Climate Summit and Killer Cities: An Intense Sustainability Week

 I am glad to report that this was a week rich in environmental discourse.

On the evening of Wednesday 8th the Bezalel Urban Design Master Degree program at Beit Hansen hosted two distinguished speakers from the UK. The two speakers were in Israel for the Anglo-Israeli Colloquium on Urbanism. Introduced by Els Verbakel, head of the program, Sir Nigel Thrift and architect Peter Oborn brought to the Jerusalem audience two very different perspectives.

Thrift’s lecture titled ‘Killer Cities: How not to be Human’ raised the issue of animals – like chicken – raised to be slaughtered to feed the urban populations that are growing every year. The increase in the consumption of animals raised to be slaughtered is contributing a great deal to the increase of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere, requiring a change in people’s mind. This change will address Climate Change, make cities more humane, stop the killing of animals for no reason – considering that about one third of the food is wasted, and agricultural machine – as it destroys forests to create grazing land and cropland.

Oborn, an architect representing the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) presented the winning scheme for the masterplan for the new city district in Muscat, Oman by the firm of Allies and Morrison titled ‘Madinat Al Irfan’. The competition was initiated by the RIBA aiming to design the future city today. The project principles included: (a) Learning from the past to inform the future. (b) Celebrating the natural landscape. (c) Creating places with distinct character. (d) Creating integrated sustainable communities. (e) Embracing quality and diversity in buildings. (f) Creating alternative mixed-use places. (g) Providing an integrated transportation system. (h) Giving priority to pedestrians. (i) Integrating ‘Smart city’ technologies. (j) Making the city feel complete at every stage, although built in stages, and (k) Providing a catalyst for change by setting new standards for other cities to follow.

The discussion was concluded by a panel headed by architect Prof. Mike Turner.

On Thursday November 9 the Porter School for Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University hosted the Second Climate Summit in Israel. The Summit hosted speakers from Israel and Germany, and dignitaries among them Zeev Elkin, Minister of Environmental Protection, German Ambassador Dr. Clemens von Goetze, MP Dov Khenin for the Joint List and MP Yael Cohen Paran for the Zionist Union and co-chair of the Green Movement.

The German ambassador introduced the COP 23 under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which aims to “prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system”, taking place in Bonn, Germany from 6-17 November. He also spoke about the ‘German 2050 Action Plan’ based on the German commitments to the Paris Accord.

The Plan was presented in more detail by Christoph Zeiss of the Wuppertal Institute. The government initiated a novel public consultation process to collect ideas from state and city governments, advocacy groups, and citizens and these ideas were then used to help create the first version of the plan – as opposed to a linear standard plan. The process was completed in 2016. Zeiss’ presentation titled ‘Participation as a success factor in German politics’ concluded with the lessons learned from the participatory process developed, funded by the government, led by stakeholders and moderated by scientists. The lessons learned included: that the government must provide a clear framework for participatory process; enough time must be given for thorough discussion and flexibility to address specific needs; scientific expertise must be provided before, during and after the process; highly productive discussion is possible; stakeholders gain awareness of different perspectives; and policy makers learn from the different positions of stakeholders. The downside of the process was that time and resources needed to be invested by those who contributed, and that stakeholders who oppose climate change can harm the process.

The following session included speaker Yehezkel Lipshitz, Deputy CEO for Energy and Water Infrastructure of Energy and Water Ministry. Lifshitz said that Israel has signed the Paris Agreement and it is committed to meet its goals, for greenhouse gas reductions per capita, as laid out in the Israel National Plan for Implementation of the Paris Agreement (Decision No. 542), approved in April 2016. The Decision set a national per capita GHG emissions reduction target of 8.8 tCO2e (tons of carbon dioxide equivalent) by 2025 and 7.7 tCO2e by 2030. This  will be equivalent to a 26% per capita reduction from the 2005 GHG emissions level per capita of 10.4 tCO2e. The Decision included sector specific targets, including 17% reduction in electricity consumption relative to BAU (business-as-usual) scenario in 2030; 17% of electricity generated in 2030 to be from renewable sources - as of mid-2016, some 3% of Israel's electricity is generated by renewables; and 20% shift from private to public transportation relative to BAU scenario - including a transition from diesel to compressed natural gas for heavy vehicles. 

Aiming to inspire and promote new technologies and innovation, the last session of the Summit included a series of short presentations of new technologies, such as the Living Box – to grow food at home, Bio-reactors – growing algae for energy, and solar panel installation initiatives.

The Summit was concluded with the screening of the new documentary ‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’ with Al Gore.

On a personal level, this week we saved Jerusalem municipality about 0.021 cubic meters of organic waste diverted from city collection - joining more than 4000 Jerusalem families that compost their organic waste daily. Our organic waste was instead deposited to our composter, placed in the yard of our apartment building in the Greek Colony. We also recycled nearly 90% of containers – including paper, plastic, metal, aluminum, and deposit glass bottles. We also saved another nearly 40% of electricity – compared to our neighbors’ electricity bill, by not using any mechanical means for heating or cooling, and relying solely on our well-insulated apartment with good south solar exposure and excellent daylight. Our apartment retained comfortable temperatures throughout the day, all week, despite outdoor temperature fluctuations from 19 to 10 degrees Celcius. This week I drove our hybrid car twice to out-of-town meetings, while the rest of the week conducted most of my businesses either from home, or through SKYPE or walking to meetings. Finally, again this week we made sure to support the local economy by shopping locally and preferring Israeli over imported produce and local brands in our shopping choices.

A kind request to drivers: Don’t idle your car engine. It damages the engine and pollutes unnecessarily. More reading below.


References and further reading:

Israel National Plan for reduction of GHG Emissions:


Madinat Al Irfan by Allies and Morrison Architects:


COP23 Climate Change Summit in Bonn, Germany:


German Climate Action Plan 2050:


‘An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power’ with Al Gore:


Car idling: