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Religious leaders talk climate action in Israel ahead of COP27

At the initiative of the foreign ministry, Jewish, Christian, Druze, Bahai and Muslim leaders gathered in Jerusalem, in a joint call to act against climate change.
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Israeli religious leaders gathered today at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem, ahead of the UN Climate Conference COP27 next week in Sharm al-Sheikh. Participants included Vatican’s Ambassador to Israel and Cyprus Archbishop Adolfo Tito Yllana, Orot Shaul Yeshiva head Rabbi Yuval Cherlow, Baha'i Jerusalem representative David Freeman, Druze imam Jaber Mansour and many others. The special event was organized in collaboration with the Israeli nongovernmental organization the Interfaith Center for Sustainable Development.

The interfaith conference focused on the role of religious leadership in dealing with climate change, with the goal of empowering religious communities both in Israel and globally to curb climate change and promoting the use of renewable energy. Participants signed a Jerusalem Climate Declaration calling for urgent action to mitigate climate change.

Tania Berg-Rafaeli, the director of the Foreign Ministry's department of world religions, told Al-Monitor that while the event was a first of its kind, it was only a start and more forums for interfaith dialogue on climate change will be convened.

Berg-Rafaeli said, "Climate change is a global problem that concerns all of us. For the sake of our children we must all act, and religious communities have an important role to play in this campaign. For the Israeli government, engagement with the climate issue is of the utmost importance. We will work to continue this type of cooperation between civil, social and religious parties for this common and critical goal."

Following the Nov. 1 election, Prime Minister Yair Lapid said yesterday he was canceling his plans to participate in COP27. Instead, President Isaac Herzog will lead the Israeli delegation, expected to be the largest ever for a COP meeting. Together with ministers and climate experts, the delegation will include head of the Israel Climate Forum Dov Khebin, who coordinates working groups on the issue on a national level. The Ministry of Environmental Protection confirmed to Al-Monitor that Minister Tamar Zandberg will participate in the Sharm al-Sheikh conference regardless of the election results.

Preparing for next week, Herzog hosted the Israeli delegation yesterday. "I see an unparalleled opportunity in this delegation to make a firm statement about the magnitude of the challenge, to present our accomplishments and capabilities and of course to extend a hand to our neighbors and partners so that we may fight together for the future of Planet Earth and of our environment," said the president.

Speaking at the same event, Zandberg said, "Over the past year, since COP26, we have made tremendous progress in preparing for and grappling with the climate crisis in Israel. We advanced the climate law, formulated preparatory plans and built a curriculum that educates every student in Israel about climate change. Still, there is much more to be done. We have no time to waste, and I hope that environmental protection will not fall victim to political polarization."

Zandberg is scheduled to meet today with US Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Monica Medina and some 40 senior American officials. Medina, who is also special envoy for biodiversity and water resources, will stay in Israel until Saturday for meetings with Israeli government officials and nongovernmental groups to discuss water reuse issues before continuing to Sharm al-Sheikh.

In 2018, Israel and the United States signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperating on water reuse. The American delegation's visit is intended to expand cooperation between the two countries in this domain, especially on innovation and development of new technologies.

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