Israel is en route to becoming net zero by 2050 after the Ministerial Committee on Legislation passed the climate bill proposed by the Environmental Protection Ministry on Tuesday.
The bill still has to go to the Knesset for preliminary reading, then to a Knesset committee, and ultimately pass three readings in the committee and the plenum. Passing the bill by the coalition was delayed because of disagreements among the Finance, Energy, and Environmental Protection ministries.
"The climate bill is a bill that affects every one of us," said Environmental Protection Minister Idit Silman. "The bill… changes Israel's reality and positions the country alongside developed countries."
"The climate bill is a bill that affects every one of us. The bill… changes Israel's reality and positions the country alongside developed countries."Idit Silman
In addition to the 2050 goal, the bill stipulates that greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will be reduced by 30% compared to the amount measured in 2015.
Israel's greenhouse gas emissions are the highest since 2012
The urgency of the climate bill increased last week after the 2022 report by the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register was released. It showed that Israel had recorded its highest greenhouse gas emissions levels since 2012, exceeding the baseline established by the Paris Agreement in 2015 for the first time.
Furthermore, Israel anticipates sending a substantial delegation to the United Nations climate conference, COP28, scheduled in Dubai beginning November 30. The country aims to showcase its cutting-edge climate technology and align itself with fellow OECD nations committed to combating climate change. Israel is among the few developed nations lacking climate legislation.
However, the government has pledged to enact such a law ahead of COP28. The passing of the bill by the government on Tuesday is the first step.
Furthermore, a recent United Nations report has underscored the imperative of reducing emissions by 45% by 2030 and achieving net-zero emissions by 2050 to limit global warming to no more than 1.5°C. The three-month period of June through August this year was the warmest on record globally by a large margin.
In addition to the emissions targets, the bill calls for developing a national plan for achieving the targets and an adaptation plan for climate change based on the preparedness plans of all government ministries.
"The law sets clear goals, allows Israel to prepare for climate change, and will serve as an engine for economic growth beyond a coal-dependent economy and net zero emissions," Silman said. She added that it is an "important and significant step" toward passing a climate law and that she will work closely with the relevant professionals to ensure it is passed in the Knesset.
Silman added that the bill would serve as an engine for economic growth beyond a carbon-poor economy.
"It provides the necessary certainty for the economy and investors," she said.
Other aspects of the bill include advancing the preparedness for the impacts of climate change and the damages of climate change, establishing a "climate cabinet" headed by the prime minister and an interdisciplinary academic climate committee, and developing a climate risk assessment process.
Finally, a reporting and oversight mechanism will be established as part of the law. The government will report to the Knesset on compliance with the law's goals and the implementation of its provisions. This report will be made public.
Not all climate activists celebrated the passing of the bill, such as Yosef Abramowitz, who told The Jerusalem Post that “the proposed emasculated climate bill is an abdication of the government's responsibility to ensure that Israel and the world will be livable for our children.”
Abramowitz is co-chair of Shamsuna, a Jewish-Bedouin green energy NGO, and one of Israel's solar pioneers.
He added: “Israel, blessed with sunshine, is intoxicated by potential gas profits, even though solar in Israel is a fraction of the price of gas. We could easily reach 50% renewables by 2030 – the benchmark standard for the United States and European Union – by removing the cap on VAT on shared rooftop solar and enabling 5,000 MW of Bedouin solar fields. Yet there are no Bedouin representatives on the proposed climate bodies that will be making the policy recommendations. This proposed climate bill is a greenwash going into COP28 in Dubai that preserves a polluting and expensive gas monopoly for another generation, who will suffer the negative effects of the climate crisis.”
Similarly, Adam Teva V'Din released a statement in which it said that the bill was insufficient and represented the Environmental Protection Ministry’s pandering to the dictates of the Finance and Energy ministries and claimed that the ability to shift targets in the event of "national circumstances" meant that it could not be taken seriously.
"This legislation veers away from the national plan to reduce greenhouse gases and prioritizes industrial interests over the public interest in the face of the climate crisis," the organization said.