International Climate Policy: The Upcoming UN Climate Summit

“I challenge you to bring to the Summit bold pledges. Innovate, scale-up, cooperate and deliver concrete action that will close the emissions gap and put us on track for an ambitious legal agreement through the UNFCCC process.” –UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

As part of efforts to combat global climate change, the United Nations will hold a Climate Summit in New York in September. The Summit, organized by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will serve as an opportunity for global Heads of State, government officials, and business, finance, civil society and local leaders to discuss catalyzing action to help the world shift toward a low-carbon economy.

As a global population, we have reached the point where we can no longer ignore the issue of climate change. Though the threat of global warming has been contested in the past, there is now indisputable scientific evidence supporting its existence. Unfortunately, as a greater portion of the world has started to take environmental hazards more seriously, the consequences developing from our planet’s rising temperatures have also increased dramatically. These include irreversible physical changes such as melting glaciers, rising sea levels, and a shift in atmospheric composition and weather patterns.

Ironically, though these effects of climate change continue to negatively impact the human population, anthropogenic factors can largely be identified as the primary source. As such, many scientists, politicians, and other concerned civilians across the globe are advocating for profound modifications to our lifestyles, policies, and practices in favor of a more sustainable and environmentally focused model. As a part of this effort, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has invited leaders from around the world to begin to make substantial progress.

Taking care of our planet is a highly regarded value in Judaism. The principle of Bal Tashchit, do not destroy or waste, encourages a strong environmental ethic and sense of responsibility for the earth. In a rabbinic interpretation of Deuteronomy 20:19-20, Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch states, “Yea, ‘Do not destroy anything’ is the first and most general call of God… God’s call proclaims to you, ‘Do not destroy anything! Be a mentsh! Only if you use the things around you for wise human purposes, sanctified by the word of My teaching, only then are you a mentsh and have the right over them which I have given you as human. However, if you destroy if you ruin, at that moment you are not a human but an animal and have no right to the things around you.’” (Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, Horeh, #56).

As Jews created in God’s image, we are obligated to conserve and protect our natural resources, and it is crucial that we do not take them for granted. In line with this interpretation of the biblical Jewish law, the upcoming UN Climate Summit serves as the perfect opportunity for world leaders to stimulate the global effort to take action to combat climate change.

Rachel Spiegel


Rachel Spiegel is a rising sophomore at Pitzer College in Claremont, California. She plans to double major in Environmental Analysis and International/Intercultural Studies. Originally from Portland, Oregon, Rachel is a member of Temple Beth Israel.  As a Machon Kaplan participant, Rachel is interning at the Children’s Environmental Health Network this summer.

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Machon Kaplan Participant

About Machon Kaplan Participant

Machon Kaplan is the Religious Action Center's work/study internship program for undergraduate students interested in Judaism and social justice. Learn more at The views expressed in these posts do not necessarily reflect the views of the Reform Movement.

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