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Israel to establish climate change working group with Bill Gates foundation

Premier meets Microsoft co-founder at COP26 environmental summit; Gates says Israel known for innovation but ‘not so much in the climate space’

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) meets with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on the sidelines of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, on November 2, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett (right) meets with Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on the sidelines of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow, on November 2, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

GLASGOW — Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates agreed to establish a working group between the State of Israel and the Gates Foundation in the area of climate change innovation, following their meeting on Tuesday on the sidelines of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow.

“Israel is known as the startup nation, and I think that it’s time we pivot and channel our national energy — which is the energy of the people, the brainpower — to fighting climate change,” Bennett told Gates during their meeting. “We’re going to take this as a national mission.”

Bennett said that Israel is cooperating with many of its neighbors on climate-related issues, particularly in the field of water scarcity.

Gates told the premier that “my big belief is that we can solve climate change if we accelerate innovation.”

“That’s really what Israel is known for, but not so much in the climate space,” Gates said. The key, he said, will be “understanding where are the brilliant people in Israel who are thinking about these new techniques.”

“We were thinking: How do we connect up and find more people who are doing mitigation-type innovation, more people doing adaptation?” Gates said. “Given the talent that you have and what we’ve seen in the digital space, how do we unleash more of that? So I’d love to take that R&D innovation push and figure out where Israel can partner with us.”

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar added: “Israel can be a very strong power in the climate change fight, and I think a joint venture is really great news for that.”

Gates noted that both he and Bennett — who made millions in the high-tech industry before entering politics — realized that “innovation was the key” in their first careers. “Love that comparison,” joked Bennett, to laughter.

World leaders are gathered in Glasgow, Scotland, this week for the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, the event’s 26th iteration, known as COP26. The conference is considered as one of the most important climate summits in history and comes amid increasingly severe weather worldwide and dire warnings about the world’s future.

Bennett said ahead of the conference that Israel’s tech sector must pivot toward the battle against climate change.

“For the world to get to zero emissions by 2050, changing our behavior will do less than half the job. The other half will come from technology that has yet to be developed. That’s where Israel has to lead,” he said.

Bennett has also been discussing Iran’s nuclear program with world leaders including French President Emmanuel Macron and United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson during the event, a diplomatic source said.

Gates, one of the world’s richest men, transitioned out of a day-to-day role in Microsoft in 2008 and left its board to focus on philanthropy last year.

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