Climate Bill Passes Knesset Hurdle Just Before Israel's Parliament Dissolves

Even though the bill constitutes a significant development in Israel’s commitment to combating climate change, this is a softened bill compared to the one originally prepared by the Environmental Protection Ministry

Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron
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Israeli protesters call for action on climate change, in Tel Aviv in March.
Israeli protesters call for action on climate change, in Tel Aviv in March.Credit: Tomer Appelbaum
Lee Yaron
Lee Yaron

A bill intended to set up a binding framework for Israel's efforts to combat climate change passed a first Knesset vote on Tuesday, ensuring the next government can pick it up again after election, which the Knesset is all but certain to call on Wednesday.

Failing to pass its first vote would have killed the bill, which for the first time proposes measures for government and other public agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and contend with unavoidable climate-related damage. The next Knesset will now be able to bring it for the two remaining votes.

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The bill was approved after Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg reached an agreement with the opposition, and passed in a 15-0 vote.

"This was a first and necessary step on the road to an economy with zero emissions, one that ensures the long-range prosperity of Israel’s citizens under conditions of a changing climate," Zandberg said. "I’m proud and excited to advance by one more step one of the central promises made by this government, and mainly to advance a promise to the future of our youth.”

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, last month.

Even though the bill constitutes a significant development in Israel’s commitment to combating climate change, this is a softened version of it compared to the one originally prepared by the Environmental Protection Ministry, with some of its clauses moderated following pressure by officials at the ministries of finance and energy.

Political wrangling continued to the last minute with the finance and energy ministries objecting for months to many of its clauses.

After the bill was approved last year by the ministerial committee for legislation, the treasury wanted to change some of the clauses the very next day. This included a defanging of the main clause, which for the first time obliges Israel to bring greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2050.

Some government agencies and environmental groups worried that if this bill did not pass its first reading, it would have been further weakened by the ministries of finance and energy in the next Knesset’s term.

Another example of alterations to the bill include making the target for greenhouse gas emissions 27 percent by 2030, which is especially low in comparison to Europe and the United States, and is not specifically mentioned in the bill referring to a government decision saying “it can be changed.” A decision as to which projects come under the new law will be made in one year.

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