Israel Ready With Plan for UN Conference on Climate Change

Every country is obligated to present their national target for reducing the greenhouse emission.

1,500 solar panels have been installed on the roof of Israel's Knesset building, said to be the largest solar field of any national assembly in the world
Olivier Fitoussi

The Environmental Protection Ministry recently completed its recommendation to the government for a target in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, which Israel will present at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in November.

The target includes a significant increase in the use of renewable energies. A master plan for the energy economy is also being prepared. It includes an examination of an alternative to the intensive development of nuclear energy use, in order to ensure a variety of energy sources and a reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases.

Every country is obligated to present their national target for reducing the emission of greenhouse gases. In Israel the proposal is that in 2030, 78 million tons of gas will be emitted annually, as compared to 72 million in 2005. This is a far more moderate increase than anticipated in a “business as usual” scenario (without government intervention), and therefore many additional steps must be taken to reduce emissions.

According to the recommendation, there should be various methods of saving and streamlining to reduce electricity consumption 18 percent by the target year, compared to the consumption anticipated according to “business as usual.” There is also a recommendation to set a target for producing electricity from renewable energies (sun and wind) that will make up at least 15 percent of electricity consumption in 2025, and at least 22 percent by 2030. At present renewable energies supply less that 2 percent of Israel’s electricity production.

The government will give grants to business that invest in energy streamlining and incentives for energy-saving green buildings. The intention is that in another two decades half of the country’s buildings will be constructed according to a green energy-saving standard.

The proposal also calls to incentivize the installation of solar panels on roofs, for example by an exemption from property taxes. It was also decided that the transportation minister should draw up a plan to encourage reduced travel in private cars, for instance by canceling subsidies that encourage the use of polluting fuels.

The finance and environmental protection ministries said they are going over the final wording of the proposal. In recent months, energy professionals who opposed the plan, claiming it would lead to a reduction in the use of coal, which they believe is still essential for the energy economy.

The Interior Ministry and the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry have examined additional ideas, including an extensive use of nuclear energy. Three months ago a report was presented to a subcommittee of the National Council for Planning and Building as part of the preparation of a master plan for the energy economy.

This report examined various scenarios for electricity production and recommended that by 2050 there be a combination of extensive use of natural gas, production of 15 to 20 percent of electricity from renewable energies, and production of 15 to 20 percent of electricity by means of nuclear energy or future technologies.

Among the advantages of nuclear energy is that it does not cause greenhouse gas emissions. In response to the proposal, Eitan Parnass, director of the Green Energy Association of Israel, said: “This is a time of testing for the National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Ministry. The decisions that are made will determine whether Israel chooses green energy like other developed countries, or remains a country in which we burn fuels and continue to be dependent on the fluctuations of production costs.”