'Israel Isn't Prepared to Tackle Climate Change, There's No Question About It,' Top Official Admits

The Environmental Protection Ministry director-general says that 'to avoid the hell expected for us,' Israel has to work on reducing greenhouse gases

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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A man in Jaffa, this week.
A man in Jaffa, this week. Credit: Hadas Parush
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

“Israel isn’t prepared to tackle climate change, there’s no question about it,” the country’s Environmental Protection Ministry director-general admitted on Saturday, urging politicians to allocate more funds for climate action in the upcoming state budget.

Galit Cohen told Channel 12 News: “We have to prepare… In order to avoid the hell expected for us if we do nothing, we have to work on reducing [greenhouse emissions].”

On Sunday, Israel's cabinet unanimously approved an ambitious plan to cut greenhouse emissions by 85 percent by 2050, but many important clauses fell by the wayside due to heavy pressure by the Energy Ministry and the budgets department of the Finance Ministry.

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Left out of the plan, for example, are goals for generating electricity from renewable sources and a requirement for net-zero-energy building constructions. Required reporting of the costs of burning polluting fuels was also eliminated, along with a requirement for the state to examine every new infrastructure project also by its environmental impact.

Two particularly important goals – requiring Israel to produce 40 percent of its electricity from renewable energy by 2030, and 95 percent by 2050 – were removed. As a result, Israel will not commit to a specific goal for producing electricity from renewable energy. Instead, it was decided that Energy Minister Karin Elharar will establish an interministerial committee to study the subject and to decide on goals within 12 months of the cabinet’s approval of the plan.

Haaretz has learned that just before the cabinet voted on the plan, the provision requiring that government ministries set goals for energy-neutral construction for "all types of structures" within a year was changed under Finance Ministry pressure to simply state "structures."

The plan will see Israel gradually transition to a low-carbon economy, including an obligation to reduce 27 percent of its greenhouse emissions by 2030 before the 2050 target of 85 percent, with a base year of 2015. Nevertheless, these goals are considered significant compared to the steps Israel has taken so far to address the climate crisis.

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 finance and energy Ministries, to many of the plan’s provisions.

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