Israeli officials, NGOs preparing for UN climate talks in Paris this year

Countries must work together to counter onset of global warming, says visiting ambassador.

Bérengère Quincy (photo credit: AMBASSADE DE FRANCE EN ISRAËL / MARINE CROUZET ​)
Bérengère Quincy
To ensure that global temperatures do not rise more than 2° Celsius in the years to come, countries around the world need to act now as “a collective enterprise,” a key French diplomat told Israeli officials.
“If we want to reach the target, stay below 2° Celsius, we have to involve the whole society in order to be able to reform our ways of producing, consuming,” Bérengère Quincy, the French presidency’s goodwill ambassador for the December’s United Nations Climate Change Conference, also known as the Conference of Parties (COP-21), said on Monday.
Quincy arrived to meet with Israeli officials who are formulating the country’s “Intended Nationally Determined Contributions” for COP-21. At the conference, which will be held in the Le Bourget suburb of Paris, participant nations will aim to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement to ensure that global warming does not surpass 2°. The summit will be the 21st such annual conference to occur as a result of the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, during which countries adopted the United Nations Framework on Climate Change.
At the Jerusalem meeting with Israeli officials and NGO representatives on Monday, organized by the Foreign and Environmental Protection ministries, Quincy stressed that moving forward collectively will be crucial, while also tailoring greenhouse gas emission policies to fit unique national environments. Building upon last December’s COP-20 held in Lima, Peru, and working closely with the preceding host country, Quincy said she expects to see more than 40,000 people arrive to Paris in December for the biggest conference the city has ever held.
“The Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem invited the ambassador for goodwill on climate change to come here and tell us about what is going to happen in the Paris summit in December,” Dan Meron, the head of the ministry’s UN & International Organizations division, told the Post. “Israel has a vibrant society dealing with environment, and together with the government we are having a whole day of discussions of what we’re doing.
We’re presenting it to the French goodwill ambassador, and we’re talking between ourselves on the issue of climate change.”
If countries around the world maintain the status quo in terms of greenhouse gas emissions, global warming will lead to about a 4° rise in world temperatures, Quincy warned.
To keep global warming below 2°, Quincy said that worldwide greenhouse gas emissions must peak by around the year 2020 and then begin to decline, becoming net zero-carbon by the end of the century. By 2011, countries around the globe had already consumed some 1,900 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent materials, leaving the world with a 1,000-gigaton carbon dioxide emissions budget, she said.
“There is urgency in the issue,” she continued. “We have to act now.”
EU countries on average consume about 8.5 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per capita annually, while the United States consumes about 19.7 tons per capita. Nonetheless, both the EU and the US are decreasing their emissions, while China, for example, is “exploding its emissions per capita,” Quincy said.
In Paris, the aim will be for all countries to agree on regime that will help and involve the whole world, and every nation will present its contribution to this effort, she added.
While the terms of the universal agreement are still under negotiation, Quincy explained that the goal is to see all countries contributing toward keeping global warming below 2°, with the terms of their contributions varying depending on their national situations. Formal negotiation meetings regarding the content of the agreement will take place in June, September and October, she told journalists, at a meeting in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
“The agreement should be made to be durable,” Quincy said, adding that progress reviews will occur in cyclical stages following the agreement’s launch. “It will be a dynamic agreement and what is in it should push governments for more and more ambition for each cycle.”
In addition to coming to Israel, Quincy is conducting similar visits in other countries in greater Europe, such as the Balkan states. Several of her colleagues are following suit in nations around the world.
After Monday’s seminar and subsequent meetings with Environmental Protection Ministry officials, Quincy concluded that the country’s goals were in line with the COP-21 vision of striking an alliance among the various stakeholders.
“We saw that the Israeli authorities were moved by the same kind of idea – that they will not decide alone what they will present and what will orient the future of Israeli policies on this issue, and that they need the support and participation of the whole society,” she said.
During her various meetings, Quincy said she was “impressed to see that the society was ready,” with many NGOs fostering environmental awareness.
She praised the amount of relevant scientific research and innovation taking place in Israel.
In addition to meeting with government officials, she spent time with NGO representatives and cleantech companies, and visited Tel Aviv University’s Porter School for Environmental Studies.
“When you think about the future of an economy as far as 2050, you need to have science with you,” she said.
One innovator who addressed Quincy in the seminar the day before, Israel’s solar industry founder Yosef Abramowitz, said that Israel could accomplish the “quixotic goal” of producing 100 percent of its daylight electricity from the sun, and thereby reduce its carbon footprint.
Abramowitz called the COP- 21, conference “humanity’s last chance to speak about climate change” and thereby save billions of lives.
At the Copenhagen COP-15 in 2009, then-president Shimon Peres announced Israel’s intentions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by 2020.
While the cabinet approved the National Plan for the Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in 2010, with a budget of NIS 2.2 billion, the program was frozen in mid-2013. Israel’s environmentalists agree that it is no longer likely that this 20% target will be attainable by the planned year.
“We know that Israel is in a different position than other countries and that their aim could be a bit different,” Quincy said in the Tuesday meeting with the media. “It’s up to Israel to decide on what they will propose and which target they will choose in terms of volume of reduction.”
Stressing that Israel is expected “to be part of the solutions side of COP-21,” Quincy said that the government’s decision to freeze the greenhouse gas reduction program “doesn’t prevent Israel from taking action.”
“One thing we want to showcase in Paris is that even if governments are reluctant to embark on contributions, the society can be more ready than the governments, and they can act,” she continued. “It’s something that has to be said in Israel as well.”
As Israel works to curb its greenhouse gas emissions, Quincy stressed the importance of relying on cleaner energy sources and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
“You have the natural resource, which is the sun, and you have the brain [power],” she said.