Officials from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)
praised Israel’s environmental progress and offered suggestions for improvement
at a Tuesday gathering hosted by the Environmental Protection Ministry to
discuss the findings of the organization’s first Environmental Performance
Review for the country.
Recognizing Israel as a latecomer to the
environmental-protection field that bears both an increasingly dense population
and water scarcity, the report praises the country on the growth of its
clean-tech sector and its internationally competitive development of renewable
energy and water technologies.
While praising Israel for the use of green
taxes in this country, the report proposes more effective schemes of allotting
these taxes. Heavy criticisms fell on the government’s inefficient
implementation of much-needed environmental legislation and the fact that
Israel’s energy mix relies on more carbon-based sources than many other OECD
The report stresses, however, the importance of the
implementation of this year’s implementation of the Clean Air Law as a future
means of reducing levels of greenhouse-gas emissions.
“I hope that this
Environmental Performance Review provides such a helpful and stimulating
influence to Israel,” said OECD Deputy Secretary- General Rintaro
Tamaki, who was also present at the Tuesday conference in Tel
Aviv, had officially presented the review to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu
and Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan the night before. Israel
became a member of the OECD on September 7, 2010.
Outside the framework
of the report, Tamaki was particularly congratulatory about Israel’s recent
October 23 cabinet decision to formulate a framework for green economic growth
in the next decade.
“The OECD stands ready to support Israel as it
develops its green-growth plan,” Tamaki said.
Erdan, who had pushed for
the institution of such a plan, expressed particular satisfaction that the
country is looking to rework its economic strategies in a way that takes into
account environmental issues.
“I’m very proud that Israel is one of the
first countries that has an official recommendation to stop measuring only
economic growth and now develop new mechanisms that will give you a new picture
of citizens’ lives,” he said.
Israel had first become committed to the
issue by signing a OECD Declaration on Green Growth – along with all 30
then-members and three other then non-members – in June 2009.
In order to
transition to a green-growth framework, Israel must focus on creating an
“absolute decoupling of environmental pollution and economic growth,” according
to Tamaki. However, the country has already started to do so, he explained,
pointing out that the GDP went up between the years 2000 and 2008, while nitrous
and sulfur-oxide emissions went down for that simultaneous
Meanwhile, although carbon- dioxide emissions increased during a
similar period, they increased at a lower rate than that of the GDP, he
According to data from the review, “people in Israel were
relatively unsatisfied,” something that a green-growth economy would work on
combating, according to Tamaki.
But Israel’s penchant for cleantech
development will continue to create economic opportunities within such a growth
structure, he said.
“Israel shows trends in patents for technologies with
direct or indirect climate mitigation potential. There is an upward trend for
renewable and none-fossil resources,” Tamaki added.
head of the Environmental Performance Division of the OECD’s Environment
Directorate, specifically thanked Erdan and his staff for being “really present”
throughout the review process and for allowing for a “very frank and free
exchanges of views.”
He meanwhile invited the ministry to come back to
the OECD and report what it has done with the 41 recommendations made for the
country – which consist of five measures toward green growth; five toward
environmental management; four toward international cooperation; five toward
water management; six toward bio-diversity; 10 toward climate change and air
quality; and six toward waste management.
Switching to a green-growth
economy will be a “challenge for Israel,” according to Gillespie, who
recommended making the most of synergies among economic, social and
“The progress you’ve made with green taxes is
commendable,” he said. “But nevertheless we think there is still scope to
redesign some of these environmental taxes.”
“The level of green taxes in
Israel is already quite high,” Gillespie continued. “Therefore, the scope for
increasing them more is not unlimited – it’s somewhat constrained.
why we think there are some things you can do to redesign the taxes to make them
more environmentally effective.”
One mode of redesign suggested by the
OECD was to “shift the taxes away from the vehicle purchase to fuel usage,”
While he noted that “Israel’s use of water is among
the most efficient in the world,” Gillespie said he thought Israel could benefit
from eventually having the agricultural and industrial sectors pay the full
costs of their water supplies.
As far as bio-diversity goes, the country
needs to prepare a comprehensive assessment of its ecosystem services, Gillespie
recommended. In the climate change arena, although Israel has taken positive
steps, its “energy supply remains more carbon intensive than the average in the
OECD,” he said.
Erdan agreed with this assessment, stressing the
importance of making a major shift to public transportation.
themselves say the quality of the air is poor,” he said. “After Russia, Israeli
citizens are least satisfied in the quality of air among OECD
Overall, however, the OECD was impressed by Israel’s progress
and hoped that the efforts toward a greener state would continue.
made some very important steps forward – you’re on a very good track and we
would encourage you to continue doing what you’re doing,” Gillespie added. “The
key thing is implementation.”
Erdan corroborated his opinion.
real test will be in implementation of these policies,” the minister said. “And
we have a lot of big cities that recycle their trash, but we have a lot of
smaller cities and settlements that haven’t reached this point.”