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Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) and ministry director-general Yossi Inbar attended an urgent UN summit on climate change in New York on Tuesday to present Israel's commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
Erdan joined 100 other officials at the summit, including US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao.
While it was too early to present a serious recommendation for how Israel planned to reduce its emissions, Erdan was expected to reiterate the country's commitment to the process and discuss the steps that have been taken so far, the ministry's acting director of international relations, Ayelet Rosen, told The Jerusalem Post.
Erdan was to address the emergency summit called by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon to move things forward ahead of the summit in Copenhagen in December at which a successor protocol to the Kyoto Protocol is set to be worked out. Continuing differences between developed and developing countries have put the success of the talks in doubt.
Israel has not yet developed a strategy to reduce emissions, but the McKinsey & Company management consulting firm is expected to finish its study that will form the basis for the strategy in the next month or so. An interministerial committee has already been formed to examine the report and formulate policy.
"I believe that Israel - as a developed country with a strong and robust economy - should take strong measures to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions," Erdan was to say, according to an advance copy of his speech obtained by the Post. Referring to Israel as a developed country represented a departure from previous policies, but was in line with Erdan's belief that it was in the country's best interest to claim that status.
"Israel regards itself as a full and active partner in global efforts to promote a low carbon economy as part of our efforts to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. We are taking steps in order to reach ambitious reduction standards by improving the efficiency and conservation of energy systems, including green building, promoting the use of natural gas, giving higher priority to renewable energy sources (with an emphasis on solar energy), and introducing clean coal technologies," according to the speech.
Rosen said that Erdan planned to offer Israel as a "knowledge center" for climate change adaptation technologies.
"Against the backdrop of these [hot and dry] conditions, Israel is renowned for its expertise in afforestation, highly efficient water use - such as controlled drip irrigation systems and wastewater re-use - sophisticated agriculture, and innovative approaches to prevent and combat desertification. As such, Israel is prepared to serve as a regional laboratory and center of excellence to prepare for, and adapt to changing climatic conditions," Erdan was expected to tell the gathering.
"Israel intends to be an active partner in future agreements on technology transfer and capacity building programs in this regard in order to minimize the costs associated with global climate changes," the minister was to say.
"We are at the forefront of adaptation solutions and this is what Israel can offer at Copenhagen. It, of course, does not excuse our mitigating needs," Rosen added.
"I believe that the world must establish financial incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well as determine the price associated with such pollution. While the cost of such pollution will be large, the price of inaction will be even larger," Erdan was to say. "Protecting our planet from the ravages of climate change requires concerted efforts and mutual assistance. Israel stands willing and able to shoulder its responsibilities to the best of its ability together with members of the global community."
Erdan and Inbar will also be lobbying on the sidelines to enter the Environmental Integrity Group - a negotiating group for the Copenhagen talks.
"That particular group seems to best match Israel's needs," Rosen said. Countries in the group include South Korea and Mexico, which, like Israel, are non-Annex I countries under the Kyoto Protocol.
Erdan was in New York to keep abreast of the negotiations because they will likely have a big impact on Israel when they go into effect in 2012, as the country tries to shift its status from developing to developed, Rosen said. Erdan was also set to meet with officials from the US Environmental Protection Agency and with Achim Steiner, head of the UN Environmental Program.
At the summit, China laid down a significant plan for curbing greenhouse gases, outlining ambitious goals of planting enough forest to cover an area the size of Norway and generating 15 percent of China's energy needs from renewable sources within a decade.
Experts were watching the Chinese closely because their government has in the past largely ignored global efforts to diminish emissions. The goals Hu outlined were held in contrast to the situation in the US, where the Senate has yet to take up climate legislation and likely will not have produced a new law by the time world leaders gather in December.
Much attention also was fixed on Obama's first UN speech, in which he said the US is "determined to act."
"The threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing," Obama said, after receiving loud applause. "And the time we have to reverse this tide is running out."