Israel strikes up climate partnerships at COP27

ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS: The conference has taken a complete turn away from focusing on diplomacy and governments and instead has become more about business and economy.

 ATTENDEES STAND during the COP27 climate summit in Sharm e-Sheikh, this week.  (photo credit: MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/REUTERS)
ATTENDEES STAND during the COP27 climate summit in Sharm e-Sheikh, this week.
(photo credit: MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/REUTERS)

SHARM E-SHEIKH – The United Nations Climate Change Conference, better known as COP27, is an entire world within one city. People of every shape, size and color attend the event, taking buses to planes to taxis to shuttles to get into the 40,000-person affair.

One hundred forty of those participants were world leaders, many of whom made themselves quite accessible to the delegations that showed up at the event in Sharm e-Sheikh.

African women laughed and laughed on the free shuttle buses, Israelis complained in Hebrew about the quality of the café sandwiches, the Americans swarmed around John Kerry everywhere he went, Moroccans brought their own tea, and Egypt seemed to have sought out the best English-speaking young women from around the republic and put them behind the registration counters. They welcomed new arrivals in the world’s most universal language. And all those who couldn’t connect with the tongue used the world’s second most universal language – smiles.

Walking through the numerous rooms full of pavilions was a cultural journey, with each booth showing the country’s name in big, bold, bright print. Booths had videos playing on repeat, talks and panels, coffee machines and loads of government officials. Over at the Israeli pavilion, however, there were equal numbers of greentech workers from the private sector as there were government representatives. And there was plenty of time for pitching and pushing products that everyone at the pavilion agreed would soon change the world.

COP27 was held on the grounds of the enormous Tonino Lamborghini Convention Center. Seven local buses from the Red Sea resort city slowly careened into and out of long hotel driveways to collect participants, and they could get on from anywhere, so long as they flagged down the drivers. Registration offered guests a badge on a lanyard that allowed entry and exit, with tight security. Most exits were locked up in order to force people to leave from the same point. The grounds were so expansive, with so many different rooms, spaces and location names, that many spent hours finding their way, and others said they were running on adrenaline instead of food, which was painfully scarce.

 THE ISRAEL Pavilion at the COP27 conference. (credit: SHANNA FULD) THE ISRAEL Pavilion at the COP27 conference. (credit: SHANNA FULD)

Abundant, however, were ideas and engagement – two things needed to strike up great partnerships. Cards were flying into briefcases and hands were shaking.

But was it all just a show, with politicians trying to improve their brand and network? Or is this conference really going to save the world from human demise?

Former Israeli ambassador to Romania David Saranga now leads the Foreign Ministry’s Digital Diplomacy Division. He says it’s both.

“It’s a combination of the two. First, it’s important for the world to see this big show. Because 140 leaders who are coming to one place on a certain set of days show that the topic is an important one. Second, the fact that there are around 40,000 people here dealing with climate change and how to fight this challenge [is] an important message to the countries,” Saranga said.

“It’s a combination of the two. First, it’s important for the world to see this big show. Because 140 leaders who are coming to one place on a certain set of days show that the topic is an important one. Second, the fact that there are around 40,000 people here dealing with climate change and how to fight this challenge [is] an important message to the countries.”

David Saranga

Outgoing Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg spent some time around the Israeli pavilion listening to pitches, presentations and taking questions from the press. She says the conference has taken a complete turn away from focusing on diplomacy and governments and instead has become more about business and economy.

“The money speaks – the investments, the firms. They are all looking for green investments, and this is a huge opportunity. And I think for Israel, which is the Start-Up Nation, it’s no wonder that our pavilion is oriented toward technology and innovation.”

Tamar Zangberg

“The money speaks – the investments, the firms. They are all looking for green investments, and this is a huge opportunity. And I think for Israel, which is the Start-Up Nation, it’s no wonder that our pavilion is oriented toward technology and innovation,” Zandberg said. “This is exactly the place where governments and the private sector can combine to fight the greatest challenge of this generation.”

Zandberg said the outgoing government had an unprecedented number of resolutions dedicated to changing climate policies in Israel, and a budget to match.

“This is what policy-makers should do. We have resolutions worth billions of shekels in order to have an ecosystem for the Start-Up Nation on climate. I only hope that the next government will continue,” Zandberg said.

ONE ENORMOUS focus for Israel at COP27 was to team up with its neighbors in an effort to trade resources and work together to stop climate change in the region. A number of memorandums were signed and deals decided, all within the first three days of COP27, and more are expected to roll out before the end of the event on November 18.

