Delegation of Israeli NGO representatives to Cancun - Environment

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The delegation of Israeli NGO representatives to Cancun (from left): Adv. Dana Tabachnik, Dr. Hussein Tarabiye, Prof. David Mahalal


Balmy weather greeted the hundreds of delegations that arrived in Cancun Mexico on the first week of December for the United Nations Climate Change Conference. The Paths to Sustainability Coalition, run by Life & Environment and funded by HBS Israel, sent a delegation of three NGO representatives to participate in the conference. Their participation is part of an overall strategy of the coalition to engage decision makers and advance climate policy in Israel. The three representatives are Adv. Dana Tabachnik from the Israel Union for Environmental Defence (Adam, Teva V'Din), Dr. Hussein Tarabiye, Director of Naja and the City Association for the Beit Netofa Basin, and Prof. David Mahalal, Chairperson of Transportation Today and Tomorrow. Prior to departure, the three representatives participated in preparatory meetings with the official Israeli delegation. The Paths to Sustainability Coalition published a position paper in English and Hebrew (English text can alo be found below) critiquing Israel's climate policy thus far.

The delegations will continue their efforts to reach agreement on a binding document that will replace the Kyoto Protocol, due to expire in 2012. But expectations were very low going in to the Cancun conference with different sources saying that the chances of signing an agreement in Cancun were "non-existent" and "not relevant". This is due mainly to the large gaps that still remain between China and the United States, the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gas carbons. The Mexican government and its Foreign Minister, who heads the conference, is trying to lower expectations in an effort to not repeat the disappointment following the Copenhagen conference last year. The official delegations will divide into four working groups and will discuss creating a shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, financing and knowledge and technology transfer.

In another development, the Israeli government recently announced plans to invest 2.2 billion shekels over the next decade in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20% by the year 2020 (see Government press release from Nov.25, 2010, Hebrew). This unprecedented investment is a first step as part of Israel's commitment taken at the Copenhagen conference last year. It is particularly remarkable in light of the fact that Israel did not see the need for a climate policy at all just two years ago. Minister for the Protection of the Environment, Gilad Erdan, is pushing for additional budgets for the development of renewable energy in Israel and is calling on the government to cancel plans to establish a coal-based power plant in Ashkelon. The Sustainability Coalition responded with a press release applauding the decision, but warning that Israel must take additional significant steps in order to reach it's modest goal of a 20% reduction of business as usual by 2020. It suggests the need to address transportation issues, reduce the use of gasoline in electricity production, and stop the coal power plant in Ashkelon (see the Coalition's response press release, Hebrew).

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Position Paper by the Paths to Sustainability Coalition

Israeli NGOs call for an ambitious strategic climate policy


Israel and Climate Change: Situation Report:

*  The State of Israel is constantly increasing its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions, reaching up to 10 million tons of GHG per capita per year.
*  Official studies indicate that Israel will double its GHG emissions by 2030 in a business-as-usual scenario (BAU).
*  At COP15, Israel declared a target of 20% reduction of its GHG emissions from a BAU scenario, by 2020.
*  An implementation plan for GHG emissions reduction was recently approved by the government.
*  In the absence of a comprehensive climate policy, the Israeli government is still promoting contradictory measures, which would make any emission reduction target unachievable. Among these are:
- A plan to construct a new coal power plant that will increase CO2 emission levels by 10%, while dragging its feet on development of renewable energy sources;
- A massive oil shale extraction project in the south of Israel;
- Ongoing construction of new roads which will increase CO2 emissions significantly, instead of investing in mass-transport projects.

The Paths to Sustainability NGO Coalition Urges the Israeli Government:

* A reduction target of 20% from BAU is not ambitious enough. As an OECD member, Israel must set clear and substantial GHG emission reduction targets, on par with standards set by other developed countries. 
*  The new GHG reduction implementation plan as-is cannot achieve even the modest target set by the government.  It overlooks the main source of GHG emissions in Israel: electricity production, which is responsible for 60% of total emissions. Other major sources of GHG emissions, such as transportation and green building, are also not adequately treated.

The Paths to Sustainability Coalition urges the government of Israel to formulate a comprehensive and strategic climate policy that will allow Israel to affectively mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis, while seizing the opportunities of a low-carbon economy and its technological inventiveness.

Israel's environmental NGOs will provide substantial public support for the development and implementation of comprehensive climate policy measures, which will require commitment and political courage.