To: Members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
2 Andre Pascal St.
From: A concerned Israeli citizen
I have recently learned that the organization you belong to is considering inviting Israel to join it as a full member. I beg you to reconsider your decision and not allow our country to join at this time.
Bringing Israel into your organization now may contribute to improvement of economic and social conditions here. However, this step is premature if taken before Israel has met certain threshold requirements, and it may perpetuate some failures in our government policy. I am refering first and foremost to environmental policy, which has become of central importance to international bodies, yours in particular.
I know that the Israeli government has presented testimony to you showing major progress on environmental issues, and has told you of a government decision requiring the promotion of sustainable development. And in some cases there has indeed been great improvement in relation to the past. However, today we should not make do with changes that have already taken place, and the environmental problem must be examined from additional angles.
The basis for implementing effective environmental policy is government resources and enforcement capabilities, and in these areas Israel is similar to developing nations. The annual budget of the Environmental Protection Ministry is minuscule (some $70 million), and it has minimal human resources for enforcement purposes.
Israel has some of the most advanced environmental legislation in the world in a number of areas, but its ability to enforce it is meager. The Knesset is about to pass a progressive law to prevent air pollution, but the Environmental Protection Ministry will not have the funding to enforce it, just as it does not have the funding to enforce regulations concerning the law on freedom of environmental information, legislation against excessive radiation and noise levels, prohibitions against vehicles on the beach - and the list goes on and on.
One of the foundations of environmental policy that your organization energetically pursues is the use of certain economic instruments. These include looking at the cost of environmental damage when promoting development projects, careful examination of demand for various natural elements so as to save the remaining resources, and taxation regulations that accurately reflect damage done to the environment.
All of these are barely mentioned in government policy or legislation. In Israel, not only is the principle that polluters should pay practically not applied at all - it may even be said that the polluters are partying. For many years the authorities have done nothing about dealing with pollution and when they do deal with it, those who have been convicted of environmental offenses are usually slapped with ludicrously low fines.
There is no management of demand in Israel - travel in private vehicles is increasing, and with it, energy and water consumption. Everyone here has heard about a road-use levy, gradual increase of water prices and energy-saving incentives. All of these are buried deep in position papers, master plans, reports by academic institutions and empty declarations by decision-makers. Almost every proposal to impose an environmental tax comes under a deluge of attacks by interested sectors, and most disappear without a trace.
The citizens of Israel would be grateful if you would demand that its government change its priorities with regard to the environment as a condition for acceptance into your esteemed organization. This would include suitable allocation of resources and creation of policy that dissociates economic growth from pressure on the environment, allowing the domestic product to continue to grow, but lessening the impact on the environment in terms of the quantitative standards you have set. If you do not do this, you will leave us with our streams of sewage, polluted air and disappearing natural resources.
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