Bennett Says Israel Should Target Net Zero Emissions by 2050

Under pressure from finance and energy ministries, Israel will reduce carbon emissions by 85 percent by 2050. But Bennett, ahead of UN climate conference, says goals should be more ambitious

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A firefighter extinguishes a fire in the Jerusalem hills, last August
A firefighter extinguishes a fire in the Jerusalem hills, last AugustCredit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told Sunday’s weekly cabinet meeting that Israel’s climate targets are not ambitious enough and said a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 should be set, several sources who attended the meeting told Haaretz.

Bennett told the cabinet, which approved a climate change program that stresses “climate innovation,” that he believed Israel’s targets should be raised “even before the Glasgow [climate] conference,” which opens next week. He said that “even if it doesn’t happen this week, Israel will ultimately have to join other countries around the world who are already on the way to achieving that goal.”

Bennett’s remarks were his first admission that Israel must raise its climate-related targets, which he will present next week at the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow. They put him in conflict with the energy and finance ministries on net-zero emissions, a position that led Israel to adopt particularly modest targets of a 27 percent reduction of carbon emissions by 2030 and an 85 percent reduction by 2050.

“The climate crisis is one of the key topics on the world’s agenda,” Bennett said at the meeting. “It affects the lives of all of us, as well as our children and grandchildren. We have to face this in Israel, too. It’s a vital issue.”

National Security Council Chairman Eyal Hulata, who also took part in the cabinet meeting, confirmed last week’s report in Haaretz whereby the council is discussing adding the climate change to the list of threats facing Israel. Doing so will mandate that the entire defense establishment make adequate preparations.

Hulata said climate change would be included in the council’s multiyear assessment, which will soon be presented to the security cabinet. This assessment includes reference to climate-related disasters such as floods and fires, as well as to the impact of climate change on national security, migration, terror, the stability of regional governments, as well as on innovation as one of Israel’s strategic advantages.

Due to the opposition of the finance and energy ministries, no proposals by other arms of the government, such as the Environmental Protection Ministry, were presented at Sunday’s cabinet meeting. These proposals had included approval of a climate bill and formally declaring a climate crisis. Instead, the government approved more limited proposals, such promoting clean and carbon-free transportation, increasing use of more efficient energy sources, a reduction of carbon emissions and encouraging technological innovation.

The Prime Minister’s Office emphasized the latter point, noting that an interministerial plan for innovation in addressing climate-related issues and technological development had been approved, “given the unique advantages Israel possesses.”

The plan is meant, according to the ministry, to assist global efforts to reduce carbon emissions and to prepare for the impact of climate crisis. This involves technologies related to climate, energy, agriculture, food and water, as well as technology related to a desert climate.

The plan includes the establishment of a task force to accelerate development of climate-related technologies. The task force, which will be led by the director general of the Prime Minister’s Office and will include the treasury accountant general and the attorney general, will propose ways to remove regulatory impediments facing research and development, as well as the implementation and the embedding of technologies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparations. A year after its establishment, the task force will give its recommendations to public agencies.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett attends a cabinet meeting at the prime minister's office in Jerusalem, Israel, today.Credit: Abir Sultan,AP

The director general of the Prime Minister’s Office will also set up a support mechanism for promoting investment in R&D in the relevant technologies. This will include cooperation between different funding sources and a pooling of budgets, in coordination with government departments.

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg tweeted after the meeting that “the cabinet has approved a climate package which will lead Israel into a carbon-depleted future. The package will include decisions on energy, transportation, innovation, finances, education and preparations for the crisis. This crisis is grave, urgent and man-made.”

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