OECD Slams Israel for Slacking on Environmental Legislation Vows

Israel has failed to pass green licensing law for factories, which it promised to enact after joining organization in 2010

Factories in Haifa Bay. 2015. Some 400 large-scale plants have a significant effect on the environment.
Rami Shllush

The OECD has slammed Israel for not meeting its commitments to advance environmental regulation as it promised after joining the organization in 2010.

Specifically, Israel has not approved a law to make the bureaucratic process for receiving approval to build factories more efficient.

Following the reprimand, the Environmental Protection Ministry has now ramped up efforts to get the legislation passed. A dispute with industrialists has delayed the bill.

The problematic bill is called the Green Licensing Law. Currently, factories need to get separate permits for the amount of air pollution they expect to generate; for the use of poisonous materials; and for releasing waste into the sea. The original bill, whose details were circulated to other ministries and the Manufacturers Association of Israel, would streamline all these permits into one covering all environmental aspects.

The bill sparked a number of disputes with the Manufacturers Association, which have yet to be resolved. Industrialists opposed allowing additional authorities besides the Environmental Protection Ministry to be involved in the licensing process, which they claimed would make it more burdensome and complicated, despite the law’s intention to make the process more efficient.

They also demanded that factories be given the possibility of appealing the conditions for the unified permit that the ministry would set.

Other OECD countries have had quicker, more efficient regulations for approving factories for many years, and the organization considers them as vital. Israeli officials equally view membership in the organization as important, hence the speedy reaction to the OECD reprimand by Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, who is advancing preparation for a new version of the bill.

The ministry recently consulted with the European Union to improve environmental regulation in Israel and to help formulate a new version of its environmental licensing bill.

The ministry’s environmental policy division recently completed a report examining the repercussions of green licensing. According to the report, there are many parts of the ministry involved in giving permits to factories and they make many demands, including the need for reports, surveys and sampling.

Many factories say there is a lack of clarity regarding the demands, as well as basic uncertainty because of the need to renew different permits within short time frames.

The main bureaucratic burden falls on 400 large-scale factories that the ministry believes make a significant impact on the environment. There are also 8,000 smaller factories, some of which have only to meet some of the demands for permits.

According to the ministry’s report, the financial cost of dealing with environmental regulations – which requires hiring consultants and experts in various fields – is around 123 million shekels ($34.8 million). It estimated that moving over to the method of requiring just one unified permit could cut costs by almost a third.