15 cities pledge to cut greenhouse gases

Largest cities in Israel vow to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.

greenhouse pact 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
greenhouse pact 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Fifteen of the largest cities and towns in Israel signed an international environmental resolution in Tel Aviv on Wednesday pledging, among other things, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020. At the same time, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense said that a bill now under discussion to govern local authorities would reduce municipalities' authority to combat environmental damage. The union said that in several clauses dealing with green spaces, waste disposal and other issues, specific wording had been replaced with vague statements that would reduce municipalities' authority. The Forum of 15, a union of cities that, with one exception, do not receive the "balancing subsidies" provided by the state to economically weak municipalities, signed the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign Resolution, an initiative of the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives, in the presence of President Shimon Peres, the interior, transportation and environmental protection ministers and the head of the Knesset Internal Affairs and Environmental Committee. By signing the resolution, the cities joined more than 800 local governments worldwide. At the signing ceremony, Peres likened cities to people who smoke. "Air pollution in the big cities changes the face of society and seriously damages the residents' quality of life. As a man who smoked three packs a day most of his life and then quit and now feels much healthier, so too a city needs to stop smoking, and it is up to the mayors to lead by implementing strict standards that will lead to the reduction of air pollution," he said. Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra envisioned an effective system of enforcement against polluters. "I want to reach the stage where a citizen who sees a car polluting can complain to the police, the police will pass on the complaint to us, and we will take the car off the road. We are in favor of giving municipalities the authority in environmental issues and will do all we can to advance this praiseworthy issue," Ezra said. The International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives advises local governments on how to become the dominant player in environmental protection and clean-up, since cities are some of the biggest producers of greenhouse gases and other pollution. The Cities for Climate Protection Resolution sets out a specific process for cleaning up one's city. 1. Establish an inventory and forecast for key sources of greenhouse gases in the corporate (municipal) and community areas, and conduct a resilience assessment to determine the vulnerable areas based on expected changes in the climate. 2. Set targets for emissions reduction and identify relevant adaptation strategies. 3. Develop and adopt a short-to-long-term Local Action Plan to reduce emissions and improve community resilience, addressing strategies and actions for both mitigation and adaptation. 4. Implement the Local Action Plan and all the measures presented therein. 5. Monitor and report on greenhouse gases emissions and the implementation of actions and measures. The Forum of 15 has predicted that the entire process will take just under six years to implement. The strategy entails addressing areas of concern including: transportation and gas, green spaces, energy and building, and trash removal. Within each area, the municipalities have pledged to undertake specific initiatives such as planting gardens on roofs to reduce carbon dioxide, switching to cost-effective lighting in public buildings, recycling and encouraging alternative transportation strategies such as biking and walking. Forum head and Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo Ron Huldai said at the ceremony, "This is the beginning and now the real work begins. We are certain that the government of Israel will be recruited and join this joint effort by giving the authority to the big cities, which will enable us to realize this important vision." The Green Course NGO praised the signing of the Cities for Climate Protection Resolution but urged the forum "not to leave the fine words just on paper." They demanded concrete plans and actions, as soon as possible. Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee head Ophir Paz-Pines said he was interested in seeing "the center of the cities closed to traffic like they did in London." The Forum of 15 comprises: Ashdod, Givatayim, Herzliya, Hadera, Holon, Haifa, Kfar Saba, Netanya, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Ramat Gan, Ra'anana, Tel Aviv-Yafo and Beersheba (despite the fact that it receives balancing subsidies). Forty percent of Israelis live in the above cities and 70%-80% of the population conducts business there.