Since my return from the COP26 conference in Glasgow I’ve been asked repeatedly how it was. This is a very complicated question to answer. It was all at once – exhilarating and overwhelming, fascinating and frustrating, extremely depressing leading to deep pessimism and extremely inspiring and motivating leading to solid optimism.
There are many ‘conferences’ and realities happening at the same time at COP26. There are the politicians and their negotiation parties working on agreements regarding climate change. The agreements reached in 2015 in Paris were the first universal global agreement about climate change. The UN set 4 goals for this year’s Conference of Parties. These include securing global net zero emissions by mid-century to keep the limitation of a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase within reach; adapting to protect communities and nature; mobilizing financing from developed countries for the first two goals; and, working together to finalize rules to operationalize the Paris Agreement and accelerate countries’ actions.
As of now, some agreements have been reached regarding coal, deforestation, methane, and emissions. Not all include all the most important parties worldwide for each topic, nor are they all binding. Pledges made by individual countries have been encouraging but insufficient. Israel’s Prime Minister Bennett pledged to reach net zero by 2050. This is the first such pledge from an Israeli head of State and, as such, very welcome. It is, however, mere words, as yet not codified by a national climate law.
At another level, the conference is an opportunity for tens of thousands of activists, academics, students, researchers to convene together to network and learn from each other. We came together to raise our voices in protest as well, to move the dial, and push the world’s governments to do better. While the vast array of issues and problems around the world is demoralizing, the rich mosaic of human resourcefulness, caring, and action was truly inspiring.
My main take-away was that it all matters. We must, as individuals take moral responsibility in all the ways we can by lowering our carbon footprint, for example. More importantly, we must, as citizens, be relentless in pushing our governments to do better. Our collective voices must be loud, clear, and persistent in this. Climate issues in the world are not only about nature preservation, as important as that is, but also are issues of justice as well. Israel, as a wealthy nation, must step up and take responsibility for our part in the global efforts. Furthermore, as Israelis, I feel we cannot ignore issues of justice and human rights that we are responsible for here and now vis-à-vis Palestine. Issues of regional social justice accumulate with issues of climate justice, affecting most those with the least rights. This is true worldwide, and is true in Israel-Palestine. These struggles cannot be separated from each other. And so, lastly, as the Arava Institute, we are doing our part advancing knowledge, research, diplomacy, and hands-on projects in the field, all to advance climate justice through work on mitigation and adaptation.
In Hebrew, we quote Hillel who said: “If I am only for myself, who am I? If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If not now, when?” This was echoed for me on the wall of the action zone of the conference center in the slogan “We can do this, if we act NOW.”
Coming home exhausted and exhilarated from my time in Glasgow, and despite the evident half-accomplishments and disappointments on the governmental level, I feel committed more than ever to act now with the staff, students, faculty, partners, and supporters of the Institute in our corner of the world. You are welcome to join us in this work, here and wherever you are.