Envisioning a Just Transition for Climate Change

1 December 2022
COP27 UN Climate Conference

Photo: Leehee Goldenberg

“I leave the climate conference with a lot of questions, but also a lot of hope,” reflects Leehee Goldenberg, Shatil’s climate and policy advisor, “understanding that a just transition is one of the hardest and yet most important parts of the climate discourse. I also learned that we have many partners locally and globally who are committed to this goal. Maybe with a little solidarity we can make life better for all of us.”

Leehee was the Shatil representative at COP27, the United Nations Climate Change Conference which took place two weeks ago in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt. She attended alongside a larger delegation of Israeli civil society organizations. Co-led by Shatil and NIF grantee Heschel Center for Sustainability, the team rallied around the need to include social justice, and specifically climate justice, in the climate discourse and action. Members of the delegation spoke at two different events about civil society and just transition.

Just transition refers to an item on the climate justice agenda that bridges environmental and social issues, to make sure no-one gets left behind. Over the past year, civil society members have gathered together, led by Shatil and Heschel, for seminars and working groups on this topic. After a year of discussing and organizing, they have developed 17 initiatives, which have since been submitted to the Israel Climate Forum established under the auspices of the President’s Office and led by former MK Dov Khenin.

To enable a just transition, Leehee explained, we must first identify how climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable groups, also known as “loss & damages”, which was the focus of this year’s conference. This symmetry was part of the impetus behind sending a delegation in the first place, she continued. The conference was the perfect opportunity to translate the idea of a just transition in Israel to an international scale, and “hear about how things we have been working on here are really resonating on the international level.”

Leehee was particularly moved hearing the mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone discuss the issue of heat, “the silent killer,” and how the city’s responses mirrored an initiative in Israel around access to shady, green spaces as a means of maintaining mental and physical health.

While people often focus on high-level policy talks, for Leehee the most meaningful accomplishments of the conference happened at a different level. “I saw the people from our organizations going around meeting people, sharing their knowledge, and acquiring new knowledge to bring home. Also, the talks that we gave allowed us to spread our understanding of civil society’s capacity to contribute at a wider level. For example, I was on a panel with mayors from different European cities, and afterwards they all came up to me and said ‘you’re right, we need to involve civil society more in decision making.’”

Returning from the conference, Leehee has a clear vision for the coalition’s future. The first priority will be the continued advancement of the individual just transition initiatives. Six of these Shatil-led initiatives have already been adopted by the Israel Climate Forum under the auspices of Israel’s president.

The second element, according to Leehee, will be about movement building. “The environmental organizations in Israel are working almost exclusively on climate change and not climate justice…I think Shatil’s involvement will support a climate situation in Israel that doesn’t leave anyone behind.” The end goal, she says, is to break down the remaining walls between civil society and environmental organizations in a variety of different fights, especially vis-a-vis Israel’s new government.

Shatil’s forum building and educational expertise has already been monumental in boosting the importance of climate justice among members of Israeli civil society and simultaneously advancing the understanding that civil society must play a role in developing climate policy. The delegation at COP27 was one important step in this process, says Leehee, and now it is time to build on that success by “building a tribe, if you will, of organizations focused on a just transition.”