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Manufacturers say businesses aiming for zero emissions need less bureaucracy

According to Manufacturers Association of Israel representative at COP26: Companies are willing to spend, but it’s hard to progress

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

Haifa's industrial area. (Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)
Haifa's industrial area. (Avishag Shaar Yashuv/Flash90)

GLASGOW — Israel’s industry is willing and able to lead the country to net zero carbon emissions, but is being held back by bureaucracy, high taxes and a lack of infrastructure, the head of the Chemical, Pharmaceutical and Environmental Industries Association of the Manufacturers Association of Israel (MAI) told The Times of Israel on the sidelines of the COP26 UN Climate Conference in Glasgow, Scotland.

Nir Kantor led a 15-strong delegation to the confab that includes representatives of Israel Chemicals Ltd., the Bazan Group oil refining and petrochemicals conglomerate, Adama (which produces agricultural chemicals), Teva Pharmaceutical Industries, Brenmiller Energy (which provides energy storage), UBQ (which converts waste into thermoplastic), and Circular Economy IL.

ICL and the Bazan Group are both owned by the country’s biggest holding company, the Israel Corporation, whose activities include chemicals, fertilizers, and shipping — three core sources of pollution and emissions.

Speaking as a representative of the MAI, which has set a target of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, Kantor said that it was part of the DNA of business to look ahead and identify trends.

The big manufacturing companies understand the climate crisis, he charged, and even feel it in their factories — extreme heat or cold interferes with all sorts of processes, he said.

Nir Kantor, head of the Chemical, Pharmaceutical, and Environmental Industries Association of the Manufacturers Association of Israel (MAI). (courtesy)

“The industry is constantly working to reduce its emissions and carbon footprint,” Kantor continued.

But, he said, companies hit a brick wall when they tried to move forward.

One example was the lengthy negotiations that companies had to undertake with the Israel Lands Authority to get the go-ahead to build solar fields.

With the shortage of space on the electricity grid, businesses should be fast-tracked to connection, “like being given VIP service on a plane,” he asserted. “If a company wants to create a solar field, the government should help.”

Another example was transportation, Kantor said. Electric cars are more expensive for companies to buy because there are no tax benefits on their purchase, a situation he described as “absurd” and a deterrent for smaller companies.

Sharon Madel-Artzy, founder and managing director of Circular Economy IL, added that she had told Energy Minister Karine Elharrar at a conference event that, while everyone speaks about the need for the government to provide more money to help with preparations for climate change, a first step would be to stop taking so much money in taxation.

Kantor complained about Israel’s burden of regulations. “Companies are willing to spend a lot of money to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but in many cases, they can’t move forward because of bureaucracy,” he said.

The government has, in fact, included a program to cut excessive regulation in the Economic Arrangements Bill that accompanies the budget, just passed by the Knesset.

The MAI did not oppose carbon taxation, which the government is planning to introduce, Kantor emphasized. But he said it was important not to undercut Israeli firms by taxing them while at the same time continuing to allow the import of cheaper goods from polluting countries abroad — where there is no such taxation. Giving China and Turkey as examples, he said that, today, the government was their number one customer in Israel, buying everything from health to infrastructure products.

Kantor urged the government to channel the proceeds of carbon taxes into incentives for reducing global warming gases and investment in climate technology R&D.

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)

“Many businesses decided to go net-zero by 2050 before Bennett did,” Kantor said, referring to Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s announcement just before the climate confab that Israel would take that course. “Industry leads, it doesn’t wait, and it’s not dragged forward,” he said. “It’s from business that the climate solutions will come.”

He added that it was critical for the government to improve coordination between all the bodies involved, including businesses, to ensure a coordinated approach to climate change.

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