New environment minister opposes coal plants in Ashkelon

Long active in green legislation, Erdan considered a natural for the post.

gilad erdan great 224 88 aj (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
gilad erdan great 224 88 aj
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimksi [file])
New Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) may work against the planned construction of coal-powered electricity plants to be built in the coastal city of Ashkelon. Born in the city, he has been vociferous in his objections to another coal-fired power plant set to be built there in the next five years. Erdan has even attended demonstrations against the coal plants, together with other activists. Since 2006, Erdan has received recognition both from the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (IUED) and was a co-recipient of a Green Globe Award in 2008 from Life and Environment, the umbrella organization of environmental organizations in Israel, for his green legislation. He has also been active fighting air pollution, and crafted a bill which would mandate automobile manufacturers to publish emissions information for potential customers to see. He has also promoted bicycle riding by passing a helmet law and by proposing a bill, along with Gideon Sa'ar (Likud), to require local authorities to build bike paths next to all new roads that are created, among other environmental bills. Erdan will try and inject some young blood into the ministry as he tries to effect a "green revolution." Erdan, who turns 39 this year, is 33 years younger than his predecessor, Gideon Ezra (Kadima). As he told The Jerusalem Post in 2006, ""I am focusing now on issues of quality of life, like traffic accidents, anti-smoking, consumerism and the environment, because people my age are more aware and concerned about them." A lawyer by profession, Erdan has spent most of his working life in government service of one form or another. A Knesset member since 2003, he was a member of the environmental lobby in the 16th Knesset and a member of the Social-Environmental Lobby in the 17th. Social-Environmental Lobby Co-Chair and the premier environmental legislator in the Knesset MK Dov Henin (Hadash) called Erdan "a partner for cooperation" and told the Post Erdan had always expressed interest in environmental issues. Erdan will replace Ezra as minister on Thursday morning. Ido Greenberg, Erdan's former aide at the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee who specialized in environmental issues, told the Post the MK had used his chairmanship of the committee to raise important environmental issues like water and energy. "We learned the whole issue of alternative energy. We studied what regulations were in place in several countries as well as all the different alternative energy options: solar, wind, thermal-solar, pumped storage. We also examined pollution issues and desalination," Greenberg, who now runs the Solar Green Sun (SGS) company, said. Greenberg also said that Erdan was someone who knew how to get things done. He has received general recognition for the quantity and quality of the bills he has proposed, many having to do with public transportation, traffic accidents and smoking. Greenberg said he had offered some specific advice to Erdan, with whom he remains close. "The ministry is problematic. Its tasks are of the utmost importance, but its budget is miniscule. Gilad will have to take rapid decisions, increase the budget, push forward and put plans into action. He should focus on a small number of issues and then push forward with them. If you try to tackle all the environmental issues, then you'll just get bogged down," he suggested. Henin said the minister's main task was to fight against economic interests. "He should first take a good wide look at all of the environmental problems. Then he should know how to say 'no' to economic interests. If he figures out how to work with the environmental movement in Israel and with the MKs, then he could advance significant change," he said. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI), Israel's oldest environmental organization, urged Erdan to work closely with environmental NGOs. Ezra had had several run-ins with the organizations during his three year tenure as minister. "A lot of important environmental issues will be put on the new minister's table, and many special interests will attempt to influence him to promote this or that agenda. Our advice to the minister is: Before you make any significant and fateful decisions, meet with as many different sources as you can, listen to as many different opinions as you can, including, of course, those of the environmental organizations, and only afterwards decide for yourself what your priorities are and what to invest in. "See us, the environmental organizations, as partners along the way and for action, even if sometimes that means criticism and disagreements. Hear our voices, even if it makes taking decisions harder. Work with us, even if it sometimes complicates and hinders the process. At the end of the day, it is only through cooperative efforts that we will provide a solution which is greater than the sum of its parts," the organization said in response to a Post query.