Bennett, ministers arrive in Glasgow for Climate Conference

Bennett is set to spend two days in Glasgow, at the conference meant to strengthen the 2015 Paris Agreement.

 British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as he arrives for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021. (photo credit: CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/POOL VIA REUTERS)
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson greets Israel's Prime Minister Naftali Bennett as he arrives for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland, Britain November 1, 2021.
(photo credit: CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/POOL VIA REUTERS)

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett arrived Sunday evening in Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), where there will be delegations from 200 countries.

Bennett said he was scheduled to meet with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, French President Emmanuel Macron and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Scotland, among other leaders.

“Israel’s international standing is getting stronger each day,” Bennett said on the tarmac at Ben-Gurion Airport.

He did not mention climate change in his brief remarks, despite his destination.

Representing a small country whose level of emissions is unlikely to move the needle much on the world’s climate, the government of Israel primarily views the conference as an opportunity to punch above its weight when it comes to technological solutions.

  PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett boards his flight to Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), October 31, 2021 (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO) PRIME MINISTER Naftali Bennett boards his flight to Glasgow for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), October 31, 2021 (credit: CHAIM TZACH/GPO)

These solutions include renewable energy, desert agriculture, water technology and alternatives to meat. Countries such as the UK, COP26’s host, have already looked at Israel’s efforts to eliminate carbon emissions.

Bennett is set to spend two days in Glasgow at the conference, which is meant to strengthen the Paris Agreement in 2015, when countries agreed to cut greenhouse-gas emissions to limit global warming to 2°C and ideally 1.5°C (2.7°F). To do this, emissions need to be cut in half by 2030 and reach net-zero by around mid-century.

Israel’s delegation is an unusually large one, with 130 members, perhaps befitting a delegation looking to promote something rather than one focused on negotiating difficult concessions. It includes Bennett, Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, Energy Minister Karin Elharrar and their staffs, plus MKs, representatives of academia, businesses, industry, start-ups and youths.

MK Tamar Zandberg, had of the Meretz party at a rally in Tel Aviv, May 25, 2019 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)MK Tamar Zandberg, had of the Meretz party at a rally in Tel Aviv, May 25, 2019 (credit: AVSHALOM SASSONI/ MAARIV)

The Environmental Protection Ministry is sending 15 delegates, though they will each be going for a few days relevant to their area of work and not for the entire two weeks.

Half of the delegation is security, and Bennett will be one of the most-secured leaders at the conference.

In addition, the Environmental Protection Ministry said Israel’s delegation is one of the largest because it helped register NGOs, businesses and others for the conference, which most countries did not do. Nongovernmental members of the delegation must pay for themselves.

Israel is far behind most OECD and Western countries in working to mitigate climate change, as the State Comptroller’s Report on the matter noted last week.

Israel failed to meet the emission targets to which it committed at the last climate conference in Paris six years ago. It ranks 10th out of the OECD’s 29 countries for highest emissions, meaning that Israel’s rate is as high as that of a medium-sized country, rather than a small one.

While the EU reduced its remission rate 21% since 2005, Israel’s rose 12%. Since 1990, Israel’s emissions rate more than doubled, rising 103%, while Germany’s fell more than 40%.

On Friday, Bennett announced Israel has set a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, bringing it in line with the US, Canada, France, Australia, Germany and Ireland. That plan is set to go to a cabinet vote on Wednesday, when Bennett returns from Glasgow.

“With the new goal, Israel is lining up alongside the developed countries that are already taking action to attain the goal of zero emissions and is redoubling its commitment to the Paris Agreement and international agreements on the issue,” Bennett said.

“We are responding to the global challenge, finding technological solutions and joining in to achieve this important goal,” he said.

In addition, the government established a “climate change task force” last week and approved a plan focusing heavily on innovation.

The government plans to put forward 100 action items for coping with the climate crisis, four of which were passed on Sunday: a resolution on an energy-streamlining program to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, with NIS 725 million to support industry, commerce and local government; a resolution on clean, low-carbon transportation; a resolution to accelerate building infrastructure, with a focus on removing obstacles to renewable energy; and a resolution to encourage technological innovation to fight climate change.

The National Security Council will also be involved in preparing for the climate crisis, which will be addressed as part of Israel’s strategic planning process.

It will work on improving national preparedness for coping with emergencies stemming from climate change, such as wildfires and extreme winter conditions.

The annual “emissions gap” report by the UN Environment Program (UNEP), which measures the gap between anticipated emissions and those consistent with limiting the temperature rise this century, as agreed to in the Paris accord, said updated pledges only reduce forecast 2030 emissions by an additional 7.5%, compared with the previous commitments.

If continued throughout this century, this would lead to warming of 2.7°C, slightly less than the 3°C UNEP forecast in its last report. A 30% cut is needed to limit warming to 2°C, and a 55% cut is needed to limit warming to 1.5°C.

Current commitments to net-zero could limit warming to around 2.2°C by the end of the century, but 2030 pledges so far do not put major emitters on a clear path to this, the UNEP said.

Major emitters China and India, which are together responsible for around a third of global greenhouse-gas emissions, have not yet come forward with strengthened NDCs (nationally determined contributions) and need to do so at COP26.

Developed countries have also failed to meet their targets for aiding poorer countries and providing $100 billion annually to compensate for them giving up on using energy that pollutes more but could help their economies grow faster.

Tovah Lazaroff and Reuters contributed to this report.