The Heschel Center Climate Project was born out of a desire to seize the window of opportunity opened at the Paris Climate accords in 2015 to advance a more ambitious climate strategy for Israel.
The Heschel Center put into motion a two pronged strategy.
to kick-start a nascent Israeli climate movement. To catalyze civil society involvement on climate issues, and expand the “buy in” of multiple stakeholders.
to work with and influence policy makers at the national and local level to support the implementation of Israel’s National Plan for GHG reduction, encouraging them to integrate civic participation in policy making, thus enabling Israel society to meet and go beyond commitments to the Paris Accords.
With the support of the UJA Federation of New York, the Heschel team launched a research project in the Haredi city Elad, with the purpose to show profitability of PV placement on public buildings for low-income municipalities.
Project NZO conducts countless meetings with decision makers. In June, Minister of Energy Dr. Yuval Steinitz announced that Israel’s renewable energy goals are now set from 17% to 30% by 2030.
The Heschel Center signs a joint venture with the Ministry of Energy to consult and guide municipalities (mainly peripheral, low-income municipalities) to apply for the Israel Lottery loans and complete the mapping and application process with the Israel Electricity Authority. Supported by the UJA Federation of New York and despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the Heschel team, together with the Good Energy Initiative, consulted over 90 municipalities, out of the 144 that applied to receive the above credit loans.
The Israel Lottery Association announces a launch of special credit loans for municipalities for PV installation on public buildings.
The 4th Israeli Climate Convention took place on November 24 at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. One week prior to the convention, registration was closed at 1700 registrants, which is the most a climate convention has attracted to date. Approximately 1,500 people attended with an additional 3,000 views of the live streaming of the event. The plenary was hosted by reporter and television persona Orly Vilnai who also moderated the panels. The main plenary included a panel with the Director Generals of the Ministries of Energy, Environmental Protection and Economy and of the Planning Administration, who had to answer tough questions from a highly engaged crowd. Other main plenary speakers included Mayor of Tel Aviv-Jaffa, Ron Huldai, Mayor of Herzliya, Moshe Fadlon and the Mayor of Beit Shemesh, Aliza Bloch. The conference held breakout sessions that focused on different aspects of the climate crisis and concluded with an award ceremony honored by the President of Israel, Reuven (Rubi) Rivlin.
The Just Transition side event took place at the 4th Climate Convention. The event focused on 4 roundtables mirroring the four thematic work groups of the multi-sector process: energy, transport, cities and structures and industry and waste. Approximately 60 participants from a variety of CSOs attended and provided insights, and critique, on the targets developed by the working groups. The results of this process were presented at the Eli Hurvitz Conference and integrated into a report that was submitted to the MoEP.
Project NZO (Net ZerO emissions OR Ein Zo Agada..) is born. Out of the need to provide scientific data that has an economic backing for the 2050 Energy group, we established the renewable energy project NZO. The project immediately received attention from experts, stakeholders and professionals from various related fields that joined the project as volunteers and formed a very engaged team.
The Heschel Center brought a Dutch expert Mr. Arnoud Walrecht from KPMG Netherlands to run a workshop for the Manufacturers’ Association, with the Ministry of Environment and the Ministry of Economy on the topic of circular economy.
The Heschel Center focuses on strengthening two of the four groups in the 2050 process: Energy and Economy, while taking on the civil society take on a just transition to a low-carbon economy.
A side-event at the Environment 2050 that the Heschel Center hosted together with the Manufacturer’s Association and the Ministry of Economy invited senior industry leaders to talk about the Industry’s role in combating climate change in Israel. The German former parliament representative Hans Joseph Fell arrived to give a lecture at the side event and give a speech in front of the entire conference in which he proposed 100% renewables, a concept that was not heard before in front of a mainstream audience. The event had a surprisingly high attendance and served as a base for the Israel 2050 process.
The 3rd Climate Convention took place with over 600 participants and over 20 organizations involved in planning and presenting. Indeed, due to the large crowds there was an overflow room where participants could follow the proceedings via video. The roundtable session engaged around 150 participants in 13 roundtables: more than double the 6 originally planned as the organizers received many requests to include more issues after the event was publicised. The roundtables mobilized activists and experts from over a dozen fields and many organizations. It produced a robust document of strong recommendations from civil society for government policy and has potentially created a buy-in for the multi-sector process.
