Dozens of climate activists are expected to turn out in front of the Prime Minister’s Office on Sunday to protest a climate bill they describe as “shameful," that would “allow the government to continue promoting destructive measures” and worsen the climate change situation in Israel.
The protest will occur in Jerusalem while the Ministerial Committee on Legislation discusses the climate bill. It is being arranged by several environmental groups – including Strike for Future Israel, Migama Yeruka, Zalul, Green Peace, Israel Association for Public Health Physicians and the Sayyid Al-Harumi Initiative.
“We are at a critical moment in the fight to stop the climate crisis,” the organizations said in their announcements.The protest follows a letter that was sent by the activists to the prime minister and other legislators highlighting the significance of passing a climate law as an “urgent step to fulfill Israel’s part in the global fight against the climate crisis” that would “speed up the state’s preparation for the era of climate change that Israel is already suffering from today” and create “a framework for action to deal with the climate crisis.”
However, the activists have said that the bill’s current version needs to be revised, as it will not do enough to protect the country’s citizens today nor ensure a prosperous and safe future for the younger generation.
A first draft of the climate bill was submitted over two years ago, explained Yardena Israeli, Strike for Future Israel youth movement leader. She said the process of passing legislation should be shorter, and the situation is worsening.
A report released last month by the OECD showed that Israel is not on track to reach its climate ambitions due to “patchwork” and outdated laws and regulations. The country has set an overall aim of carbon neutrality by 2050, including reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in the electricity, solid waste, transport and industry areas – and 85% overall. However, the OECD’s Environmental Performance Review (EPR) of Israel said Israel would need to introduce additional measures across all sectors to achieve its goals.
“We are in a terrible place, and the bottom line is that this harms people,” Israeli said. “The world is going in another direction, and we are staying behind.”
She said that a climate law is meant to formalize Israel’s management of the climate process. As such, the law must be meaningful and enforceable and not just a rubber stamp that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can present at the United Nations’ COP 28 environmental conference in the fall.
“We are not saying don’t pass a climate law,” Israeli stressed. “We want the country to pass an effective law.”
Israeli and her colleagues have highlighted several challenges in the bill, including its call for a 30% reduction in GHG emissions by 2030 – 3% more than Israel committed to as part of the Paris Agreement but much less than the 45%-55% reductions being committed to by other Western countries such as the United States.
Moreover, the coalition agreements signed required a 50% reduction in Israel. And finally, according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to limit global warming to the threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius, the countries in the world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 by about 45%.
Seeing the result of climate change in Israel
ISRAEL IS ALREADY seeing the results of climate change, Israeli noted, and scientists have said the Mediterranean region is expected to experience climate change impact more than the world average.
Despite being a small country, Israel’s GHG emissions are equivalent to the emissions of a medium-sized country.
The activists are also pushing for a carbon tax law, in line with the one being imposed in the European Union, that would tax emissions not only on products being made in Israel but on imported goods for greenhouse gas emissions emitted in the production process – if such a tax was not already imposed on them by their country of origin.
In addition, the activists say that the obligations in the climate law must be binding and the government should not be allowed to change them at any time “in accordance with the national circumstances of Israel,” as the bill currently stipulates.
Finally, Israeli highlighted that the bill lacks a climate review mechanism to ensure that the government’s decisions do not contradict the climate law.
According to the current bill’s wording, a government decision will determine the review’s format and scope one year after the law enters into force. However, the climate review mechanism must be established as soon as possible, Israeli said, at most a month to two months after the law’s approval, and set clear instructions regarding the type of plans required in the review.
In addition to the planned protest, the activists are sending WhatsApp messages to elected officials demanding the promotion of an ambitious climate law.
A separate climate protest is already planned for June 18 in Haifa.
In contrast, energy activists have pushed back against passing too strong a climate bill, noting that the climate bill in its present form “may harm Israel’s ability to grow and ensure energy security,” wrote Yossi Aryeh of the Israeli Institute of Energy and Environment in a recent column in Calcalist. He accused the authors of the climate bill of “acting unilaterally without looking at the full picture.”
Aryeh said Israel lacks the technological infrastructure to meet the goals set in the bill without the economy shrinking significantly.
“Newspaper headlines today talk about electricity storage, but the rate of assimilation of technologies and infrastructure for production, transmission, and storage of alternative energies is low and not adequately budgeted by the state,” he wrote.
Israeli said she disagreed and the country must take immediate and effective action.
“The climate crisis is not going anywhere,” she stressed. “We are losing precious time in the fight against one of the biggest threats to our future in the country and the world.”