Insufficient planning, observing and monitoring are how a new state comptroller report released Sunday described Israel's treatment of greenhouse gas emissions. The report was released on the eve of the 10-day UN-sponsored climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, slated to bring together 190 countries and over 10,000 people.
Israel will be sending an 80-person delegation, half from government agencies and half from the Knesset and NGOs. Though the conference is starting on Monday, there was no word late Sunday whether Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu would be leading the delegation to Copenhagen.
Sources said he was interested in arriving for the second week of the negotiations to deliver a speech, but there were still several logistical and other issues to work out.
Such issues reportedly included finding a reasonably-priced hotel room at this late date and whether to attend if representatives of Iran were also in attendance.
Turning back to the new report, the comptroller found that the Israel Meteorological Service lacked the basic manpower to conduct climate research and even a suitable computer on which it could run climate forecasting models.
IMS staffers found it difficult to maintain all of their meteorological stations and to verify historical data sufficiently, the comptroller wrote.
Similarly, while the Central Bureau of Statistics has taken it upon itself to monitor greenhouse gas emissions in Israel since 2005, there are no regulations laying out the guidelines for such monitoring.
The report urged the government to put in place such regulations, which would be used in conjunction with the national plan to reduce emissions.
In its most damaging finding, the comptroller's report pointed to the absence of a national plan to reduce emissions. They noted that although the Environmental Protection Ministry has been commissioning studies to examine greenhouse gas emissions since 2000, as of July 2009, there was no national plan to curb emissions approved by the government nor was the professional infrastructure in place to create such a plan.
In November, the Environmental Protection Ministry, however, notified the comptroller's office that they had completed putting in place the professional infrastructure and had readied a policy and goals.
However, that policy has yet to be brought to the government for discussion, let alone approval. As it stands now, there seems to be little agreement between ministries as to what the goals of the program should be.
Life and Environment is the umbrella organization for environmental organizations in Israel. Its head, Naor Yerushalmi, caustically remarked to The Jerusalem Post on Sunday, "there's no policy, there hasn't been a single government discussion of a policy and after Netanyahu convinced President Shimon Peres not to go to Copenhagen, now his office seems to be finding all sorts of excuses why Netanyahu can't go himself."
Yerushalmi pointed to three concrete policy steps which stand in contradiction to an emissions reduction policy.
"The National Infrastructures Ministry is still pushing for another coal-fired power plant, the Transportation Ministry is still building many more new roads instead of focusing on public transportation and the Construction and Housing Ministry is holding up the green building standard," he said.
"Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan has been pushing hard, but he doesn't have the authority on these issues," Yerushalmi added.
The negotiations are an attempt to work out an agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on emissions reductions, which ends in 2012. While many of the big issues remain unresolved, casting doubt on the emergence of a completed deal by the end of the conference on December 18, several of the major world leaders will be attending the negotiations, including the leaders of the US and China, two pivotal players.
Funding for mitigation and adaptation technologies in the developing world is a major source of conflict. Developing countries argue that the developed countries should be funding technology implementation since global warming so far is largely their fault, while developed countries are not willing to shoulder the massive amounts deemed necessary.
Some estimates indicate that 1% of annual world GDP must be invested in mitigation and adaptation for years to come.
Israel would like to situate itself as a technology center for such adaptation technologies - relying on its expertise in water, solar and other technologies. Regarding emissions, it is unlikely Israel will be tasked with specific reduction goals. Instead, it will have to prepare a national plan to reduce emissions.
Nevertheless, Erdan has been strongly advocating that Israel accept upon itself reduction goals to ensure its international status and avoid potential boycotts that might be declared against noncompliant countries.