Despite Bennett's Vows, Israeli Climate Bill Won't Help Reach Zero Emissions by 2050

Israel's finance and energy ministries oppose legislation setting interim greenhouse gas emission targets, essentially rendering the climate law devoid of content

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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Protesters demonstrating at the Climate march in Tel Aviv, in March.
Protesters demonstrating at the Climate march in Tel Aviv, in March. Credit: Tomer Applebaum
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Israel's climate change bill is unlikely to help the country reach its target of zero greenhouse emissions by 2050, as pledged by Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, due to the finance and energy ministries' opposition.

Bennett made the commitment to the target at the UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow in November, shortly after the State Comptroller’s Office reported that Israel was seriously lagging in its efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

The finance and energy ministries are now opposing setting an emissions target through legislation, and also oppose permitting that Environmental Protection Ministry to develop a national plan that would include steps to reduce emissions.

Sources at the Environmental Protection Ministry and environmental organizations claim that such opposition would render the legislation devoid of content.

In recent months, the Environment Ministry led an effort to draft legislation enshrining Israel’s climate change policies into law. The draft bill is expected to be presented to the cabinet next week in a bid to secure its backing.

Prime Minister Bennett and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid are interested in being able to have an achievement under their belts on climate change that can be presented at this November’s climate conference in the Egyptian town of Sharm el-Sheikh.

They are therefore pressuring Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg to forgo an official target for 2030, even though experts have claimed that a 2030 target is an essential milestone in the country’s longer-term targets.

The Environment Ministry draft sets a target of a 27 percent reduction in emissions by 2030. In practice, that would require a yearly cut from 80 megatons of carbon to 57 megatons.

The Finance Ministry is concerned that setting targets could provide grounds for suing the government if they are not met. Instead, it is suggesting making do with the cabinet resolution, which has already been adopted.

The finance and energy ministries are concerned that an interim 2030 target would require curbing the use of fossil fuels to an extent that could undermine the country’s energy independence. The Finance Ministry also wants the zero-emissions target for 2050 to be couched as an aspiration rather than a firm goal.

The Finance Ministry said in response: “There are professional differences of opinion in the government’s work and the ministries intend to act to sort out the differences among them. The Finance Ministry opposes setting targets in primary legislation that would restrict the government’s action, particularly since the cabinet only recently adopted a resolution on the subject.”

The Energy Ministry issued a statement saying that it supports climate change legislation and is cooperating in advancing that goal “while protecting Israeli citizens’ energy security.” The ministry said that it would not comment on what it described as “speculation and half-truths regarding the government’s work procedures.”

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