Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) presented the top five priorities for his ministry to the cabinet on Sunday. Erdan also made a pitch for boosting the economy by creating jobs and revenue through the cleantech sector.
Going "green" could bring in vast amounts of revenue and create significant jobs, Erdan told the cabinet.
Moreover, there are high costs involved in continuing to pollute once Israel is declared a developed nation. He pointed out that 70 of the 200 requirements for joining the OECD were environmental. He also pointed out that renewable energy creates jobs, and that Israel could become an international center for clean technology.
According to Erdan, the top five priorities are: turning waste from a plague into an economic resource; fighting air pollution; preparing for climate change; increasing enforcement; and environmental education.
The minister laid out plans to recycle half of all trash by 2015. To do that, he plans to pass a packaging law next year that would make the manufacturers responsible for the entire lifetime of their product, including the recycling of all of the packaging.
The public would have to begin separating types of garbage at the source into wet and dry types, to differentiate between organic and non-organic garbage. The ministry would also help municipalities create the necessary infrastructure.
The ministry was hard at work laying the groundwork for the Clean Air Act, which was passed last year and goes into effect in 2011. In essence, the whole way the ministry deals with air pollution has to be overhauled, so it is crafting a national plan to fight air pollution, with new standards, new permits and the training of new inspectors.
The ministry recently hired the McKinsey consulting company to prepare a report that will become the basis for a national plan to reduce emissions. According to that report, if Israel continues as it is going now, emissions will literally double by 2030.
To reduce them, Erdan is looking to increase energy efficiency and switch to more renewables. He gave examples of efficient lightbulbs and solar energy as two ways to reduce the country's emissions.
Erdan also made a pitch to consolidate all of the jurisdiction for green building under one roof. He showed a slide which demonstrated that particular issues relating to green building were split up among 12 different agencies or ministries.
Enforcement has been a continuous sore spot with the ministry. Procedures take too long and there aren't enough inspectors.
Erdan told the cabinet that the ministry had recently formulated a new enforcement policy which drastically reduces the procedural time in civil and criminal environmental cases. He also said they would move towards more fines and hold more CEOs personally responsible for environmental pollution.
Erdan presented the ministry's top five priorities to the Knesset in June and the only new priority to make it on was environmental education. The Environmental Protection Ministry and the Education Ministry have teamed up to train teachers to enable them to instruct on environmental subjects. They will also be developing syllabi for informal education as well, to target the next generation and bring about changed habits through them.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded positively to the presentation by saying, "The Environmental Protection Ministry has assumed top importance. We can find ourselves in a position of resolving the contradictions between our existential needs and our environmental ones.
"We have more of an interest than any other nation to promote solutions in these areas and specifically in alternative energy. If we can find solutions for water and energy problems, then we can bring about a big change."
Last week, Netanyahu called for energy independence for Israel within 10 years at the opening of the Tomorrow President's Conference.