Only full economic and political cooperation will help make Paris accord a reality – and Israel is no exception.
Haaretz Editorial Dec 14, 2015

The climate conference that concluded in Paris on Saturday resulted in the signing of the first agreement on steps to halt climate change to which almost every country in the world is party. Climate change has been occurring for the past century due to human activity, namely the emission of carbon.

From the standpoint of the complex diplomacy of international agreements on environmental protection, this is a historic breakthrough. It proves that even in an era of bitter economic and political rivalries between countries like Russia, the United States and China, it’s possible to find common ground for action relating to the welfare and even existence of the human species and to protecting the ecosystems on which this depends. A salient example of this cooperation is the “high ambition coalition,” which includes both developed and developing countries, and whose goal is to meet even more ambitious targets for reducing carbon emissions.

The agreement lays down a defined target for climate change, to be achieved by reducing carbon emissions; this, too, is an important precedent. It also sets out a mechanism by which developed countries will aid developing ones. It’s true the agreement contains no sanctions, but it will be hard for countries to disregard its demands. There’s a reasonable chance that most will take steps to become more energy efficient, reduce the use of polluting fuels and expand the use of renewable energy.

It’s important to remember that such steps also have an economic rationale. The use of solar energy is cheaper than it was in the past, and avoiding climate change will spare the entire world, and each individual country, major economic damage.

But alongside the optimism generated by this achievement, there are serious questions about the chances of implementing the agreement. The commitments that countries took upon themselves are still far from what is needed to achieve the goal of preventing extreme climate change. Declines in the prices of coal and oil are liable to create an incentive for developing countries to use these fuels, which will undermine the policy of reducing global emissions.

The big challenge is to turn the principles formulated in Paris into an ongoing basis for economic and political cooperation. This will require making continuous efforts to become more energy efficient and reduce pollution and setting even more ambitious targets within the next decade.

Israel has an extremely modest role to play in terms of the scope of its carbon emissions, yet the target the government presented at the Paris conference – reducing the rate at which carbon emissions are growing by 25 percent by 2030 – is far from being realized. To meet this target, the state will have to focus on improving public transportation and switching to cleaner fuels. These steps will contribute to environmental quality and reduce the health damage caused by exposure to pollution.
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