Environment, urban nature and society
To proactively address climate challenges out of recognition of our responsibility for the environmental deterioration, our commitment as a society to act to change the situation and for sustainable development, which meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (Brundtland Report, 1987). In this way, to prepare Haifa for the global climate crisis, turn it into a prosperous and healthy city with a high quality of life, empowered by natural assets and rich ecological diversity, and continue to build it for future generations.
Climate change has become one of the greatest global challenges. In recent years, we have witnessed weather hazards that are no longer a passing episode rather frequently occurring events, each time with greater intensity: torrential rain, flooding, changes in sea level and water temperature, ongoing heat waves in many places around the world that had not experienced them before and are not prepared in terms of urban infrastructure and population readiness. Such phenomena are liable to cause far-reaching harm to human wellbeing and nature: an increase in water and energy consumption, morbidity and mortality, a decrease in food availability, harm to biodiversity, and more. While efforts are being made to reduce the impact of global warming – as early as 2009, at the Copenhagen Climate Change Conference, the year 2020 was marked as a target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering warming by at least two degrees Celsius – many leaders have still not realized the depth of the abyss we are marching into. The leaderships of cities around the world, including Haifa, have recognized the possible consequences of extreme climate phenomena on the welfare and quality of life of residents, and begun preparing for them.
Urban resilience as an approach to coping with crisis situations
Ongoing crises, such as the coronavirus crisis that the world has been facing for a year and a half, underscore the need to build urban and social resilience. While hope exists and countless efforts are being invested in recovering from the coronavirus crisis, the climate crisis is a crisis on a whole other scale, a crisis that threatens to change humanity. The United Nations document “UN Habitat – City Resilience Profiling Tool” describes urban resilience as “the measurable ability of any urban system, with its inhabitants, to maintain continuity through all shocks and stresses, while positively adapting and transforming toward sustainability.” Urban resilience touches on social systems, ecological sustainability, the city’s economy, its ability to recover from disasters and urban security. Therefore, when we build a climate preparedness plan, it must take into account the city’s and residents’ resilience and place the residents at the center of the organization and suit it to their needs. In Israel, which has learned from crisis situations arising from wars, ongoing fighting and terrorism, various researchers have conducted studies on resilience and developing models for creating personal and communal resilience.
One of the best known is Prof. Mooli Lahad, a world-renowned researcher who has been engaged for several decades in promoting the knowledge and practice of human resilience required to cope with personal, communal and national situations of stress and crisis. The model he developed, the multidimensional resilience model, focuses on the resilience and strengths that can be revealed in times of crisis, and not on the weaknesses, difficulties and damages. Extreme climate events fall into the category of national crisis situations, and there are quite a few researchers today, especially in academic institutions in Haifa, researching how cities cope with natural disasters, their deployment and preparation of residents for disaster situations and building practical models (e.g. Prof. Deborah Shmueli of the University of Haifa’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies). We can harness the existing and emerging bodies of knowledge in Israel and Haifa to build urban ways of coping.
Climate change and the coronavirus crisis
When global warming threatens our wellbeing and world peace, we, as individuals and a collective, are tasked with finding ways to deal with it and its effects on our quality of life. One available way is to preserve and nurture the urban nature around us and reduce the damage we intentionally or unintentionally incur. The importance of greening public and private space was reiterated with the coronavirus outbreak, which forced many of us to remain at home, especially the elderly and those with risk factors and pre-existing conditions. During the first wave of the pandemic, many residents visited the urban nature near their home that until then they had stayed away from. Many even became amateur gardeners and farmers, began growing some household produce on their balconies or yards, and increased the demand for household gardening products. Beyond its contribution to mental health, home gardening contributes to the consumption of healthy food and improves the lifestyles of those engaged in it. Because of the nature of the pandemic, the obligation to maintain social distancing, prolonged lockdowns and restrictions on road traffic, the coronavirus paradoxically invited us to protect the environment and consume less energy: The use of private vehicles depreciated and air pollution indices declined accordingly, nature flourished like it hadn’t in years, and pedestrian and cycle traffic in the public sphere increased. This can be leveraged as ways of coping and addressing the challenges that climate change presents us.
