Two pre-election surveys suggest politicians lag behind public on green awareness

While most political parties dodge or ignore environmental questions, citizens say they would install solar panels, buy electric cars and take the bus, if government gave subsidies

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

Solar panels on the roof of a private home, August 13 , 2009. (Chen Leopold / Flash 90)
Solar panels on the roof of a private home, August 13 , 2009. (Chen Leopold / Flash 90)

Two surveys of green attitudes carried out in the run-up to national elections on November 1 suggest that the public may be more concerned about environmental and climate issues than the politicians are.

One poll found that just three parties have pledged to take concrete steps on climate change — all of them on the left. They are Meretz, Labor and the Arab party Hadash-Ta’al.

The other survey, by the Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Sciences (ISEES), found that Israelis would be willing to lead greener lifestyles if the government helped financially by improving public transportation and subsidizing the costs of solar panels and electric cars.

Responses to questionnaires sent to the main parties by the environmental nonprofits Green Course, Youth Protest for Climate, and Vote Green, published Sunday in the Haaretz newspaper, showed that unlike the three left-wing parties, Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid, Benny Gantz and Gideon Sa’ar’s National Unity Party, Shas, United Torah Judaism and Yisrael Beytenu all issued vague statements and avoided expressing any detailed views. Likud, Religious Zionism and the United Arab List ignored requests for responses altogether.

Yesh Atid, Labor, Meretz and Hadash-Ta’al all responded that they were committed to advancing a climate bill, which passed its first reading in the Knesset in May, with Meretz saying it would seek improvements to the current wording.

Asked whether they supported closing the polluting petrochemical industries in the Haifa Bay in northern Israel, Meretz and Labor said they supported closure by 2032 and Hadash-Ta’al said by 2027. Yesh Atid said “as soon as possible.” None of the other parties answered, despite a unanimous cabinet decision in March to shut down the oil refineries within a decade.

Haifa Bay’s industrial area, May 5, 2017. (Yaniv Nadav/Flash90)

Faced with significant air pollution and above-average incidences of cancer and respiratory disease, Haifa residents, backed by environmental activists, have been campaigning for years to shut the complex down.

The left-wing parties were the only ones to express opinions on a host of other environmental issues, from closing coal-fired energy plants and halting additional tenders for oil and gas exploration in the Mediterranean to allowing a state company to channel Gulf oil overland between the Red Sea and the Mediterranean and advancing the production of terrestrial oil shale.

Yesh Atid and Yisrael Beytenu expressed support for greater investment in green technology. In June, the government approved a NIS 3 billion ($870 million) plan to boost climate innovation.

Nine out of 10 respondents to the ISEES poll said they were open to installing solar panels at home if the government subsidized the cost, with half of all respondents saying a party that committed to doing this could attract their vote.

A Renault electric car recharges at a charging station in Ramat Hasharon (Photo credit: Roni Schutzer/Flash90)
An electric car recharges at a charging station in Ramat Hasharon, central Israel. (Roni Schutzer/Flash90)

Eighty-four percent said they would swap their gas-guzzling cars for electric ones if the government ensured that both kinds of car cost the same.

And 82% said they would use public transportation more if it was more available. Of the total sample, 75% cited this as the environmental issue most important to them, and 54% said that a party committing to improve public transportation could attract their vote.

The survey found that at least one environmental issue was important to almost everyone (98%), regardless of political affiliation.

More than 80% thought the government was not doing enough to advance environmental issues.

Four in five respondents said they would like the political parties to include environmental issues in their manifestos, and to act on what they promised.

Three in five thought the government wasn’t doing enough to ensure clean air, 15% said this was the most important green issue for them, and around 20% said that a party promising to do something about it could attract their vote.

The survey, carried out with the consulting firm Sapio Research and Development, was of a representative sample of 502 people and had a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

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