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From Glasgow to Sharm: The climate conference opens today in a conflicted world

A year after the conference in Glasgow, in the framework of which countries such as the USA, China, Russia, the countries of the European Union andIsrael, committed to goals of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and 2060 - the question arises: have the various countries acted to meet their commitments from the previous conference?

Logo of the climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh.
Logo of the climate conference in Sharm El Sheikh.

There are not many reasons that make more than 100 heads of state gather in one place and work for a common goal. In recent years, the climate crisis, which threatens the survival of the entire human race, and which causes humanitarian disasters such as those that occurred last year in Afghanistan And in Somalia - became one of those reasons. Did you know that in less than a month, within a car ride (preferably electric) from Eilat, leaders from the United States to the Congo will sit side by side in an event whose entire purpose is to coordinate international efforts to prevent the climate crisis?

Between November 18-6, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, the annual UN climate conference will convene,  COP 27 (Conference of the Parties), and we are left to ask: what has changed since the previous conference? What are the opportunities that await us there? And should we be ashamed or proud of the changes that took place in our country in the green sector in the past year? We spoke with two of Israel's top climate scientists to get things in order at the international event that will take place soon, just across the channel.

When gas has a heavy weight

A year after the conference in Glasgow, in the framework of which countries such as the USA, China, Russia, the countries of the European Union andIsrael, commit to Goals of net-zero greenhouse gas emissions By 2050 and 2060 - the question arises: have the various countries acted to meet their obligations from the previous conference?

"Apparently there was a real intention to meet the goals and declarations of Glasgow," begins Prof. Yoav Yair, Dean of the School of Sustainability at Reichman University. "But unfortunately I cannot say that there has been global progress. Two global crises, an energy crisis that broke out in Europe due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the Corona crisis that China is still dealing with - created a renewed prioritization among many countries, which decided to take short-term decisions, at the expense of the long-term." An injury with severe climatic consequences that occurred recently, and which is a direct product of the war between Russia and Ukraine, is The sabotage of the Nordstream 1 and 2 gas pipelines which released a huge amount of methane into the atmosphere (The second most serious greenhouse gas, after carbon dioxide, whose contribution to exacerbating the climate crisis is 28 times greater per ton than the former over a 100-year stay in the atmosphere).

However, Yair believes that it is possible that the war will encourage Europe to move faster for renewable energies in the future. "In Europe they understood that their dependence on Russian gas is fatal", he explains. "Therefore, it is possible that a goat will come out sweet."

USA and Israel - sisters in the struggle too?

However, at the same time as the negative processes that took place in Europe, Yair testifies that in the past year, positive developments took place in the USA. "The good news of this year is Biden's climate plan," declares Yair. "The 323 billion dollars he allocated to encouraging renewable energies is an extraordinary achievement for the struggle."

Prof. Colin Price, the head of the Climate Initiative at Tel Aviv University, agrees with the fact that there has been progress in the US in the past year, and adds that important processes have taken place here as well. It indicates the establishment The climate forum, in which he is a member, which operates under the auspices of the President of the State and under the leadership of Dr. Dov Hanin. "The forum consists of a group of about 150 participants from all sectors, who come to the president with climate initiatives on various issues," explains Price. According to him, in our political climate - the forum is especially necessary. "The president does not depend on the results of the elections, and therefore he will continue to act on the issue in the years to come."

Yair also praises the actions taken by the Israeli government in the past year in the areas of the fight against the climate crisis. "On the one hand, the ten years under the Netanyahu governments made us lag behind the world, as you can see In the state auditor's report of 2021", he says. "On the other hand, the Bennet-Lapid government has brought a new spirit of entrepreneurship in climate-tech (technology designed to help deal with the climate crisis - YS) with a planned investment of billions of shekels in the coming years."

Both Price and Yair describe a general and cross-ministerial change in addressing the issue of the climate crisis, which occurred under the last government. "The other government ministries listen more to the Ministry of Environmental Protection, which used to have no real influence on government policy," explains Yair, and Price reinforces this position. "Almost every government office addresses the issue today. For example, in the Ministry of Education, the climate crisis entered the schools with classes for all students", describes Price. "These moves are important to create awareness, which will hopefully influence our leaders back."

Justice, justice (climatic) pursuit

As part of the upcoming conference, Egypt focus on two main issues: implementation of commitments made in previous conferences (which aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius), and guaranteeing aid and financial compensation to weak and developing countries.

The Egyptians, as representatives of the African continent, We intend to bring to the center of the stage the needs of the developing countries: the weak countries suffer the most from the consequences of the climate crisis, and this despite the fact that for many years it was the rich countries that emitted the greenhouse gases that caused it. According to a commitment from the climate conference held in Copenhagen in 2009, starting in 2020 the rich countries were supposed to transfer 100 billion dollars a year to the weaker countries to help them meet their climate goals. Some of the funding did go through, and the estimates stand A wide range of about 83-20 billion dollars per year, But Achieving the goals is not in sight.

"The discourse that the countries of the developing world are the ones paying the price for the economic growth of the West - has been going on since the Rio Conference, which took place in 1992," Yair testifies. "Who should pay the developing countries, and how much should be paid for the damage that has already been caused and will be caused - these are questions that always provoke debate. This year, too, there were certainly discussions, reports and conclusions - but I doubt if a real solution to this problem will be found in Sharm el-Sheikh."

Israel corner Sharm

So it will probably take a long time before we achieve climate justice, but what should we expect from the conference anyway? "Already in Glasgow, and probably this time too - there will be an entry of the private sector into the climate arena", explains Price. "Different companies understand that we are nearing the end of the fossil fuel era, and jump at the opportunity because they see that they can profit from the change and at the same time have a positive impact on the environment."

However, the two scientists direct their great expectations from the conference to another source. As part of COP 27, and for the first time ever, Israel will set up a pavilion that will present Israeli climate innovation, with the best technological developments in water management, agriculture, substitutes for animal protein, energy storage and more. According to the researchers, the fact that the conference is being held in "our neighborhood" creates a good position for promoting regional cooperation, which is very necessary.

"Although the Mediterranean basin will be particularly affected by the climate crisis, we are surrounded by countries that are not as technologically prepared as we are to deal with what is required: Jordan and Egypt are going to be severely affected and they need water, energy and agriculture technologies", explains Yair. "Israeli technological innovation is our strength, and it can help many countries, from Morocco to Iraq, some of which we don't even have diplomatic relations with. This is the task that the state should take on."

According to Price, the interest in regional cooperation is also ours. "Studies we did this year show that if we try to switch to renewable energy 'alone', it will be more expensive and longer than in a situation where we cooperate with our neighbors," he explains. "We don't have enough space for all the solar panels we will have to build in the future. But if we use the territories in Sinai and Jordan, in exchange for the technologies we have, such as water desalination for example, then we will be able to obtain at least 50 percent of our electricity needs quite quickly." According to him, such cooperation may be best for us. "Today we are very far from the renewable energy targets we set", he concludes. "However, we can relatively easily reach 50 percent renewable energy by 2030 - if only there is leadership here that makes the right decisions."

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