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FoEME’s Youval Arbel Reflects on the Copenhagen Climate Conference

By: Max
December 30, 2009

Youval Arbel, FoEME’s Israeli Deputy Director, reflects on his experiences at the UN climate conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

From December 13th to 19th, 2009, I was one of about 40,000 disappointment activists and officials who came all the way to freezing Copenhagen to take part in what should have been the ‘turning point’ in the urgent struggle to reduce GHG emissions, and the last hope to stop disastrous outcomes of climate change.

I represented FoEME and was part of Israeli green NGOs’ “Paths to Sustainability” coalition delegation. The delegation, supported by the Heinrich Boell Stiftung, Israel, consisted of 30 NGO activists. In the last year we have actively advocated for a comprehensive climate policy by the Israeli government. During the Copenhagen  conference we closely monitored the steps of the official Israeli delegation, and networked with other international environmental NGOs. FoEME had major role in building and leading the coalition and writing the Israeli position paper for COP-15 (the 15th Conference of Parties, or nations included in the global climate regime) which states,

We call upon the government of Israel…. to further develop an advanced climate policy, based on principles of socially and environmentally sustainable development. Public participation must be ensured throughout this process.

Lobbying the official Israeli delegation included meeting with the president Shimon Peres just before he called, in the name of the Israeli government, for an emissions reduction target of 20%  by 2020 from the  ‘Business as Usual’ (BAU) scenario for the increase of CO2-e emissions. The ‘Paths to Sustainability’ coalition also organized two workshops/events at the Klimaforum.  The Klimaforum was an open (but well-organized!) space for movements, organizations and thousands of people from all over the world to discuss and develop solutions to the climate crisis.  It was the global civil society counterpart to the official UN conference.  In the coalition’s  first Klimaforum event event the movie “Urban Legend” – a Documentary by Nitzan Horowitz, MK ( and former journalist) – presented urban solutions for sustainable development (click here to watch the film, in Hebrew).  The second event was a session titled “NO to COAL Campaigns, which used  the Israeli civil movement against the new coal power plant in Ashkelon as a case study. Bill McKibben, founder of, mentioned (as he does in all of his speeches) the cooperation of Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli activists around the Dead Sea , led by FoEME, as one of the most moving peaks of the International Day Of Climate Action this past October 24.

COP-15 failed to reach post-Kyoto climate change mitigation protocol, but I think it wasn’t total failure: The real problem was to find a just agreement that won’t jeopardize the right to develop of the less developed nations, that wouldn’t overhead the scientific estimations of maximum emissions or lead to climate change ‘run away’ catastrophe, and to tie the developed countries to fund this agreement only a  few months after a major global economic crises. The real cost of such an agreement is hundreds of billions per year. It isn’t easy task to reach such a bonding international agreement, which will dramatically change the mode of global economy. The ‘Copenhagen Accord,’ which was the outcome of the conference, is the first step on the way to this kind of agreement. Drafted by the USA, China, Brazil, and South-Africa and accepted by all the party nations, it represents the interests of the bigger nations in the different conflicting sides of such international climate agreement.

At the local level, Copenhagen represents the first time Israel declared a greenhouse gas ‘reduction’ target. This is too little but it’s better than nothing. Peres’ declaration in Copenhagen was the first step to change the problematic situation of Israel and to accept an internationally binding reduction target, which could later lead to strong climate policy in this region.   Israel is not listed as an Annex I country within the Kyoto Protocol, which means that it does not have any binding emission reduction targets. On the other hand as Israel strives to become a member of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) it needs to take responsibility like any other industrialized country.  The NGOs coalition plans to continue pressuring Israeli decision makers  to implement policy change in post-Copenhagen Israel.  Fortunately, as a new public opinion survey from Ben Gurion University shows (see here), the awareness among Israeli society about the problems of climate change and its urgency is rising.

For more information on FoEME’s climate iniatiatives, click here.

Photo Credit:  UN Climate Change

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