On Eve of Green Summit, Israel's Situation Is Black

Israel has not taken the basic steps necessary for dealing with climate change and lacks the professional capability to monitor the phenomenon, according to a state comptroller's report released yesterday ahead of the UN climate change conference opening today in Copenhagen. Also yesterday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved just two out of four bills that Israeli lawmakers are due to speak about at the event.

The report by State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss addressed the subject of greenhouse gas emissions in Israel. It states that the meteorological service which is charged with observing climate change is not equipped for long-term monitoring, due to a lack of professional manpower and problems involving maintenance of the country's network of meteorological centers.

Israel has also not formulated a national plan of action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to the report, which notes that local authorities have also not gathered sufficient data to inspect and oversee the sources of emission.

In the wake of the state comptroller's report, the Environmental Protection Ministry began to implement an operational plan, drafted by the international consulting firm McKinsey & Company, but its efforts have stalled.

The ministry response to the report was that since Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan took over, "he has determined that the issue [of dealing with climate control] is one of the ministry's five central goals, and quickly established a panel to implement a national plan for reducing greenhouse gases.

"Contact was also made with McKinsey, which in the past few weeks completed a plan for setting up an operational infrastructure. The minister has adopted McKinsey's recommendations and has asked the prime minister to hold an immediate meeting at which a national program for reducing greenhouse gases can be approved," the ministry noted.

"The fact cannot be ignored that several government ministries which have the authority to take important steps, including the National Infrastructure Ministry, have not accepted the position of the Environmental Protection Ministry and are effectively blocking authorization of the program," it added.

Meanwhile, there was some embarrassment here at home ahead of the Copenhagen summit, as the Ministerial Legislative Committee authorized just two of the four bills lawmakers had hoped to present in the Danish capital as examples of local "green" legislation.

The bills that were approved involve making energy consumption in public buildings more efficient, and encouraging public transportation. The two proposals still have to be debated further in the government, but represent progress in the environmental arena.

The energy bill calls for a number of measures to be taken in public buildings, including the installation of energy-saving light bulbs, mechanisms for turning off appliances and more. The legislation was originally drafted by National Infrastructure Ministry experts.

The second bill obliges the transportation minister to file an inclusive plan within a year for improving public transport, which will then be presented to the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee for monitoring every six months. The proposal stipulates creation of special traffic lines for buses, lowering of transit costs, improvement of cooperation between various transportation operators and reduction of air pollution.

MK Dov Khenin (Hadash), chair of the Knesset environmental-social lobby and one of the drafters of the bills, said public transportation must become the chosen mode of transport among the public. "For that to happen," he said, "it must be made more comfortable, faster and cheaper than a private car. The bill for encouraging public transportation will allow such a revolution to take place."

He added: "It contributes not only to Israel's integration into worldwide efforts to deal with the climate crisis, but also to the quality of life here."

The two bills which were not authorized related to renewable energy and green construction.

MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) commended the committee for approving the two proposals. "It's a step in the right direction," he said. "But unfortunately due to the rejection of the renewable energy bill, we're arriving in Copenhagen with our hands almost empty."

"This is a summit which will debate ways to prevent global warming, and the best way to do that is by reducing greenhouse gases and moving to renewable energy. Clear targets and measures for moving to green energy must be established," he added.