The second annual climate conference took place in November 2017, hosting approximately 300 participants. This has become a yearly gathering, bringing together various players from different sectors in Israel. The Heschel Center has been an organizing partner of the conference and as part of the Climate Forum the conference will be organized by a wider coalition of organizations moving forward.
The Heschel Center focused on gathering inspiration from Germany which had carried out an inspiring multi-sectoral public participation process that led them to craft a national plan for climate change mitigation for 2050, already impacting the German economy. Based on that research, on November 9, we ran a workshop entitled ‘Multi-Sectoral Public Participation in Crafting a National Plan for Climate Change Mitigation: Learning from the German Experience’, with Mr. Christoph Zeiss of the Wuppertal Institute, who was leading the substantial public participation process to help design Germany’s climate strategy for 2050. The workshop was attended by dozens of participants, including representatives of four government ministries (Energy, Environment, Health, and Transportation), environmental civil society organizations, the business sector, the Tel Aviv Municipality and the academy. In addition to learning about the German experience with a multi-stakeholder process, the workshop included work in groups according to sectors to map potential obstacles as well as steps to enable a multi-sectoral process to form a climate strategy for Israel.
We hosted Prof. Andrew Light, Senior Adviser on Climate Change during the Obama administration, at several significant venues: The Ministry of Environmental Protection with an estimated 15 officials from 4 government offices, and together with the Israel Society for Ecology and Environmental Sciences and the Porter School, we brought together 20 leading Israeli climate scientists and policy experts, to meet Prof. Light and discuss ‘The Role of Academia in Times of the Climate Emergency.’ Following the meeting with Prof. Light, we worked with these and other partners to mobilize a group of scientists who wrote a public Call to Action on Climate Change from the academic community (see here for a translation into English). It has been signed by 510 academics to date, was presented to the Prime Minister and was published in June 2017 in ‘The Marker’- the most widely read financial newspaper in Israel.
An Energy Policy Forum composed of practitioners, policy-makers and academics promoting renewable energy in Israel was formed. It hosted two international experts: David Arfin, American expert on solar financing, and Dr. Douglas J. Arent, the Executive Director of the Joint Institute for Strategic Energy Analysis.
The Heschel Center CEO Victor Weis led the formation of the Climate Forum as a cross-environmental movement working group (in which there are 17 members) to create an inter-organizational agenda to work together on climate issues. The forum later became the CEO forum for the environmental movement.
The Galilee Climate Fellows program is launched in collaboration with TAEQ, the Towns Association for Environmental Quality in Sakhnin, with the goal to build a new vision for the Galilee, aspiring to create local and collaborative climate solutions.
The First Climate Convention was hosted in collaboration with Heschel Alumnus Naor Yerushalm and the Porter School for Environmental Studies in the University of Tel Aviv. About 100 people participated in a day full of lectures.
News leaked in March that the Orot Rabin coal-fired power plant in Hadera was up for renewal of its license for the next 20 years. Without formal mechanisms, personal and organizational relationships cultivated since the seminar, and ongoing communication between environmental organizations in the budding climate movement gave rise to cooperation and coordinated efforts to change the decision. A public campaign launched in protest of this policy, grassroots efforts and a letter drafted by former Heschel Executive Director Victor Weis and NGO heads led to a meeting with the Energy Minister to voice the concerns of the environmental organizations. Two weeks later, Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz issued a public statement that the Hadera Plant will be phased out of coal and in its place the government will build a natural gas facility by 2020.
The Heschel Center convened a 3 -day climate seminar (MAOF Aklim), bringing together representatives from 90 organizations, government offices and business with the aim of beginning to increase cooperation and work on common issues of concern. This was a seminal moment in the evolution of the Israeli climate movement which has since grown each year, producing a host of calendar events such as the Climate March and Climate Conference drawing hundreds of people each year. All this, we must remember was virtually non-existent before.