Israel joins majority of Western nations with pledge, but statement wasn’t accompanied by any concrete plan to achieve this goal or any proposed legislation that would ban the use of fossil fuels.

The solar power station in Ashalim, Israel, July 2020
The solar power station in Ashalim, Israel, July 2020Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Nir Hasson 12.12.2020

Israel has committed to stop using fossil fuels entirely by 2050, thereby joining the majority of Western countries, which have made similar pledges.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made this commitment in a speech to the international Climate Ambition Summit in Britain on Saturday. “Israel is totally committed to a successful transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050,” he said.

However, the statement wasn’t accompanied by any concrete plan to achieve this goal or any proposed legislation that would ban the use of fossil fuels.

Fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal contribute to climate change, and 2050 is the target date most countries have adopted to stop their use. A few countries, including Austria and Sweden, have set earlier target dates, as has the state of California.

Until now, the only goal set by Israel has been to produce 30 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030. Ending the use of fossil fuels would require 100 percent of its power to come from renewable sources, mainly solar energy.

It would also require both public and private transportation to switch completely to electric vehicles while banning the use of cars with internal combustion engines. In addition, it would require far-reaching changes in industry, infrastructure and the army.

Unlike most Western countries, however, Netanyahu did not commit to zero emissions, which means the cessation of emissions that contribute to global warming or their offset through forestation, for instance. The goal of zero emissions would require a revolution in fields like agriculture and waste treatment.

“We’ve already made crucial progress in two specific areas,” Netanyahu said in his speech. “In coal, we’ve substantially reduced our dependency. In fact, Israel is a global leader in cutting coal consumption. By 2025, that’s just five years from now, barring an emergency, Israel will no longer be burning coal, any coal.”

In solar energy, Netanyahu said, “over the last five years, we’ve increased our generation from two percent to some 10 percent. By 2030, solar energy will provide over a third of all Israel’s electricity.
 The challenge we still face in solar energy is storage. My government is pursuing policies that will overcome this challenge.”

He added: “We’re fortunate to have hundreds of Israeli startups that are working on this and related issues in alternative energy. These companies have, and will receive, billions of dollars in investments. I’m convinced that Israeli scientists and Israeli entrepreneurs, with their unquenchable ingenuity, will enable us to play our part in the global solar revolution.”

Netanyahu said cooperation in the field of solar energy is also an integral part of Israel’s “new cooperation with the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. So, not only is solar energy helping eliminate dependency on fossil fuels, it’s helping us cement Arab-Israeli peace. And both these goals offer us a bright, clean and safe future.”