Israel to Sign Paris Climate Change Accord, Cut Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenpeace Israel hails cabinet decision, but declares that new master plan to exploit renewable energy options must be drawn up.

Demonstrators outside the Marrakech Climate Change Conference in Morocco, Nov. 14, 2016.
Mosa'ab Elshamy/AP

The Israeli cabinet voted on Sunday to permit Israel to join the Paris Agreement on climate change. Israel will be 101st country to join the effort, which was launched in November and is intended to slow the process of global warming.

On Tuesday, Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin was due to leave for the Marrakech Climate Change Conference, sponsored in Morocco by the United Nations, where the main topic was to be implementation of the Paris Agreement.

Israel's cabinet decision was conducted by means of a telephone poll of ministers.

In agreeing to sign on to the accord, Israel has committed itself to reducing estimated greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2030. Such a reduction will, over the next 15 years, save the economy an estimated 100 billion shekels ($26 billion). The savings will come from lower energy and health-care costs due to an expected decrease in air-pollution levels. In addition, emissions reductions will likely spur more investment in green technologies.

Greenpeace Israel said the decision to allow Israel to join the Paris Agreement presents a real opportunity to achieve a reduction in emissions as the country moves from production based on polluting coal, gas and oil to renewable energy, which will result in cleaner air and savings in electricity costs. The dismal situation in the country at present, in which only 2 percent of electricity is generated from renewable energy, must be changed, it added, and a new master plan in this vein must be drawn up.

Last week, Minister Elkin participated in the Israel Climate Change Conference, at the Porter School of Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University. There he warned that because of the growth of Israel's population, it would be difficult to achieve a greater reduction in emissions. Elkin also criticized the fact that in recent years, the government has not made optimal use of Israel’s scientific and technological knowledge vis-a-vis climate change issues, nor has it sufficiently supported development of knowhow to deal with such issues – for example, in the area of saving water.

“I don’t see a calculated national plan such as those used in high-tech and agriculture,” Elkin said. “The global market is developing and we are having difficulties commercializing our technology and bringing it to market.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry says that the government has already approved a national plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a budget of 800 million shekels, earmarked to reduce air pollution caused by public transport and to develop renewable energy options, among other things. However, the nonprofit Association of Environmental Justice in Israel presented a study at the TAU conference showing that the country's budget for dealing with climate change-related problems is significantly lower per capita than in most OECD nations.

On Monday, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement saying it was “very likely” that 2016 would be the hottest year on record.

The hope among supporters of the Paris Agreement is that the cumulative reduction in emissions effected by member nations will in the coming years prevent Earth's atmosphere from warming up by more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over the temperature at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.