New Israeli Minister Seeks to Scrap UAE Oil Deal

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg also vows to promote legislation to reduce carbon emissions and plastic usage but faces an uphill battle in achieving these goals

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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Tamar Zandberg.
Tamar Zandberg.Credit: Emil Salman
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg promised on Tuesday to promote climate legislation that would put a price on carbon emissions, reduce consumption of plastic and cancel a recently signed agreement with the United Arab Emirates to transship oil from the Persian Gulf to Europe via Israel.

Although all her goals are unanimously supported by environmental organizations and professionals in the field, the chances of most of them being implemented are slim, given the ministry’s limited political influence.

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“One government commitment in the government guidelines that I fought for was expansive climate legislation that will include a carbon-pricing mechanism,” Zandberg said during the ceremony at which her predecessor, Gila Gamliel, formally handed over control of the ministry. “We must end our dependency on fossil fuels, including natural gas, and set ambitious goals for transitioning to renewable energy.”

The government’s current target is to get 30 percent of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Zandberg advocated raising this target to at least 40 percent and ending all warming emissions by 2050. In addition, she said, there must be “a serious plan to ensure that we meet the target, so it won’t remain a number on paper.”

She also promised to take steps to reduce the use of plastic, particularly disposable dishes, cups and silverware; ask the cabinet to cancel the oil transport agreement recently signed by the Europe Asia Pipeline Company; and tighten government supervision of the pipeline’s environmental risks. “The Gulf of Eilat is at real risk because of the EAPC pipeline, and Israel shouldn’t be an oil bridge to other countries,” she said.

The ministry currently has no power to change the electricity production target on its own. To do so, Zandberg would have to either persuade the cabinet to set different targets than those set by the Energy Ministry or persuade the new energy minister, Karin Elharrar, to change the targets.

Promotion of the climate law would require the Finance Ministry’s consent, and it is likely to object to steps such as a carbon tax, even though the Bank of Israel supports the idea.

As for the EAPC agreement, the Finance Ministry was tasked with examining the agreement by the Former Prime Minister's Office prior to the transition to the new government.

The one issue on which the ministry could really affect change is dealing with plastic waste. It has both the power and the funding to create incentives for recycling plastic, and it could also submit legislation mandating a reduction in the use of disposable plastic ware. The European Union has already passed regulations barring the sale of most disposable plastic ware, and they are due to take effect next month.

Zandberg’s predecessor, Gamliel, had won broad support from environmental groups for her job performance, and many published press statements praising various steps the ministry took under her leadership. These included trying to push her own climate bill and expanding the bottle deposit law to cover larger bottles.

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