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Israel headed in the right direction on climate, environment minister says

Tamar Zandberg insists country can meet goal of carbon neutrality by 2050, defends new tax doubling price of disposable plasticware

Screen capture from video of Environment Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg at the COP21 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. (Channel 13 News)
Screen capture from video of Environment Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg at the COP21 global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, November 1, 2021. (Channel 13 News)

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg expressed confidence that Israel is heading in the right direction on climate issues and that the country can reach its goal of carbon-neutrality by 2050.

Speaking from the COP26 United Nations global climate summit in Glasgow, Scotland, Zanberg told Channel 13 on Monday that the country has already started working on reaching that target, even though her ministry had pulled a climate change bill from the government agenda.

“We can meet that goal of 100% reduction by 2050,” she said.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar had announced Friday that Israel will join the growing number of countries pledging to go carbon neutral by 2050.

The move upended the policy of the previous government, announced in April, which was to cut carbon emissions by 80% across the board by 2050 and emissions from the electricity sector in particular by up to 85%.

Going carbon neutral means balancing the amount of carbon emitted with the amount that is taken out of the atmosphere and stored.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett delivers a speech on stage during a meeting at the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, Scotland, on November 1, 2021. (Haim Zach/GPO)

During the week before the summit, the government took four “dramatic decisions” regarding energy, transportation, and renewability that “should put us on the path to that goal,” Zandberg said.

However, a climate bill the ministry had begun working on under the previous government was put on hold earlier this year in order to achieve cabinet consensus on some of its key issues. Zandberg said that, nonetheless, work would continue on the bill when she returns from Scotland.

She reported that the Israeli delegates to the summit, including Bennett and Elharrar, “are absorbing the global change that is happening, and that is a change that must happen in Israel.”

On Monday new taxation went into effect that doubled the price of plastic plates, bowls, cups, and straws. The tax has been criticized as detrimental to the weaker socioeconomic levels, the chief consumers of those items.

Zandberg defended the tax, saying that there was need for a change in attitude toward single-use plastics. Israel, she said, “is five times more addicted to plastic than Europe — that’s nothing to sneeze at.”

Energy Minister Karin Elharar arrives for a group portrait her fellow cabinet ministers in the new government, June 14, 2021 in Jerusalem. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)

Zandberg also commented on the difficulties wheelchair-using Elharrar had in attending the conference Monday due to a lack of suitable infrastructure, saying it “is a very serious matter.”

“The social issue is very important in the environmentalist movement,” Zandberg said.

Upon learning of the incident, Bennett said that Elharrar’s vehicle would arrive at the summit area on Tuesday as part of his official convoy, thus ensuring her entry. He also agreed with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that Elharrar would join their Tuesday meeting.

Addressing the conference Monday, Bennett said Israel would make its greatest contribution to the global war on climate change by leveraging the technological creativity and inventiveness of its people to find solutions.

On Sunday, Bennett had told reporters that the government would establish a special fund to encourage local tech entrepreneurs to invest in green technology.

The two-year state budget, which must be approved by the middle of the month, includes NIS 625 million (nearly $195 million) to fight climate change.

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