As NASA reports the hottest year ever, the Cancun climate talks have concluded with modest but important steps toward transparency in carbon emissions reporting and funding for adaptation and mitigation. Mexico played an exemplary role in hosting the talks and fostering the agreements, and Mexican Foreign Secretary Patricia Espinosa got a standing ovation for her plea to the assembled negotiators:
"We have to act with responsibility and resolve. Each of us will have to live with the consequences of our choices and of our actions."
Meanwhile, something happened in Bethlehem. Before dawn on a December morning, 21 Palestinians left their homes in that city, got into four trucks, crossed into Israel, and headed for the Carmel Mountains. Their trucks were state-of-the-art firefighting vehicles, donated by the European Union. When they arrived, they worked alongside Israeli firefighters to combat the worst wildfire in Israel’s history – one that had long been predicted by Israeli experts on climate change. Last Wednesday, Guy Pe’er, a co-author of Israel’s National Report on Climate Change, said, "The fire disaster in the Carmel Mountains near Haifa is a taste of the future.”
The Palestinians were not alone in coming to Israel’s aid, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu took note at a press conference:
“In the framework of the countries that are aiding us, there have been very interesting things. First, the fact that during Chanukah, Turkish pilots speaking Turkish, and pilots speaking Greek are flying together with Israeli pilots … we have also displays of admiration and assistance from Egypt, from Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, from Jordanian King Abdullah, and from Palestinian Authority Chairman Abu Mazen …”
At the Cancun conference, Israel’s Ambassador to Mexico, Rodica Radian-Gordon, reflected on the larger meaning of these events:
“Finally the fire was controlled through assistance we received from many countries in our region and as well as others, and I would like to take this opportunity to express Israel’s heartfelt thanks for the generous help received. This international cooperation that was so needed in fighting the flames in Israel further emphasizes the significance of the global effort that is required when dealing with the challenges of climate change. This spirit of shared destiny between the peoples of this planet lies at the heart of the climate change convention.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu concurred, as his Cabinet approved a national plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions:
"The recent dry months, including the driest November in the history of the state, are a warning light to us all that the threat of climate change is no less menacing than the security threats that we face. I intend to act determinedly in this field. In a country that suffers from a severe water shortage, this is an existential struggle."
Amen, Mr. Prime Minister. And now, my own plea for solidarity in the face of this existential struggle. When the new year dawns and a new Congress convenes, please come to Washington, stand before the assembled Representatives and Senators, and share this vision with them. They stand with Israel, conservatives and liberals alike. So ask them to stand with you and the world community now, in this new and larger struggle. And maybe, just maybe, they will listen.