'Natural gas supplies not enough to lower pollution'

Peretz: Elimination of greenhouse gas reduction program "lacks economic, social considerations."

June 4, 2013 22:24
3 minute read.
Smoke cloud drifts over Pisgat Ze'ev.

311_smoke cloud . (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz declared on Tuesday that the elimination of the greenhouse gas reduction program in the country’s recent budget cuts “lacks any economic and social considerations.”

Peretz was addressing a discussion on the freeze of the greenhouse gas reduction program at a meeting of the Knesset’s Internal Affairs and Environment Committee – one of more than a dozen environmental sessions that took place on Tuesday in honor of Knesset Environment Day.

Peretz slammed Finance Minister Yair Lapid for claiming that the introduction of natural gas supplies to Israel would be sufficient toward decreasing pollution levels.

“This argument is simply not true,” Peretz said. “Morbidity that is caused by air pollution has a heavy economic price. It cannot be that a plan budgeted for 10 years with the international commitment of the president of the country and with social and economic goals can just be deleted.”

Such a decision by the country, which committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020, “would severely undermine the credibility of Israel,” according to Peretz.

Through the greenhouse gas reduction program, the Environment Ministry was able to give NIS 106 million worth of support to 208 projects, which are expected to lead to the reduction of 450,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually by 2020, according to the ministry.

This is equivalent to the electricity consumption of a city the size of Herzliya.

Meanwhile, businesses and authorities making use of upgraded, less polluting systems, will enjoy an annual total savings of about NIS 100 million, ministry data said.

“Were it not for these grants, many authorities would be weakened, and they would not have entered into procedures for energy efficiency and pollution reduction,” said MK Miri Regev (Likud Beytenu), chairwoman of the Internal Affairs and Environment Committee.

Eitan Parness, CEO of the Israel Renewable Energy Association, stressed that the companies benefiting from such grants will be brought down by the end of the program.

Parness likewise addressed an Economic Affairs Committee session on renewable energy that morning, during which he submitted a comprehensive report on Israel’s renewable situation. Emphasizing the urgency of approving further solar energy production quotas, he lamented the fact that Israel will not likely meet its target for renewable energy electricity generation by 2020.

“The calculations that the Treasury does are incorrect and do not take into account the prices of gas infrastructure and the prices of air pollution paid by children who grow up near power stations in the periphery,” Parness said.

Along these lines, the Children’s Rights Committee likewise took a stand on an issue of emissions and breathing clean air on Tuesday, assessing the impact that various environment hazards have on children.

Committee chairwoman MK Orly Levy-Abecassis (Likud Beytenu) called for an amendment to the law that prohibits smoking in public places to include kindergartens, and asked the Education Ministry to map out potential asbestos hazards at educational institutions throughout the country.

In addition, Levy-Abecassis asked that the Environmental Protection Ministry and local authorities restrict the distribution of building permits near schools, as particles generated by the construction can affect the health of students.

The Environment Ministry, the Health Ministry and the Education Ministry must all come together to enforce monitoring of radiation levels at all educational institutions, Levy-Abecassis added.

“Children face greater harm than adults because they are in the process of development,” said MK Dov Henin (Hadash).

Representatives from Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) presented a report at this session, demonstrating that Israel lacks proper legislation for addressing environmental risks at educational institutions as well as the necessary data relevant to children found within these institutions.

Israeli students suffer from a series of environmental hazards, including odor, noise, air pollution, dust, smoke and radiation exposure, according to Dafna Shalev, the manager of Adam Teva V’Din’s Green Center.

“The fact that a child studies at a particular educational institution... requires authorities to make sure that appropriate conditions are in place in all respects, including exposure to environmental hazards,” Shalev said.

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