Climate Conference / Israel Anxious Not to Harm Industrial Growth

Israel trying to join efforts by countries seeking to be allowed to increase greenhouse gas emissions.

With the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen underway, Israel is seeking partners in coordinating a united position on climate-change policy. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Ministry is hoping that reduced emission targets set at the conference will not compromise Israel's industrial competitiveness.

As the conference launched Monday, wrangling began between countries seeking emission targets suitable to their interests.

Israel is trying to join the efforts by a group of countries seeking to be allowed to increase their greenhouse gas emissions, but willing to reduce the rate at which those gases are released - a group which includes Switzerland and South Korea.

The head of the Environmental Protection Ministry's air quality department, Shuli Nezer, said that in terms of climate policy, the international community is split into three principal groups. The first contains the states of the European Union, which seek to advance the most ambitious programs for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The second group includes non-EU developed nations, led by the United States. The third is made up of developing countries and emerging powers, such as China and India.

Alongside these three categories are smaller groups, such as those advocating "environmental fairness," including Switzerland and South Korea, and potentially Israel as well.

"These groups have coordinated their activity before and during the conference," said Nezer, a member of the Israeli delegation to Copenhagen. "For example, the European Union has almost always worked as a coordinated group. It holds closed-door meetings and then emerges with a single position, often presented by Sweden. The other groups are coordinated only on certain issues."

Nonetheless, Nezer added, disagreements exist within each group. For example, countries which recently joined the EU are pursuing more moderate emissions cuts than veteran EU states.

Seoul and J'lem in coordination

The South Korean ambassador to Israel, Young-sam Ma, confirmed on Sunday that Seoul and Jerusalem are working together to present a coordinated position on climate policy.

"Like Israel, we too are dependent on the importation of gasoline from foreign sources, and the target for using renewable energy that we set is almost identical to that of Israel," the ambassador said. "We too set our own target for decelerating rises in emissions, and for creating a group that can bridge between rich and developing states."

He added that recent initiatives have sought to link large South Korean firms with Israeli companies that have developed renewable energy technology.

Nezer said the Environmental Protection Ministry's position is that, from Israel's perspective, the conference will be successful if it allows all participating states to reach the goals they have set, and for a framework to be put in place allowing for efficient emissions monitoring.

"I don't believe that during this conference there will be a situation in which [countries] will try to obligate one another to aim for goals they haven't set for themselves," he said.

Another central goal Israel has set is to ensure that emissions targets do not harm the country's industrial competitiveness.

"Israeli industry has an interest in greenhouse gas emissions being reduced and in using alternative energy," said Aryeh Neiger, the legal adviser for the industrialists' union. "If we don't do this, we will pay more carbon taxes set by various countries in the world. It will raise the cost of producing electricity in Israel, and consequently [hurt] our competitive edge."