New unofficial draft proposals under negotiation at the climate-change talks in Copenhagen would require Israel to reduce 15 percent to 30% of its emissions from a "business-as-usual" scenario by 2020, Environmental Protection Ministry Air Quality and Climate Change Branch head Shuli Nezer told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday night from Copenhagen.
But rather than attempt to whittle down Israel's requirement to as little as possible, the ministry representatives are actually pushing for a requirement that is closer to 30%, rather than 15%, she said.
"The challenge now is to convince the government that a 30% cut is actually good for the country's economy and its environment," she said.
The two draft documents are the product of negotiations thus far at the UN-sponsored talks. They will continue to be adjusted and renegotiated at least until Wednesday when three days of high-level discussions begin.
Right now, according to Nezer, the documents call for a 15% to 30% reduction in emissions growth for developing countries as compared to doing nothing to curb emissions - known as "business as usual."
By contrast, developed countries would have higher reduction goals, which would be compared to a baseline year, as opposed to business as usual.
"The problem with the documents is that there is still no definition of what a developed country is and what a developing one is," Nezer told the Post.
Prior to the start of talks, the Israeli assessment was that Israel would not be able to change its status from developing to developed at the talks, though Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan has been pushing the move for some time.
He has argued that it would be beneficial to the country's economy to be considered a developed country, and it would bode well for its attempts to join the OECD.
There has still been no concrete indication that Israel will be moved from the developing country list to the developed country list. However, Nezer said that during their informal talks with other developing countries it was becoming clear that Israel was expected to adopt a goal closer to the 30% mark than the 15% one.
Those numbers should not be that daunting for the government, however.
Erdan recently commissioned international consulting company McKinsey & Co. to assess Israel's reduction potential. They concluded that while Israel could not reduce its emissions levels relative to 2000, it could prevent 70% of the emissions growth if "business as usual" continued. The numbers being talked about at Copenhagen are less than half that.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu acceded to Erdan's request to create a ministerial committee to promote alternative energy on Sunday during the weekly cabinet meeting. Ministers whose ministry has some bearing on the topic will join the committee.
Erdan noted that while it was his responsibility to draft a national plan to curb emissions, much of the relevant emissions-producing activities were outside the purview of his ministry and thus a ministerial committee was necessary.
Alternative energy is one significant way to reduce emissions, because it would lower reliance on fossil fuels. Electricity production, which is the responsibility of the National Infrastructures Ministry, contributes more than half of Israel's emissions. Transportation contributes roughly another quarter, which is a matter for the Transportation Ministry.
Erdan also asked that a discussion of the national emissions reduction plan be scheduled next week after his return from Copenhagen.
Meanwhile, the cabinet on Sunday approved the "green government" proposal that was placed before it by the Environmental Protection Ministry, the Finance Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office.
The government decision sets goals for recycling paper and reducing water and energy use. In addition it lays out 68 ways government ministries can become more environmentally conscious and resource efficient.
"Forcing environmental concerns into the day-to-day activities of the ministries will lead to conservation of resources and less waste of taxpayer money," Erdan said in a statement, after the decision was approved.
"I think this decision provides an opening for changing the government's perception of environmental concerns, thus enabling it to become an example for the public and the business sector," he added.
The decision calls for each ministry to create an internal "green team" to survey each ministry's practices and then implement changes. It also demands an annual accounting by the ministry's ombudsman.