crafting such a process in Israel.
The workshop was followed by the second Israeli National Climate Conference, attended by some 200 participants. The conference was divided into three main sessions, according to a recent international campaign, that climate mitigation is: urgent, possible and worthwhile. “Urgency” was presented by scientists (climate facts and prognoses), “Worthwhileness” was a forum for entrepreneurs with a range of economically productive solutions, and the middle session (“Possible“) centered on Mr. Zeiss’ presentation about what has been possible to achieve in Germany, with comments by leading government officials, and a member of parliament. This was a crucial component of the conference, and received positive feedback from those in attendance.
We would like to express our appreciation to the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany in Tel Aviv, and to Mr. Christian Joergens, head of Department Science & Environment there, for their material support and enthusiasm for this project, and to Ms. Andrea Myer of the BMUB for the generous volunteering of her time and extensive expertise, that allowed this project to become a reality. And finally, to Mr. Christoph Zeiss, who with great knowledge, clarity of expression and good humor helped to teach and inspire a large cadre of agents for change here in Israel, in government and civil society, such that we too can aspire to an ambitious climate mitigation policy and follow Germany’s lead in helping solve the global climate crisis.