Environmentalists respond to what may be a dangerous decision on part of Lapid to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions program from budget.

Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz and heads of Israeli environmental organizations called for President Shimon Peres to block the Finance Ministry’s intention to pull the plug on the national greenhouse gas emissions program on Sun- day.

In response to what they feel is a dangerous decision on the part of Finance Minister Yair Lapid to eliminate the greenhouse gas emissions program from the budget, the environmentalists are turning directly to Peres – who pledged in 2009 that Israel would reduce 20 percent of these very emissions by the year 2020, the organizations said.

The government plans to dis- cuss on Monday the ministry’s intention to cancel the program under the new economic arrangements law.

On Saturday, carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere reached a new peak, the Environment Ministry stressed. As the world faces an approaching irreversible state of global warming, Israel will likely encounter fires, floods, rising sea levels, agricultural failures and a wave of refugees from dried up African nations, the ministry added.

“Whereas the world is realizing how global warming is a ticking time bomb and how fighting it generates jobs and growth, the Finance Ministry is acting in an absurd manner and is complete- ly eliminating a successful pro- gram that saves money and pol- lution,” Peretz said.

The minister organized a meet- ing on Sunday with representa- tives from many of the country’s leading environmental groups to strategize about Lapid’s decision, during which they came to the conclusion that they must turn to the president. Present in the meeting were leaders from Life and Environment, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environ- mental Defense), the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, the Israel Energy Forum, the Israel Renewable Energy Associa- tion, the Israeli Council for Green Building, Green Course, the Coalition for Public Health, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth Middle East and Shatil.

“Global data shows a worsen- ing climate crisis, but the gov- ernment chooses to make a U- turn and to unilaterally with- draw a national program that reduces the cost of living for the public,” said Naor Yerushalmi, CEO of Life and Environment, the umbrella organization for all of Israel’s green groups.

The program for reducing greenhouse gas emissions includes many projects that cre- ate growth and employment, the Environment Ministry stressed.

The ministry itself has subsidized 208 projects and businesses with about NIS 106 million, while the Energy and Water Ministry has thus far provided about NIS 300m. for the replacement of gas-guzzling refrigerators, water heaters and air conditioners with more energy-efficient projects.

All in all, Israelis have saved hun- dreds of shekels monthly by par- taking in this program, the Envi- ronment Ministry said.

“This decision is a closure order for small and medium-sized green b usiness that have only just begun operations,” said Israel Renewable Energy Asso- ciation head Eitan Parness.

“The Treasury is ignoring the fact that canceling the pro- gram will send home thou- sands of workers.”

Meanwhile, Israeli Council for Green Building chair- woman Michal Bitterman stressed that the elimination of many of the projects will mean preventing citizens from sav- ing significant amounts of money as well as improving their health.

“This is another step that harms public health following the Treasury’s p ast decision to dry up the national program to combat air pollution,” added Ronit Piso, chairwoman of the Coalition for Public Health.

The same day, Adam Teva V’Din executive director Amit Bracha sent a lengthy letter to Lapid detailing how the minis- ter’s proposed budget cuts will harm the environment. Calling the new economic arrangements law a “draconian law basket,” Bracha emphasized that enforc- ing this legislation will cost citi- zens a heavy price and will nega- tively impact the environment and thereby public health.

First and foremost, Bracha highlighted the dangers of end- ing the national program to reduce greenhouse gases, noting many of the same issues pointed out by the larger group that is turning to Peres for help. If the program is canceled – and post- poned till 2016, as suggested – Israel will end up violating its obligations to the international community, Bracha noted.

While the government may pre- fer small savings in the short- term, the larger, long-term sav- ings generated by the green- house gas reduction program can help households for years to come.

Canceling the program would also mean a reduction in energy efficiency and would lead to the disappearance of a budget for green building, Bracha noted.

Private individuals and munici- palities would be discouraged from investing in green building measures and from switching to energy-saving devices that can bring substantial savings to the economy and to pollution levels in the long-run, he wrote.

Lapid’s proposal, Bracha explained, “indicates short-term thinking only and completely stops a correct process, causes waste and makes it difficult to restart these proceedings.”