Delegates from all over the world have gathered at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico (COP16) for almost a week now, and discussions will continue until December 10th. COP16/CMP6 is the 16th edition of Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP) and the 6th Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol (CMP). After many environmentalists were disappointment with the previous UN conference on climate change, many are hoping that some more drastic measures will be taken in Cancun.
We were fortunate enough to have David Brand, Head Forester of Keren Kayemet Le Israel-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) and one of the Israeli delegates to the conference tell us a little about himself, his environmental background, and his experiences in Cancun.
Please tell me a little bit about yourself and how you first became inspired to work in the field of environmental conservation.
I am 55 years old, married with 3 children, live in a “Moshav”. In my childhood my father used to teach me a lot about nature (the structure of galaxies, the Milky Way, etc.). We would explore the forests and hills every weekend. I had snake and scorpion in my room and of course a dog and a cat.
I loved to watch and examine animal behavior.
What does your position as the Head Forester of KKL-JNF entail?
I am responsible for the overall well being of the forests in Israel and all that entails. Including: the overall program for forest management, professional knowledge in the areas of seed collection, nursery practices, tree improvement program, biological control of pests, fire fighting & GIS. In the forest department we have 2 sections:
a. Forest management and GIS section
b. Forestry and professional development
Under each section there are several professional units:
a. Forest management and GIS section – the section guide the three regions of KKL, how and when to cultivate (thinning, pruning etc.) the forest. This section is also in charge of all the data which we collect and monitoring in our forests. This section organizes all the internal courses, workshops that we conducted to our foresters. The GIS unit analyzes and supply updated data and maps to all the foresters and colleagues in other green organizations and academic institute.
b. Forestry and professional development section – the section is in charge on our seed bank. We collect fruits and seeds from over 150 species and extracts seeds in order to produce seedlings. We guide and update the nurseries with advanced knowledge regarding nursery practices. We monitor the health of our forests and promote research that will encourage the use of biological control against our forest pests. We have a special unit that deals with tree improvement (selection of elite trees that have better resistance to drought, and better tolerance to pests and diseases. We are in charge professionally of all the KKL’s orchards (olive and carob).
c. Prevention of fire – this unit is in charge of the best practices to fight forest fires.
d. Research & Development – We conduct more than 50 researches with collaboration with senior researchers from several academic institutes with a yearly budget of 5 million shekels. Our findings are not only for the benefit of KKL forests but for the benefit (free of charge) of foresters from many countries all over the world.
e. Our practical experience and advanced knowledge are well known all over the world and we are sharing this knowhow with many developing countries.
We understand that three delegates from Israeli environmental organizations (Professor David Mahalal of Transport Today & Tomorrow, Dana Tabachnik of Adam Teva v’Din and Dr. Hussein Terabia) will be joining the formal delegation to the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun. Please tell me a little about the members of the formal Israeli delegation traveling with you to the conference.
We are members of the Israeli delegation. The Ministry of Environment leads the delegation and chose various delegates from other governmental ministries, municipalities and other state agencies.
Do you feel optimistic that firm decisions will be made during the Cancun conference that were not reached during the recent Copenhagen conference or other previous UN climate change conferences?
No, the feeling here unfortunately, is that no substantial agreement will be made.
How do you feel that the Israeli delegation in particular can contribute to the conference? Do you feel that you have a unique perspective as compared with other delegations due to the harsh climatic conditions of the Middle East?
We have a special perspective and have the experience that most countries do not in this field and thus, have a lot to offer to developing countries who are facing the same problems we have in arid and semi arid zones. We think that with KKL’s experience and knowhow we can turn climate threats to opportunities. By proper management of soil and water resources we can turn climate threats into opportunities. The ancient farmers in the Negev in Southern Israel were using the system of runoff water harvesting. They were redistributing water resources. By water harvesting they enriched patches / sections of land with resources and at the same time they were reducing erosion and land degradation.
Today we are using the old methods for the rehabilitation of large degraded areas of the Negev with modern techniques and knowledge.
Climate models are forecasting a decrease in rainfall amount and an increase in rainfall intensities. Higher rain intensities will result in an increase in runoff rates and erosion. By proper management of the runoff we can collect more water and store more water into the ground for planted trees and herbaceous vegetation.
This knowledge can help developing countries or international agencies that support developing communities all over the world.
In which portions of the conference do you plan to participate?
All discussions relating to forestry, side events that deal with forestry and the effect of climate change on ecological systems. We have a booth at the conference and most of our time we are going to stand at our booth. Many officials from developing countries, UN agencies, and several NGO representatives were very interested in collaborating with JNF.
Do you feel that the Israeli government is committed to reducing carbon emissions and reducing its negative impact on climate change?
The Ministry of Environmental Protection is fully committed, but I believe that other government ministries still need to make more of a commitment and enlarge their awareness.
Read more about the previous UN conference on climate change in Copenhagen::
The Middle Eastern View of Copenhagen
Lebanon’s Wael Hmaidan from IndyACT Reports from Copenhagen While “Saving the Planet”
COP 15 Outcome: A Weak Climate Change Agreement, Disappointed Environmentalists, and “Oil Business as Usual” in the Middle East