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If Israel continues business as usual, it will double its emissions by 2030 from 71 million tons of carbon dioxide to 142, according to an analysis prepared by the international consulting company McKinsey & Company and presented to Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.
However, Israel can reduce that increase to around 30 percent by implementing certain technologies and using more natural gas and alternative energies in place of coal and oil, according to McKinsey.
The interministerial committee of directors-general established to develop a national plan to reduce emissions commissioned McKinsey to examine Israel's energy use and determine where it could cut emissions. McKinsey has developed a methodology that it has applied in 21 countries all over the world, including in the US, China, India, the UK and Australia. McKinsey's analysis will form the basis of the national plan.
While slowing the increase would involve heavy investment in the short-term, in the long-term the savings would more than balance the initial investment, thus making the whole process economically viable, according to the analysis.
It will be hard for Israel to reduce its emissions because of a higher than average (for developed countries) population growth and an increasing standard of living. Both lead toward more demand for electricity, which in turns leads to more greenhouse gas emissions, according to McKinsey.
Israel has a unique status somewhere between the developing and the developed countries in terms of population and economic growth. Tons of emissions per person per year in Israel come out to 10.2, which is slightly higher than in Western Europe and about half as much as in the US.
Fifty-five percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Israel are generated by the production of electricity, 18% from transportation, 10% from garbage and less than 5% each from a variety of industries such as agriculture, cement and buildings.
According to McKinsey's analysis, however, about a two-thirds reduction in that 100% projected growth can be achieved through implementation of various technologies and by changing the fuel basket, without forcing Israelis to change any of their behaviors. Adding in some behavioral changes adds another 5%, for a 70% total reduction. Instead of doubling emissions to 142 million tons by 2030, emissions would rise another 19-26 million tons, to 91-97 million tons.
Much of the reduction in growth of emissions can be brought about through several specific changes, McKinsey said. In order of reduction potential they are:
â€¢ Using more solar thermal and photovoltaic solar energy (to produce 25% of electricity).
â€¢ Making internal combustion cars more efficient.
â€¢ Green building.
â€¢ Efficient lighting - CFL (Compact fluorescent lamp), LED (Light emitting diode).
â€¢ Renovating homes.
â€¢ Switching the fuel basket away from coal and oil to natural gas and biomass.
â€¢ Creating electricity from garbage.
â€¢ Switching to electric cars.
â€¢ Using wind turbines to generate electricity.
Implementing all of those steps would reduce emissions by 29.4 million tons of carbon dioxide.
Behavioral changes like reducing electricity use, turning thermostats on air conditioners 2 degrees higher, using more public transportation, eating 20% less meat, using 15% less water and 15% less concrete in building would reduce emissions by another 7 million tons, McKinsey estimated.
Shifting to electricity production from nuclear power could bring about even greater reductions in greenhouse gases, according to the report, but Israel has no plans to do so.
Even a goal of 25% of electricity produced from renewables by 2030 is far higher than the government is currently aiming. The cabinet has set a goal of 10% by 2020.
Erdan acknowledged that 25% was an ambitious goal, speaking at the press conference that accompanied the presentation of the McKinsey report.
"I asked them to run the scenarios again and again. Each time they came back and said that in terms of cost and available land, it was an achievable goal," he said at the ministry's Tel Aviv office.
Erdan added that he sought out McKinsey even though they were "10 times more expensive than an Israeli company" because "McKinsey and the UN speak the same language. The UN relies on the McKinsey analyses."
Greenpeace commended McKinsey and Erdan for pushing for more energy from renewables. A Greenpeace report from earlier this year recommended a similar number.
Israel was limited in its potential for emission reductions because of a lack of nuclear, hydroelectric, and biomass power as well as a lack of carbon capture and storage technology. In addition, the Palestinian Authority's emissions also counted against Israel, adding another 6%, or 8 million tons. Also, Israel lacked a heavy industry, which has reduction potential.
Reducing emissions would have several benefits for Israel, McKinsey's analysts pointed out. Turning to more alternative energy would reduce Israel's dependence on foreign countries for fuel. Reducing that reliance would insulate Israel better from the price shocks that occasionally occurred in the fuel markets.
Israel could also become a world leader in clean technologies, which could generate huge revenues. Embarking on such a process would also help Israel join the developed countries and specifically in its bid to join the OECD. Erdan has been adamant that it is in Israel's best interest to be considered a developed country rather than a developing one.
Last but not least, technologies to reduce greenhouse gases reduced pollution as well, improving the health of the country's citizens.