Haifa’s activity in the international arena
The City of Haifa’s leadership strives to join the capitals of the world, share knowledge and establish operative cooperation. In December 2020 we joined the Paris Agreement, and in July 2021 we signed the Urban Nature Declaration pledging a greener and more sustainable city with the 40C Cities Climate Leadership Group, an international organization of about 100 major cities worldwide. In joining the declaration, Haifa pledged, among other things, to reduce net emissions in stages by 50% in 2030 and 100% 2050, preserve and enhance urban nature by maintaining and developing green spaces (Master Plan for Wadis, Master Plan for Trees, mapping open spaces, etc.), alongside the development of sustainable means of transportation that encourage walking and reduce the air pollution produced by vehicles (integration of electric vehicles – private and public, transportation master plan, developing bike paths).
Haifa is also on the map – Haifa’s preparations in the local arena
Relevant processes are being conducted in government ministries, and applicable policy documents have been prepared that serve as an infrastructure for learning and principles of action. Two years ago, the Israeli government approved a decision on “Israel’s preparations for adapting to climate change,” which resulted in the establishment of a Climate Change Preparedness Administration. Within it, a subcommittee for local government was established whose job is to assist local authorities, including preparing an action plan for deploying for climate change, a city alliance for quality of life and the environment, of which Haifa is also a member.
Haifa has for over three decades been a member of the Israel Healthy Cities Network and promotes the concept of the healthy city, and for the past two years the Efshari Bari (“Healthy Is Possible”) initiative in cooperation with the Health Ministry. The project’s aim is to instill a healthy, active and sustainable lifestyle for residents from every sector and age group. It includes ongoing programs dealing with topics such as encouraging proper and sustainable nutrition, local agriculture and developing self-nourishment capabilities, reducing consumption and recycling, physical activity in the public sphere, stress reduction and mental health, promoting health among communities active in urban nature (community gardens, green roofs and all natural areas in the city). These days, Merav Covrigaro, an urban health coordinator, is working on programs in diverse and broad partnerships with the Haifa Parents’ Administration, the Department of Community Work in the Welfare Administration, the Department of Torah Culture, the Sports Authority and more. These plans are due to be implemented as early as this year.
At the end of 2020, the city joined the climate change preparedness accelerator led by the energy, environmental protection and interior ministries, which helps formulate and build action plans in this matter while identifying the characteristics unique to each city (infrastructure, residents, nature in the city). The Environmental Unit in the Engineering Administration is currently working to establish urban resilience teams – community and education, fire prevention and emergency response, energy efficiency and renewable energy, urban space and urban nature, urban cooling and water management.
In the spirit of everything described above, and in order to prepare for climate change in an informed manner adapted to the needs of the city, a vision for the urban climate plan has been outlined: To proactively address climate challenges out of recognition of our responsibility for the environmental deterioration, our commitment as a society to act to change the situation and for sustainable development, which meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs (Brundtland Report, 1987). In this way, to prepare Haifa for the global climate crisis, turn it into a prosperous and healthy city with a high quality of life, empowered by natural assets and rich ecological diversity, and continue to build it for future generations.
The Program’s Goals and Objectives
- : In order to prepare for climate change, a city-wide effort in cooperation with municipal professionals is needed. Haifa 2030, in cooperation with the Environmental Unit, is preparing a program on issues such as urban preparedness for climate emergency situations, fire prevention, flooding, urban nature, its rehabilitation and connection to the community, energy efficiency and more.
- Haifa is blessed with many varied natural resources, and we must ensure that they are taken care of, supervised and developed for the residents’ welfare. Therefore, the climate plan will deal with these:
- The vegetation surrounding the city and the city’s connection to nature –restoring nature and preventing fires, supervising and maintaining Haifa’s wadis.
- Vegetation in the city that will help reduce urban heat islands, lower its temperature in summer and cope with climate change – thickening and planting trees, shading the public space through urban parks, establishing community gardens, developing and implementing urban agriculture projects (green roofs, landscaping in home spaces).
Waste treatment in the city will combine evacuation and treatment according to the types of waste, and education towards environmental awareness, to reduce the use of disposable utensils (especially abundant on beaches), reduce waste and food waste. Among other things, we will engage in implementing new urban waste management technologies, environmental cleaning education, placing composters in defined places, and the waste disposal service offered to the public.