Cyprus called in a number of countries to sign on to a declaration the country is calling the Eastern Mediterranean and Middle East Climate Change Initiative (EMME-CC) during the conference, and had 10 government representatives show up for the signing. The leaders of Egypt, Cyprus, Iraq, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Greece, Lebanon and Oman all signed on, along with Zandberg and a minister from Bahrain.

“It’s mostly about the willing,” said Foreign Ministry Special Envoy for Climate Change Gideon Behar, pointing to the “willing” section on the hard copy of the agreement he handed over to The Jerusalem Post.

“We’ve been meeting for the last three years already, but now we are meeting on a head of state level… for the first time. It’s significant,” he said.

The draft states that there’s no legal obligation under law to comply with any set of rules, and that the document does not result in any financial implication for the signing members. The “willings” suggest that the countries will act in a coordinated way to advance initiatives outlined in the “EMME Regional Action Plan” and strengthen regional cooperation through partnerships, communication, collaboration and exchange of good practices, as well as promote gender equality and youth involvement.

Israeli NGO Start-Up Nation Central also drew up a deal. Theirs is called the Middle East North Africa Alliance for Climate Innovation, and it is set to be finalized with a slew of nations in the region by the end of the conference. Private Israeli company H2Pro also officially inked a memorandum of understanding with Moroccan company Gaia Energy. Under the agreement, Gaia will use a range of H2Pro’s technology at Gaia’s renewable energy sites in Morocco to produce green energy.

“It is very important to me that we strengthen our relationship with the Moroccans. It will be the example for the other countries,” said Regional Cooperation Minister of Esawi Frej after the Gaia/H2Pro signing. “With Moroccans, it’s different. They want us. They speak with us clearly, and on the table, not under the table. That’s why I put my focus on promoting our relationship with the Moroccans.”

Frej told the Post he was referencing Jordan’s head of state, who the night before had touted a [trilateral] green deal he made with the UAE and Israel but did not make any mention of Israel at all during his address.

“I like to work with people who smile to me, not the people or countries to whom I would have to say ‘please smile to me,’ ‘meet me.’ No way. If you want to deal with me, do it clearly, frankly and publicly,” he said.

PART OF the excitement at the Israeli pavilion included a two-hour event where 10 selected Israeli start-ups made pitches about their green technologies to a room full of government officials, investors, journalists and COP27 guests who wandered in.

An organization called PLANETech works with Israeli hi-tech companies toward the climate sector. Director Uriel Klar arranged for the tech delegation to come to the conference and transported them there using an environmentally friendly bus, in order to reduce emissions and convey a message about regional cooperation.

The 10 companies were chosen during a PLANETech World 2022 conference which took place in Tel Aviv in cooperation with the Israel Innovation Authority.

Some of the standout organizations include H2Pro, Remilk, which turns yeast into an alternate dairy product, UBQ, which makes plastic out of household garbage, and tomorrow.io.

One success to come out of the conference includes an announcement from tomorrow.io, which agreed to sign on as JetBlue’s end-to-end weather forecasting technology across all its global operations. JetBlue will use tomorrow.io’s technology for 1,000 flights per day across 100 global destinations.

These are just a few of the impressive innovations that were on display at the pavilion.

“The delegation represents the depth and variety of Israeli climate technologies. The entrepreneurs that presented in the opening event of the pavilion inspired the next generation of founders to aim to tackle our biggest challenge,” said Klar. “The transition to climate tech is happening now, and the current crisis in Israeli tech gives people a chance to rethink their future and start working on climate tech.”

The crisis Klar refers to is a burst in the Israeli tech bubble, where, in recent months, companies have been plummeting in the stock market and engaging in massive layoffs to save businesses.

Behar, who spent months on end working to bring Israel’s pavilion to COP27, says he truly believes that all who worked to make the event happen are mission-oriented and feel strongly that they need to tackle climate change as well as encourage others to make a concerted effort to stop this crisis.

“Our message to the world is there are solutions and we are ready to share them,” said Behar. “There’s a vibrant Israeli ecosystem in the field of climate change, in the private sector, government [and] civil society, and we want to work with you to stabilize the climate and adapt to the effects of climate change.”

The conference continues on until November 18, as Israeli companies and diplomats are still working to bring their technology to the globe as well as increase collaboration with countries near and far.

Surely, the success of Israel’s first-ever pavilion will prompt an even larger presence in next year’s COP28 – to take place in the UAE, Israel’s neighbor and recent partner in peace.•