11/21/2010 03:05

Buildings are the biggest producers of greenhouse gases, vehicles are the biggest emitters of air pollution.

Buildings emit 67 to 87 percent of greenhouse gases (GHG) and transportation is responsible for more than 80% of air pollution in Israel’s biggest cities. That’s the bottom line of a new set of surveys the Forum of 15, plus three others, conducted as part of a pledge to reduce greenhouse gases and air pollution by 20% each by 2020.

The Forum of 15 is an association of the independent municipalities in the country, which do not receive aid from the government. It represents 40% of the population, or about three million people. It consists of: Ashdod, Givatayim, Herzliya, Hadera, Holon, Haifa, Kfar Saba, Netanya, Petah Tikva, Rishon Lezion, Rehovot, Ramat Gan, Ra’anana, Tel Aviv-Jaffa and Beersheba (even though it receives government funding as well).

Jerusalem, Ashkelon and Bat Yam also signed the Forum of 15’s pledge to reduce GHG in 2008.

The surveys have been conducted in almost all of the 18 municipalities as the basis for crafting master plans to reduce emissions. Master plans are expected to be completed by early 2011 by all of the signatories.

According to the surveys, buildings of all sorts constituted the greatest source of GHG by far – ranging from 67-87%, depending on the municipality.

Given that finding, the Forum of 15 has decided to make a push for inculcating green building, which reduces resource use and emissions in buildings.

The Forum has decided to create a sub-forum to encourage urban green building.

There are only a handful of green buildings in Israel at present. Israel has a green building standard – 5281– which is in the process of revision to bring it up to speed in comparison with international green building standards such as LEED or BREEAM. The standard is, right now, voluntary.

The biggest source of air pollution came from the different types of transportation vehicles and represented more than 80% of urban air pollution.

Therefore, the Forum called on the government, in conjunction with the municipalities, to prioritize public transportation. Public transportation projects largely required government funding over and above municipal contributions, the report’s authors pointed out.

The surveys also found, not unexpectedly, that less than 10% of emissions, GHG and air pollution were under the direct jurisdiction of the municipalities. Most emissions resulted from the actions of the “community.”

Water and sewage represented a significant source of emissions – both pollution and GHG – under the direct jurisdiction of the municipality mainly because of the electricity needed to run the pumps and treatment centers.

Reducing waste was a relatively easy way to reduce emissions, according to the Forum’s report.

The greenhouse gas surveys were based on data from 2000 and 2007, while the air pollution surveys were based on data from 2007.

The environmental pledge that the 18 municipalities signed is a local version of the international Local Governments for Sustainability – ICLEI pledge.