Environmental NGOs urge government to get its act together on climate change

"Climate change will affect us drastically if not prevented," Coalition Coordinator Sagit Porat tells 'Post.'

greenpeace ashkelon 248 88 ap (photo credit: )
greenpeace ashkelon 248 88 ap
(photo credit: )
A coalition of Israeli environmental organizations has called on the country to bring itself in line with worldwide efforts to prepare for global warming, in a new report released for publication on Sunday. The "Paths to Sustainability" coalition of 28 organizations, including all of the prominent ones - organized by Life and Environment, the green NGO umbrella organization - laid out several points arguing that the climate crisis represented both a risk and an opportunity for Israel. While the Environmental Protection Ministry has begun evaluating the effects of and necessary steps to prepare for climate change, those efforts are too meager and must be accelerated immediately, the coalition's new annual report charged. Each chapter of the document was written by a different expert from the relevant environmental organizations. "Given the changes around the world, and particularly the US, it is time for Israel to align itself with the international standards, and not the opposite. It is the job right now of the environmental organizations to pressure the government to develop a climate change policy. Such a policy would be in Israel's interest because climate change will hit the Middle East hard and because it represents an opportunity," Life and Environment CEO Alona Sheafer (Karo) told The Jerusalem Post Sunday. The report lays out seven specific areas in which Israel should act while calling for a national policy plan. Because Israel will likely have to abide by the post-Kyoto Protocol initiative currently under way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the fees and penalties involved in going above the country's cap would likely be exceedingly high, the authors argued. They estimated that fees and fines could be in the billions of shekels per year. Moreover, if Israel continued to rise in its emissions levels, its international trade status could be gravely affected. Attempts to join the OECD, and the country's relationship with the WTO, could be undermined, the authors theorized. At the same time, the report noted that current economic theory in the face of the global economic crisis urged investment in green infrastructure as a way out of the crisis. Israel, therefore, is uniquely poised to become a world leader because of its advances in green and clean technology, the report posited. Coalition Coordinator Sagit Porat told the Post that the government's narrow approach to policy formation had to stop. "Because Israel was not obligated under the Kyoto Protocol, Israel's government has taken a low-profile approach to climate change. That has to end. Climate change will affect us drastically if not prevented, and if we do not act, then we will be hit hard in many areas," she said. The coalition was formed following the Johannesburg Summit in 2002 and has been coordinating Israel's NGO efforts since then. The report recommended several specific proposals. To reduce emissions, the energy, industrial and transportation sectors must be altered. Since 60% of Israeli emissions come from the production of electricity, energy use must be made as efficient as possible and derived more from renewable energy, according to the report. Twenty percent of emissions come from transportation, and the report urged smarter management of the country's roads to reduce congestion and mileage. The authors also called for more public transportation to reduce private vehicle use. Industry, responsible for 8%-10% of emissions, has been hit hard by the financial crisis, and now is the time to help it make long-term investments in sustainability, the report said. Proper government policy - including legislation, regulation, taxation, grants, subsidies, information dissemination and standard definitions - was needed. This could be turned from a challenge into an opportunity, the report noted. Landfills account for another 11% of emissions. A policy of composting organic waste and treating packaging could reduce emissions considerably. With 4 million tons of waste produced in Israel per year, those two elements would reduce waste by 1 million to 2 million tons. The report also advocated green building as a major energy efficiency measure. Thirty percent to 50% of all emissions are produced throughout the lifetime of a building, from construction to demolition. In addition, the report noted the importance of open spaces and securing the water economy. It called for an end to agricultural subsidies for water and for 95% of waste water to be treated to the "Inbar" (highest) standard for agricultural use.