Israel reaffirms its commitment to Paris Agreement

"The decision made by the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement will not lead us to withdraw from it as well," Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin said.

The annual climate change march taking place on Friday in Tel Aviv (photo credit: RAANAN COHEN)
The annual climate change march taking place on Friday in Tel Aviv
(photo credit: RAANAN COHEN)
Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin said that Israel is committed to the Paris Agreement and to fight climate change, in spite of the US decision to withdraw from the treaty.
"The decision made by the United States to withdraw from the Paris Agreement will not lead us to withdraw from it as well," Elkin said in a statement. "The State of Israel attaches great importance to dealing with the climate crisis and plans to meet our commitments."
"In recent years, we have worked to reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, thanks to the transition from coal and other polluting fuels to natural gas, and are en route to renewable energy use and energy storage," he added.
The Trump administration announced on Monday that it filed paperwork to withdraw the country from the agreement, marking the first formal step in a year-long process to exit the pact.
Once it does, the United States - the top historic greenhouse gas emitter and leading oil and gas producer - will become the only country outside the accord.
The move is part of a broader strategy by US President Donald Trump to reduce red tape on American industry, but comes at a time when scientists and many world governments urge rapid action to avoid the worst impacts of global warming.
Following the US announcement, China and France issued a joint statement reaffirming their support for the agreement, saying they consider it an "irreversible process."
The current Israeli government is very close to the Trump administration, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu often boasting his excellent relationship with the president. 
In the statement, Elkin reaffirmed Israel's trust in the value of the agreement, pointing out that it also offers the country significant economic opportunities, "to transform Israel into a power of environmental technologies."
"The Paris Agreement creates a golden opportunity for Israeli technologies to enter the global cleantech market and transform the global technology market," he said, adding that the country has invested tens of millions of shekels in the development of environmental technologies and has reached important agreements with China in the field.
Elkin also highlighted what Israel has been doing to tackle the issues of air pollution and polluting fuels.
"In recent years, we have passed a dramatic government decision, in collaboration with the Energy Ministry, aimed at reducing the use of the most polluting fuel for electricity generation – coal – along with a historic decision to shut down coal-fired units 1-4 in the Orot Rabin power station," he said.
"For a complete cessation of coal use over the next decade – as well as a significant increase in electricity generation targets from renewable energy and a green and energy-rescheduling bill nationwide, in addition to reducing greenhouse gases  we have passed another dedicated government decision to help Israel deal with climate change, which will have economic and security implications," Elkin added.
According to a report published by the Energy Ministry in October, routine emissions, excluding landfill fires but including offshore gas production operations, decreased by 4% in 2018, and have dropped by a total of 8% since 2012. Without offshore gas production, however, routine emissions have decreased by some 46% since 2012.
The report added that emissions of suspected or recognized carcinogenic substances in Israel increased by 28% in 2018 due to the burning of landfill waste.
Reuters and Eytan Halon contributed to this report.