Industrial air pollution cost Israel NIS 12.5 billion in 2021

Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg lauds overall trend in reducing emissions, though suspected carcinogens increased by 1.5%; electric company biggest culprit

View of the water cooling tower at the Haifa oil refinery in Haifa, July 31, 2022. (Shir Torem/Flash90)
View of the water cooling tower at the Haifa oil refinery in Haifa, July 31, 2022. (Shir Torem/Flash90)

Pollution from hundreds of Israel’s biggest factories cost the country NIS 12.5 billion ($3.8 billion) last year in damage to public health and the environment, according to the latest annual report on polluting and global warming gas emissions published by the Environmental Protection Ministry on Thursday.

In its tenth annual report on emissions from 575 factories, the report said that NIS 7.7 billion in costs came from greenhouse gas emissions — a reduction of 9 percent from the costs recorded in 2020, the ministry said.

Most of the greenhouse gases emitted in Israel are carbon dioxide, 77% ,and methane, 12%.

The report is the third to assess the external, or indirect, costs of these emissions according to criteria set by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). These costs include, for example, providing hospital treatment to people with pollution-related diseases.

The report’s findings are based on data reported by the big companies themselves in the fields of energy, chemicals, metals, food and beverages, waste and wastewater treatment and intensive animal farming.

Environment Protection Minster Tamar Zandberg said it was the “most up to date information” the ministry had.

Environmental Protection Tamar Zandberg attends a committee meeting, in the Knesset, in Jerusalem on November 15, 2021. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Twenty of the factories accounted for 85% of the pollution, with the Orot Rabin power plant in Hadera the most polluting site of all, costing the state NIS 3.1 billion in damages, of which NIS 1.43 billion was due to greenhouse gases. Next on the list was the Rottenberg Power plant in Ashkelon, with a cost of NIS 1.56 billion, of which NIS 1.23 was due to greenhouse gases. Israel Electric Corporation sites took another three spots in the top six, the other being the Nesher cement factory in Gezer.

Data showed that in 2021 there was a 19 percent reduction in emission of nitrogen oxides, while sulfur oxide emissions dropped by 10% and greenhouse gas emissions by 3%.

The changes were due to a reduction in the use of coal to generate electricity and an increase in the use of renewable energy sources, the ministry said.

Emissions of volatile organic compounds excluding methane (NMVOC) decreased by 3%, mainly due to the closure of the Oil Industries oil plant in Haifa Bay.

However, emissions of substances suspected and known to be carcinogenic increased by 1.5%, mainly due to pollution from the Israel Chemicals Ltd.-owned Rotem Amfert plant in southern Israel which produces fertilizers; Adama Agan, also a producer of agricultural compounds; Hakurnas Lead Works; the Yehuda Steels factory; and the Gezer Power Station.

Zandberg said the data showed “a continued trend of considerable reduction in pollutants” as well as a reduction in the costs incurred by emitting polluting substances in the air.

“But there is still a lot of work ahead of us in reducing air pollution in Israel, especially with regard to industry as well as illegal fires,” Zandberg said.

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