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President’s Climate Forum developing ‘sparks of ideas’ to present at COP27

Body launched before COP26 in Glasgow last year comprises 180 leaders from across society; Herzog says ‘cooperation is key’

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

President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal (to his right) pose with members of the President's Climate Forum, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 17, 2022. Dov Khenin is third from right, while Zohar Berman is second from the left. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)
President Isaac Herzog and his wife Michal (to his right) pose with members of the President's Climate Forum, at the President's Residence in Jerusalem on May 17, 2022. Dov Khenin is third from right, while Zohar Berman is second from the left. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

The President’s Climate Forum, launched in November, has begun to identify climate crisis solutions that might be presented at COP27, to be held next November in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.

“We are developing the sparks of solutions and new ideas,” said President Isaac Herzog, whose mother, Aura Herzog, founded the Council for a Beautiful Israel in 1968 — Israel’s first green organization.

Calling for everyone to put aside their differences, Herzog, speaking at the President’s Residence on Tuesday, said it was critical to show “the creativity, beauty, uniqueness, and determination that characterizes us as individuals and as a society.”

While diplomatic issues grabbed the headlines, climate change was enabling dialogue between countries in the region, and was a central issue during his visits to Jordan, Greece, Cyprus, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, and Bahrain, where “it interests everyone,” he said.

The chair of the 180-member forum, former Knesset member and veteran environmental activist Dov Khenin, said the principles underlying the work were thinking out of the box, pushing for policy changes to advance technology, ensuring cooperation, and proving to Israelis that more sustainable lifestyles would bring them benefits.

Zohar Berman, the Climate Forum’s director, reported that eight working groups were established in February, focused on energy and industry; the urban space; food, agriculture, and nature; a green economy; education, culture, and spirit; reducing consumption and waste; regional cooperation and security; and health, welfare, and vulnerable populations.

Each group of several dozen had members who were in politics, academia, business, nonprofits, security forces and green organizations.

April saw the forum meeting for a spring conference, during which ten potential initiatives were outlined for discussion, Berman said.

These ranged from establishing Israel’s first renewable energy microgrid in southern Israel, creating more pleasant and sustainable urban spaces by replacing roads with pedestrian walkways, and rehabilitating wetlands, to amending the Companies Law to incorporate environmental protection, helping to bring solar energy to Palestinians living in Area C of the West Bank (over which Israel maintains civilian control) and strengthening the conversation about environmental issues in religious and ultra-Orthodox Jewish communities.

President Isaac Herzog addresses the President’s Climate Forum, at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, May 17, 2022 (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO)

Tuesday’s update, which included video addresses from US Climate Envoy John Kerry and Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, ended with two high school students, Nika Berdichesvsky and Lia Saidian, both 17 and representing the organization Youth for Climate.

Saidian said she had been active in Youth for Climate for three years, but felt that “the situation isn’t improving.”

She went on, “I have met with several Knesset members and ministers to try to get them to act… Many elected representatives tend to reject the importance of the climate crisis and regard us as privileged, attention-seeking children.”

Herzog set up the forum to leverage the soft power of the presidency to help move climate action forward.

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