In First for Israel, Climate Experts Get Role in National Transportation Policy

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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A Jerusalem-area traffic jam.
A Jerusalem-area traffic jam, December 2020.Credit: Ohad Zwigenberg
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

The Transportation Ministry is convening a joint task force with representatives from the Environmental Protection Ministry as well as its own ministry to ensure that decision-making on new projects takes environmental considerations and the fight against global warming into account.

Merav Michaeli, the leader of the Labor Party, who took office as transportation minister at the beginning of the week, spoke to Haaretz about the joint team, saying that she and the incoming environmental protection minister, Tamar Zandberg of the Meretz party, had come to an agreement on the joint effort.

"Transportation shapes our lives and our environment," Michaeli told Haaretz, "and as a result, it is of utmost importance that transportation planning be done in a way that creates pleasant surroundings, surroundings that promote equality, a clean environment and clean air."

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This is the first time that the Transportation Ministry is involving a team with an environmental perspective and with an eye to climate change into its decision-making. Asked about steps that Michaeli planned to take to meet the Labor Party's commitment to reduce greenhouse gases, to shift to renewable energy sources and to reduce dependence on passenger cars, the new transportation minister's office said the first priority is to shift reliance from passenger cars to a linked system of public transportation and to electric-powered transportation.

Merav Michaeli, right, at a handover ceremony this week at the Transportation Ministry, with her predecessor, Miri Regev. Credit: Emil Salman

Massive investment in local public transportation and the development of infrastructure and incentives to encourage a shift in the short run to electric vehicles are also a priority, with an emphasis on electric public transportation and a network of bicycle paths, the ministry said.  

Michaeli may be committing to give greater priority to climate issues than her predecessor, Miri Regev, but she is not the first transportation minister to promise investments of that nature. Transportation Ministry officials have been talking over the past several years about the need to encourage public transportation use, but in practice, the ministry has still been pursuing considerable development of infrastructure for passenger cars. So for example, in most cases, the reasoning provided for the construction of new highway infrastructure has been the need to upgrade public transportation services, but even if such plans do provide for public transportation lanes or railroad tracks, most of the surface of these new highway projects is for passenger cars.

And even now, major projects are being pursued that encourage the use of passenger cars by entities that are within the Transportation Ministry's responsibility. It is therefore not clear the extent to which Michaeli's remarks would apply to projects already under way.

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