Gov't approves greenhouse gas reduction plan

Air pollution  photo: Reuters

Israel is obliged by the 2015 Paris Agreement to produce the plan. Environmental organizations have criticized it severely.

After months of argument dating from the period of the previous government, the current government approved the "Low-Carbon Economy 2050" plan this morning. The plan presents targets for reducing emissions in the various sectors of the economy over the next 30 years, as Israel is obliged to do under the Paris Agreement of 2015.

At this stage, the plan is only a government resolution, and is not anchored in law. It therefore does not commit Israel fully.

In addition, unlike the world's advanced countries, Israel has not made a commitment to net zero emissions by 2050, and it has also not set renewable energy targets that will lend stability to the energy industry for the decades ahead, or shown significant progress in this area that will actually make it possible to achieve a drastic reduction in carbon emissions.

What has the government approved? By 2050, emissions of greenhouse gases will be reduced by at least 85% in comparison with 2015. The decision also sets an interim of a 27% emissions reduction by 2030.

By 2030. greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste will be reduced by at least 47% from the level measured in 2015, which was 5.5 million tonnes, and the quantity of urban waste in landfills will be reduced by 71% in relation to the amount of urban waste that was buried in 2018, which was 4.5 million tonnes.

In transport, greenhouse gas emissions from any new vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes registered from 2030 onwards will be 5% of the emissions from an average new vehicle weighing up to 3.5 tonnes registered in 2020.

From 2026, all new urban buses purchased will be clean vehicles. At present, Israel has only 80 electric buses, and the country has totally failed in cutting travel by private car, which has actually been growing consistently.

Under the government's decision, greenhouse gas emission originating from power production will be reduced by at least 30% from the level in 2015, when it was37.6 million tonnes. In addition, the amount of energy invested in producing each NIS 1 million of GDP will be 122 megawatt hours. Despite a demand by the Ministry of Environmental Protection, no interim target was set for 2025.

Greenhouse gases emitted by industry will be reduced by at least 30% from emissions in 2015, when they totaled 12 million tonnes.

The decision also sets some important targets for 2050: reductions of greenhouse gas emissions of 96% from transport, 85% from power production, and 92% from urban waste.

The government's decision does not include a budget for implementation. For the time being, the government is sufficing with a declaration that the Ministry of Environmental Protection, the Ministry of Transport, the Ministry of Economy and Industry, and the Ministry of the Interior will set a special budget allocation for reaching the 2030 targets, which will include investment in the purchase of electric buses, deployment of charging stations, reduction of greenhouse gases by industry and local authorities, and so forth, in cooperation with local government representatives and industry.

An unambitious program

The targets set by the government today are low in comparison with targets set in the developed countries. The original proposals by the various government ministries have gradually been eroded. Environmental organizations have protested vigorously against the targets, arguing that they are not ambitious, and that insofar as they are not enshrined in law, they do not actually commit the government, which can fail to meet them, as it has so with every climate and environmental program approved so far.

Whereas other countries have set targets of zero carbon emissions by 2050, Israel is a long way from that, and the Ministry of Energy was adamant in its refusal to set targets for power production from renewable sources for 2050. Instead, the government decision contains a vague promise that the minister of energy will act to set targets for power production from renewable sources for 2050 within twelve months of the date of the decision.

The government also voted to proceed with the bill on the National Planning and Construction Committee for Priority Residential Sites, a fast track for approving residential projects. Minister of the Environment Tamar Zandberg was the only minister to vote against the decision, saying that it would lead to the destruction of open areas and that it contradicted the government's decision on climate and the environment.

Yoni Sapir, chairperson of the Shomrei Habayit ("Guardians of the Home") association said after the decision on the climate change program: "It's astonishing to see the brutal mangling by the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Energy of the original targets, to the point of their complete emasculation. Unfortunately, the clipped targets are mostly worthless. They do not include a target of reaching a net zero carbon emissions economy such as most countries have adopted. The result is sad and painful for a country that should and could make a breakthrough in this area, being located in a region that will suffer more than others from climate change, and having an economy vulnerable to international pressure on carbon taxation."

Amit Bracha, executive director of the Adam Teva V'Din association, stressed that the plan was in doubt because of the lack of legislation, and that the government had avoided setting up a mechanism whereby it could be sued for failure to meet its targets. "Without a law, we haven't done anything," he said.

Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on July 25, 2021

© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd. 2021

Air pollution  photo: Reuters
Air pollution photo: Reuters
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