12/02/2010 03:05

Commission meets in Cancun to negotiate parameters for cutting emissions; Israel is making an effort to cut emissions by 20% by 2020.

If only big or rich countries are compelled to cut their emissions, these reductions still won’t be enough to retard climate change, Shuli Nezer, the Environmental Protection Ministry’s deputy director-general for infrastructure, told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday, shortly before she flew to Cancun, Mexico, where the next UN climate change summit has just gotten underway.

“Overall, Israel produces a negligible amount of greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. “However, our emissions per person are high.”

Nezer, who was recently promoted, used to head the climate change and air pollution branch at the ministry.

“What’s more, while all of the Western countries are reducing their emissions, our emissions are set to double over the next 10 years if nothing is done,” she emphasized.

At last year’s UN summit in Copenhagen, President Shimon Peres announced Israel’s voluntary pledge to reduce emissions by 20 percent off of a “business as usual” scenario by 2020. The underlying strategy for the pledge and a subsequent national plan to reduce emissions that was approved on Sunday comes from a McKinsey analysis that Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan commissioned last year.

While the hype surrounding the Copenhagen summit proved unwarranted, expectations for Cancun are much lower. No one expects a comprehensive emissions reduction agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol which expires in 2012, Nezer said.

Nevertheless, it is critical that Israel attend and make itself heard, she insisted.

Currently, only developed nations in the Annex I group – those countries who are industrialized or in economic transition – have binding requirements to reduce energy emissions, according to Nezer. Meanwhile, she explained, there are 60 countries in the world richer than Romania, the poorest country in the European Union, who do not currently have such rules.

“What is up for debate is something called the Graduation Concept,” Nezer told the Post. “At what point does a country ‘graduate’ and receive a binding obligation to reduce emissions? What parameters indicate that level? As a developed, prosperous country by any economic standard, and a member of the OECD, Israel will be obliged at some point to adopt binding reduction criteria.”

Moreover, she said, “Israel is part of the carbon credit market, has a clean development mechanism project here and we believe there are Israeli technologies to reduce emissions which should be made available worldwide.”

While Nezer admitted that there was a lot of criticism of the slow pace of UNmediated negotiations, she said it was vital that they continue.

“At the end of the day, we are all part of one global market and we will all have to join an agreement someday.

At the same time, it’s important to embark on parallel processes and not wait for the conclusion of the UN process,” Nezer added.

Israel has done just that. A government decision approving a NIS 2.2 billion national plan to reduce emissions was approved on Sunday.

“The plan is revolutionary for Israel,” Nezer said. “It is the first time that an energy efficiency program has been approved with an appropriate budget. It took us a relatively long time to adopt one compared to other countries.

The McKinsey analysis clearly indicated that energy efficiency was a win-win proposition.

Not just in terms of reducing emissions, but also reducing electricity use and other things.”

The 40-strong delegation, some of whom are already in Mexico, includes government officials, local authority officials, NGO representatives, KKL representatives and others. The summit will run through December 10.