“The climate crisis did not disappear,” Gideon Behar told The Jerusalem Post. “The world needs Israel: Israeli innovation, solutions, ideas, vision, and strategies.”


Even as the war is raging in Gaza, there is an urgent need for Israel to re-engage with the climate crisis, explained Gideon Behar, Israel’s Special Envoy for Climate Change and Sustainability.

“The climate crisis did not disappear,” Behar told The Jerusalem Post. “The world needs Israel: Israeli innovation, solutions, ideas, vision and strategies. We have to be around the table to assist with solving humanity’s pressing issues and do our share to create a better world with other international partners – people and countries – who are committed to creating a better and safer world, too.

“It’s difficult to talk about the climate crisis while we’re in a complicated war,” he added. “But we must recognize the reality beyond our borders.”

Last week, Behar released an informal document highlighting the impact of the climate crisis on Israel and the world in 2023 with an eye toward the challenges and opportunities in 2024.

According to the Israel Meteorological Service, 2023 was warmer than almost any other year in Israel in the past two decades, Behar noted.

“In the series of spatial measurements since 1950, only 2010 was significantly warmer, and 2018 was very similar. The rest of the years were cooler,” than 2023, the service said.

Nearly every month, temperatures soared. The summer, in particular, etched its place in the records as one of the hottest ever, with relentless heat waves persisting well into the fall.

Moreover, Behar emphasized extreme weather phenomena, including unexpected bouts of heavy rainfall and an increase in rainy days outside their usual seasons.

On a global scale, 2023 was the hottest year, surpassing historical temperature averages by 1.5°C since the pre-industrial era. Behar pointed out that the world breached the lower limit set by the 2015 Paris Agreement, intended to curb global warming within the 2-degree threshold, with aspirations to stay beneath a 1.5-degree rise.

Furthermore, last year witnessed unprecedented warmth in oceanic waters and alarming ice melt rates in Antarctica and Greenland. There were also powerful and fatal hurricanes and floods.

And it is expected that 2024 will be even hotter, the special envoy said.

FINALLY, Behar said that the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere continued to rise: Carbon dioxide levels soared to 419 particles per million, a stark contrast to the pre-industrial revolution levels of 280 ppm. Meanwhile, methane concentrations spiked to 1,902 particles per billion, far exceeding the pre-industrial revolution levels of 722 ppb.

However, Behar pointed out some positive shifts towards sustainability.

Despite the lack of significant breakthroughs at the COP28 United Nations Climate Change Conference to alter the trajectory of the climate crisis, Behar said there was a collective acknowledgment of the necessity of moving away from fossil fuels and embracing renewable energies.

He shared the following facts in his report:

• According to the International Energy Agency, renewable energy will account for around 37% of global electricity production by 2026.

• In China, the country emitting the most greenhouse gases globally, solar energy, energy storage and electric vehicles contributed a record $1.6 trillion to the economy in 2023.

• European Union countries installed 14 gigawatts of onshore wind energy and three gigawatts of offshore wind energy in 2023, according to WindEurope.

• The average driving range of electric vehicles has increased from 376 kilometers to 434 km. over the past two years.

Although Hamas attacked Israel on October 7, sparking what has become a five-month-long war, Behar said that much had already been done to plant the seeds for a greener future in Israel in the first three quarters of 2023. The highlight of his efforts, he explained, was new and sophisticated intergovernmental and intersectoral work being done around the climate crisis, including with civil society, academia, and the private sector.

“The intergovernmental and intersectoral work to prepare for COP28 was amazing,” Behar told the Post, although many of its results did not come to fruition at COP28 because of the war.

ALTHOUGH PRESIDENT Isaac Herzog traveled to Dubai and attended COP28, he did not deliver Israel’s national statement at the opening ceremony. The country dispatched a notably small official delegation of around 30 people to the event and hosted about 15 events instead of its originally planned 80.

Behar added that the government had hoped to pass a Climate Law before the November conference. The climate bill was passed through the Ministerial Committee on Legislation in September but has still not been moved to the Knesset.

“Our challenge indeed will be how do we deal with the results emanating from the climate crisis for Israel and the region while, at the same time, understanding that we are in the midst of a complicated war,” he said.

“We know we must pay attention to the climate crisis,” he continued: “It does not disappear because of the war. The war will end at one point, and we will return to deal with other pressing issues, including the climate crisis.”

Behar noted that there are also opportunities in every crisis, and Israel has the opportunity to use the threats of climate change to strengthen regional cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East – even with the security situation.

“Everyone in the region is threatened by climate change, and only by working regionally and together can we build regional resilience to climate change,” he stressed.

Behar added that Israel is a leader in climate innovation, which could improve Israel’s economy and international ties.

According to Start-Up Nation Central, Israel is home to more than 800 climate tech companies in various sectors, including energy, food, carbon, transportation, water, and more.

“Israel can also improve its image and show that it is a reliable partner in the international community.”

Finally, Behar noted that when Israel speaks about how to “build back better” in the southern region that Hamas terrorists destroyed, this plan should and is expected to include efforts toward more sustainable agriculture, better use of water, a shift toward renewable energy, and more.

“The southern region could serve as a model for the rest of Israel and the international community.”