Cabinet to discuss 'green government' proposal

Cabinet to discuss gree

erdan 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
erdan 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The first item on the agenda for Sunday's cabinet meeting is a proposal for "greening" the government. The proposal has been jointly supported by the Prime Minister's Office, the Treasury and the Environmental Protection Ministry. "The idea is to get everyone in government thinking about how they can be more sustainable in their work practices," Galit Cohen told The Jerusalem Post Thursday during a tour of the south with Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and his staff. Cohen heads the environmental policy department of the ministry. "We want to create green teams in every ministry, but they need to be comprised of members of the ministry. We don't want environmental practices to be some marginal thing that an inspector enforces. We want it to become second nature amongst government employees," she continued. Each minister's deputy director-general for administration would create and run its green team, while the ministry's internal ombudsman would report on progress to the Sustainability Committee of directors-general annually. "The other thing we want to do is create a market for environmental products, like recycled paper for instance. By switching government ministries over, we become a model for the public at large," she added. Under the proposal, ministries would avail themselves of the Environmental Protection Ministry and three outside consultants to figure out how to conserve resources. 2008-9 would be the baseline according to which savings would be calculated. If the proposal is approved, ministries would start to plot plans and gather information next month. The cost of the plan has been estimated at NIS 500,000 for 2010 and NIS 1 million for 2011. The potential savings would be much higher, however. If approved, the proposal would become a government decision which would be updated by the ministry as needed. It sets goals for reduction in water, energy, paper, cans and bottles, for starters, ranging from 2-16 percent depending upon how much the ministry uses. Goals of 25% recycled paper and 25% degradable disposable cups are also laid out. The proposal also lists 68 different ways ministries could "green" their practices according to topics. They include items such as smart driving to strengthen gas efficiency, replacing air conditioners which use Freon with those that don't. Collecting the water from those air conditioners to water plants, using more e-mail and less writing on paper in order to save paper and many other such practical and feasible suggestions have been included. One item which the proposal has so far steered clear of is encouraging government employees to give up their leased cars for public transportation incentives. "We broached the idea, but the Finance Ministry warned that it would be a major headache since leased cars are an integral part of salaries. We would have to negotiate with the Histadrut as well. So we put it aside for now in order not to get bogged down and we'll take it up again later down the road. Naturally, the decision can be amended as deemed necessary," Cohen told the Post.