The Work Plan
Joining the global struggle in the international arena
|Goals||Main Tasks||Timetable||Execution Status|
|Joining the global struggle in the international arena||Joining the Paris Agreement; C40 – Urban Nature Declaration; Cities Race to Zero||December 2020-|
Promoting a healthy and sustainable lifestyle for the city’s residents
|During 2021||There is a work plan for promoting health, in cooperation with municipal agencies, the Healthy Cities Network and relevant government ministries. The program engages with guidance for a healthy, active and sustainable lifestyle in the city for all ages, and its assimilation|
|Preparing for global warming||Preparing an urban master plan in cooperation with municipal elements for coping with climate change in a variety of aspects (urban nature, forestry, beaches, fires, flooding and more)||End of 2021||In progress. Work teams have been established with the participation of a Haifa 2030 representative|
|Institutionalizing urban and communal resilience||Building a plan to cope with climate crisis situations and create urban and communal resilience –mapping risk areas and factors, and training residents||In progress. By end of 2021|
– A team has been established in cooperation with the Environmental Unit, which maps and defines educational and community solutions for urban resilience
– Training programs have been built for the community and the municipal education system addressing the climate crisis, the importance of green areas and sustainable agriculture.
|Urban Nature||Master Plan for Trees||In progress: immediate plantings.|
The urban forestry plan will be prepared during 2022
|The urban forestry plan will be determined following a survey examining the municipal tree inventory. The survey will include the trees’ location, gender, size, condition, need for care, safety and more. As part of mapping the gaps, trees will be planted in the immediate term; Annual target: about 500 trees.|
Master Plan for the Supervision and Maintenance of Haifa’s Wadis, developing a monitoring system for removing waste from wadis, restoring the sewage infrastructure and making trails accessible
|Executed. Will be presented for approval and budgeting||The master plan has been written and approved by the Local Planning and Building Committee. An operational budget plan was built for budgeting and execution by the Operations Administration|
Fire prevention plan
|Multi-year plan||In progress; a team has been established dealing with fire prevention and emergency response.|
Green Roofs – Connecting the city to nature, living roofs and encouraging beekeeping
|Executed||A policy document relating to existing structures has been written. Two demonstration roofs have been erected on municipal buildings, and additional roofs are planned. Research has been carried out to review regulation policy and incentives around the world and in Israel for establishing green roofs; to encourage the construction of additional roofs (public and private buildings), work is underway with the Legal Department to regulate urban policy on the matter.|
Improving open public spaces and urban parks
– Mapping green areas in the city
– Promoting the development of roundabouts in the city
Urban policy regarding Community Gardens
A master document will be drafted regarding the concept of community decency as a green operating space for the benefit of the city’s residents, and the involvement of supporting municipal elements
|Green Building||Implementing a green building standard in urban planning||Ongoing||There is regular licensing training on construction, which deals with the green building standard in general.|
All public buildings and urban renewal projects in Haifa will be built and conducted according to the Sustainable Building standard 5281.
Formulating principles and promoting sustainable energy in the authority, replacing lighting with cost-effective lighting
|In progress||An urban action team has been established dealing with energy efficiency. The Yefe Nof municipal corporation has worked on the construction of solar systems on the roofs of 21 schools in the city|
Reducing social gaps arising from economic and class-related distress in the context of climate characteristics – difficulty with air conditioning (heat/cold), poor nutrition and more
|In progress||In the community resilience and education team’s care|
|Runoff water management||Implementing the treatment of regulating runoff water and preventing flooding in the Engineering and Operations Administrations and preparing emergency procedures||In progress||It is planned to incorporate a runoff water management plan into the climate plan|
|Waste and Recycling||Managing the municipal waste issue||In progress in collaboration with a technology consultant||Connection to innovative technologies|
Environmental cleanup education, single-use utensil and food waste reduction, examining placing composters in defined places (community gardens, schools)
|In progress||Building a model and workshop to reduce consumption and treat waste for the city’s youth movements and teams, in cooperation with the Education Administration and Youth Department|
A service charter dealing with waste disposal (days, arrangements)
A municipal bylaw to reduce the use of single-use utensils on urban beaches has been promoted
- The website of the C40 cities https://www.c40.org/
- The UN resilience program https://unhabitat.org/programme/city-resilience-profiling-programme
- Developing community and organizational resilience through the multidimensional resilience model. Yonatan Zigelman, Miri Shacham, Prof. Mooli Lahad, Dr. Yehuda Shacham. www.icspc.org
- Government Resolution 2494 – measures of quality of life, sustainability and resilience, il/he/departments/policies/2015_dec2494
- Climate change, Israel and activity for change. Sharon Gal Orr, Masa Aher, masa.co.il
- The website of the Paris municipality https://www.paris.fr/
- The Carbon Disclosure Project website cdp.net/en
- Position paper on green roofs edited by Merav Covrigaro, Head of Social-Environment Programs, Mayor’s Bureau/Haifa 2030, July 2020.
- Policy measures to promote the construction of green roofs in private and public spaces in local authorities, review and recommendations. The Israeli Green Building Council, at the invitation of Haifa Municipality, May 2021.