We’ve Become Acclimatized: KKL-JNF’s New Climate Center

By: Lior Gottesman-Fischer

Once "climate change" was perceived as a distant, vague concept, which was considered important only by "tree-huggers," whereas today reality has set in and proves that the climate changes taking place in the world are very real and critical for all of us. In view of this, the establishment of KKL-JNF's climate center was only a matter of time.

Climate is a vast, supposedly abstract concept, which in practice is a key factor in our lives, and its impact on the daily lives of all of us will only increase in the coming years. In recent years the world has undergone a strong climate shakeup, with alarming warming together with worrying chilling in other areas – phenomena the source of which is greenhouse gas emissions, drastic changes in weather patterns, repeated natural disasters and a severe crisis that is only in its early days. Sounds frightening? Rightly so. But there's also good news: we can put up a genuine fight against climate change. KKL-JNF has been working for 120 years in the core fields of the solution to climate change and particularly the forest. In view of the size of the tasks, in the past year KKL-JNF established the climate center, which operates on three levels.

Photograph: Shuki Aharon, KKL-JNF
Photograph: Shuki Aharon, KKL-JNF

First, KKL-JNF assimilates a strategy for intra-organizational sustainability, which is a compass for implementing the principles of sustainability within the institution itself, thus proving that the forester's children don't go barefoot. Translated into activity on the ground, KKL-JNF is increasing the efficiency of energy use in the organization's buildings, reducing the carbon footprint of its activities (the amount of greenhouse gas emissions that it produces), reducing work travel and going over to hybrid and electric cars, reducing its own production of waste, and is undergoing a process of ending the use of disposable utensils, saving water in its nurseries, etc. Thus KKL-JNF demonstrates a transition to measurable sustainable behavior, and each year uses scientific tools to examine the reduction of emissions in the organization.

On the second level, the field of climate is included in all KKL-JNF divisions – research and development, education, spokesmanship and public diplomacy, human resources and logistics, the land development department, the forest – in order to respond to the crisis in a holistic and comprehensive way.

On the third level, KKL-JNF has decided to establish a home for the subject of climate within the organization. The environment and science committee of KKL-JNF's board of directors, headed by Ms. Emily Levy-Shochat, passed a historic budget to promote handling the crisis and acted to establish the climate center. It opened in November 2021 and is led by project manager Ms. Lior Gottesman-Fischer. KKL-JNF's innovative climate center has a double goal: to reduce emissions and increase the absorption of greenhouse gases, and to prepare for extreme climate events and disasters.

The aspiration to achieve both of these important objectives is organized by KKL-JNF's climate center in two tracks, one is climate innovation, which deals with research and development on subjects such as renewable energy and monitoring and preventing fires, and includes developing innovative models and giving grants to dozens of climate scientists, whereas the second track for realizing the solutions to the climate crisis focuses on climate-oriented programs. These are the main programs for the next few years:

1. Urban forestry: So far, KKL-JNF has concentrated in its work on the non-urban space, and it has now decided to also give a platform to the green between the concrete creatures, based on a realization that foresting the urban space is of utmost importance in preparing for extreme climate events, such as heat waves and floods. In addition to the climate benefits, urban forestry has very great social, health and economic advantages.

2. Programs for preparing for the climate crisis in the rural districts in Israel: programs that relate to climate preparation and transition to a low-carbon economy. While only 8% of Israel's population live in rural districts, in terms of area, they are most of the country, approximately 85%. In a simple calculation, neglecting to deal with the climate crisis in non-urban districts means failing to provide a solution for the crisis in most parts of the country. As local and regional councils are not prepared for dealing with the big monster called "climate change," KKL-JNF is rolling up its sleeves and taking upon itself to integrate the solutions for preparing for the crisis in these extensive areas.

Where do you come into this story? Everywhere, actually. Apart from the fact that every step that KKL-JNF in general and the climate center in particular implement in the organization itself – you can implement at personal, family, community, work and civic level, KKL-JNF's activity is transmitted to the community in many channels. Just as the organization's employees undergo practical climate training and assimilate the foundations of sustainability in their programs, so KKL-JNF acts to transmit the same theoretical and practical knowledge to the community, including teenagers, children and family, trains the population and encourages environmental leadership.

In order to preserve the brown, green and blue around us (have a look at KKL-JNF's logo) and improve the quality of life of Israel's residents, the climate center is the organization's flagship project for the coming years, working tirelessly for your health and welfare, regardless of mood.