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In Glasgow, environment minister urges groups to steer society to greener future

Green nonprofits included in official Israeli delegation to UN climate talks for first-time, alongside a business and industry delegation

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg talks with green NGOs from Israel attending the COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, November 2, 2021. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)
Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg talks with green NGOs from Israel attending the COP26 UN climate talks in Glasgow, Scotland, November 2, 2021. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

GLASGOW, Scotland — Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg met Tuesday on the sidelines of the Glasgow climate conference with representatives of Israeli environmental organizations, telling them that their time had come and they had a unique role to play in helping to guide society toward a more sustainable future.

This year, the groups were invited by Zandberg to form part of the official Israel delegation to the UN summit.

“Climate change is no longer just about the environment, but the whole economy,” she told representatives of some 15 green organizations. “The knowledge and involvement of our organizations put us into a position to lead companies and the general public. This is a very important point in time for the nonprofits.”

Some of those present expressed concern that Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s new emphasis on developing technology to help solve the world’s climate problems could distract attention from getting people to change their behavior and from adapting the country to prepare for the effects of climate change.

Bennett told the conference on Monday that as the country with the most startups per capita in the world, Israel could contribute best to climate change by developing climate technology.

Zandberg said it was important to advance on all the different fronts, emphasizing that the technological aspect was a good way to get both Bennett and other cabinet ministers involved in the climate fight.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a speech on stage during a meeting at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Oren Kaplan of the Clean Money Forum wanted to know what pressure was being put on Israel’s financial institutions to stop investing in fossil fuels, saying he wanted to be able to decide how his pension money was invested. A study by the forum, the results of which were published last month, revealed that the leading pension, provident and insurance funds have invested more than NIS 50 billion ($16 billion) in shares and corporate bonds of the fossil fuel industry.

Environmental Protection Ministry Director-General Galit Cohen responded that former Bank of Israel governor Karnit Flug was heading a working group of regulators in banking, the capital markets and insurance with the aim of formulating regulations that would help shape the way financial institutions invest.

Cohen recalled that when she started trying to push regulators to factor climate risk into their investment strategy back in 2008, nobody understand the connection between investments and the environment. “Today, there are more tools and more awareness,” she said, adding that former Bank of England governor Mark Carney had produced a detailed guide on integrating climate risk into financial regulations that the ministry was able to use.

Then-Bank of Israel governor Karnit Flug at a press conference in Jerusalem on March 28, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Zandberg recounted that she had met an Israeli who carries out forecasting for the Bank of America. He told her the bank would be emptying its fossil fuel portfolio by 2025.

She rejected criticism of the carbon footprint resulting from tens of thousands of people flying into Glasgow, saying that the coming together of so many people in one place created an energy that was felt by all.

Tuesday saw the first day of meetings at Glasgow of a 13-person-strong business and industry delegation led by Nitzan Moshe of the ICL oil and chemicals group on behalf of the Israel Manufacturers’ Association.

The group includes representatives of Teva Pharmaceuticals and the Bazan oil refineries as well as several companies and NGOs involved in developing climate solutions and sustainable products.

Wednesday will see the climate conference devoted to the role of finance in steering the planet toward net-zero carbon emissions.

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