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Israel joins growing number of countries pledging to be carbon neutral by 2050

PM Naftali Bennett and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar promise to invest in innovation, renewable energy

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Illustrative photo of carbon emissions from a power plant. (YouTube screenshot)
Illustrative photo of carbon emissions from a power plant. (YouTube screenshot)

With just two days to go until the start of the United Nations Climate Conference in Glasgow on Sunday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar announced Friday that Israel will join the growing number of countries pledging to be carbon neutral by 2050.

The move upends the policy of the previous government, announced in April, which was to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent across the board by that year 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.

“The climate crisis affects all of our lives, including those of our children and grandchildren,” Bennett said. “We must be fully determined. Israel is the ‘innovation nation’ and has the ability to contribute the talents and creativity that only we have to the world. With the new goal, Israel is lining up alongside the developed countries that are already taking action to attain the goal of zero emissions and is redoubling its commitment to the Paris agreement and the international agreements on the issue. We are responding to the global challenge, finding technological solutions and joining in to achieve this important goal.”

(R) Environment Minister Tamar Zandberg and (L) Energy Minister Karin Elharrar (Flash90)

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar said, “This is a challenging but necessary step in the State of Israel’s fight against the climate crisis. I am certain that we will succeed in bringing us to zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The government of Israel is committed to fighting the climate crisis for the future of our children.”

Most developed countries, which are responsible for 70% of global emissions, have already declared that by 2050 they will achieve zero emissions. Among these are the US, Canada, France, Australia, Germany, and Ireland.

According to the Prime Minister’s Office, the steps Israel will take include developing technology for green energy, storing it (Israel will depend mainly on solar energy and will need to store some of it for cloudy days and for the night), trapping carbon, and educating consumers on energy conservation.

“In recent months extensive staff work has been carried out in order to formulate an action plan on achieving zero emissions by 2050,” the PMO statement read. “To this end, approximately 2,000 scenarios [across] various models, in which various technologies, energy consumption forecasts, and various possibilities on developing the electricity grid – inter alia – were taken into account.”

“Reaching the goal will require all economic sectors — energy, transportation, industry, agriculture, and waste — to take a broad series of steps to reduce emissions.”

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg said, “There was opposition and there were difficulties, but in the end, we succeeded in getting the message across that the State of Israel must and can reach zero carbon emissions and join the climate crisis battle.”

“It’s good for the world, it’s good for us and mainly, it obligates us to change,” she went on. “To stop developing oil and gas fields, and to legislate a climate law that will anchor Israel’s obligations to reach net-zero emissions.”

Zandberg, who presented an interministerial plan earlier this week containing 100 practical steps for dealing with climate change, added that it was obvious the country had to focus its investments on renewable energy going forward.

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