The Israeli government is expected to approve on Sunday a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transition to a low-carbon economy, in a major push compared to the action taken thus far by Israel to address the climate crisis.
According to a Friday announcement by Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg and relevant government offices, Israel will undertake to reduce 27 percent of its greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and 85 percent by 2050 – all relative to emissions measured in 2015.
Israel was obligated to declare its reduction goals by 2020 under the Paris Climate Accords, but failed to do so due to opposition from various government ministries, in particular the treasury and energy ministry, to many of the plan’s provisions.
The UN plan’s secretariat made it clear that should the goals not be presented by the end of July, Israel would find itself removed from the international report to be presented at the UN General Assembly in November. Senior sources in Israel have told Haaretz that this would be a major diplomatic embarrassment, with Israel and Turkey alone among OECD countries failing to produce their goals so far.
In the Paris Accord, signed at the United Nations' climate convention in December of 2015, Israel's government set a national goal for greenhouse gas reductions. However, that goal was defined only in terms of emissions per capita, so, in practice, the absolute rate of emissions has only grown in recent years, due to population growth. Now Israel will update its goal to reflect an absolute reduction rate, in line with most countries in the world.
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Although this is a significant and precedent-setting decision for the state, the goals that Israel is expected to set are low compared to most countries in the West. For example, the United States has committed to a reduction of 50 percent by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050. The European Union Commission has also set a goal of at least 55 percent reduction by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050.
Foreign sources and environmental groups spoke with Haaretz and expressed anger at the low thresholds Israel will be committing to. The Environmental Protection Ministry is aware of the criticism, but believes that this is a sufficient goal in light of Israel’s inaction hitherto.
In the announcement, the ministers affirmed that “Israel recognizes the importance of reaching the goal of zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in keeping with the Paris Accords and its other international obligations,” and that the government will reexamine the goals they have set in the future.
The announcement further reads that “This joint resolution is the first time that an outline has been offered to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and a national strategy has been formulated for the transition to a clean, efficient, and competitive economy. By so doing, Israel takes its place alongside other developed countries in the global fight against climate change.”