In 2023, “Israel once again failed to prepare to do its part” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the country more sustainable,” said Israeli solar pioneer Yosef Abramowitz.


PEOPLE PROTEST during the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28, in Dubai, earlier this month. (photo credit: Amr Alfiky/Reuters)

The government’s lack of commitment to addressing climate concerns predates the current war. Rather, the conflict serves as a convenient pretext for inaction, climate experts and activists told The Jerusalem Post.

“When a crisis happens, you have to deal with what is urgent,” said Tamar Gannot Rosenstreich, attorney and policy director at Adam Teva V’Din. “But the war does not stop the climate crisis.”

On a global scale, scientists caution, average global temperatures are anticipated to rise by 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels within our lifetime, presenting significant challenges. Moreover, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has pinpointed the Eastern Mediterranean as a climate hot spot, signifying that this already warm region is poised to experience pervasive extreme heat due to global warming in the coming years. This heightened temperature trend is expected to substantially hinder the region’s food production, water sourcing, and even habitation.

“If we don’t deal with it, Israel will be a very unpleasant place to live in the next decade or two,” said Prof. Colin Price, head of Tel Aviv University’s PlanNet Zero.

In 2023, “Israel once again failed to prepare to do its part” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and make the country more sustainable,” said Israeli solar pioneer and green energy entrepreneur Yosef Abramowitz.

United Arab Emirates Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology and COP28 President Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber addresses the plenary, after a draft of a negotiation deal was released, at the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP28 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, December 13, 2023. (credit: REUTERS/AMR ALFIKY)

This government’s climate law has been delayed and delayed

The government committed to passing a climate law within six months of taking office – by around June 2023 – but the climate bill was repeatedly delayed because of disagreements among the Finance, Energy, and Environmental Protection ministries.

Only in September, weeks before the October 7 Hamas massacre, did the Ministerial Committee on Legislation pass the climate bill proposed by the Environmental Protection Ministry, a bill that most activists describe as “watered down.” The bill still has to go to the Knesset for preliminary reading, then to a Knesset committee, and ultimately pass three readings in the committee and the plenum.

A climate bill had already passed a first reading during the tenure of former prime minister Yair Lapid. That bill, explained Gannot Rosenstreich, could have been brought for a final reading. But the current government decided to craft its own version.

“After a lot of negotiations, they took an already unambitious bill and watered it down, creating even more loopholes,” Gannot Rosenstreich said.

The bill aims to make Israel carbon-neutral by 2050. It also stipulates that greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will be reduced by 30% compared to the amount measured in 2015. However, all reports released in 2023 indicated that Israel is far from reaching these goals, and the proposed bill will not do enough to ensure the situation changes.

The 2022 report by the Pollutant Release and Transfer Register that was released in September showed that Israel had recorded its highest greenhouse gas emissions levels since 2012, exceeding the baseline established by the Paris Agreement in 2015 for the first time. In 2022, emissions rose by 3.5% compared to the levels recorded the year before.

“It is more people; it is that the economy is not behaving sustainably. It is the lack of quality public transportation and any public transportation on Shabbat,” PRTR coordinator Uri Shilhav told the Post.

Of course, because Israel is home to fewer than 10 million people, Israel’s global

impact on carbon emissions will be small. According to the United Nations Environment Program, Israel emitted 87 million metric tons of greenhouse gas in 2018, compared to 3,619 million tons by India, 6,297 million tons by the United States, and 13,739 million tons by China.

Nevertheless, the localized repercussions of climate change are palpable in the country. As per data from the Environmental Protection Ministry, Israel has witnessed a 1.4-degree Celsius rise in average temperatures between 1950 and 2017. Projections indicate an additional 1.2-degree increase by 2050 and a staggering 4-degree surge by 2100. Concurrently, the frequency of extreme weather events is on the rise.

Over the past three decades, Israel has observed a general decline in precipitation levels, the ministry said. The escalating Mediterranean Sea level poses a multifaceted challenge, altering coastlines, diminishing seafront areas, and contributing to the erosion of coastal cliffs. Finally, the Red Sea is undergoing rapid warming, outpacing the global average determined by the IPCC by 2.5 times. This accelerated deterioration raises significant concerns, especially for the Red Sea’s delicate ecosystem, with threats including ocean warming, intensified storms, and the emergence of harmful diseases imperiling its vibrant coral reefs.

“Virtually nothing was done by the last two

governments to enable the large scaling of renewable energy that would enable Israel to meet and exceed its very modest climate goals,” Abramowitz said.

He believes that while Israel is still hovering at around 10% to 12% renewable energy, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry, it could reach 40% to 50% by 2030 if proper programs and incentives are implemented and the government ceases to spend taxpayer money on gas pipelines and additional drilling licenses for oil and gas.


“If, for example, the government would uncap the exemption on VAT on solar for

shared rooftops, in five years, 80% of our buildings would run on solar energy and could supply about 5GW, or about 25% of the country’s energy needs, and increase our energy security – particularly if there was an incentive for storage,” Abramowitz said.

Israelis still do not see global warming as a significant threat, at least according to a PEW Research Center study released last year that found that fewer than 50% of Israelis believe it is a substantial concern – in line with Malaysia.

Achieving climate goals will require cooperation with other regional powers

THE REGION is similarly struggling. While Jordan has around 20% of its energy mix from renewables, according to Abramowitz, corruption and other internal issues have prevented the Palestinian Authority from moving forward with many green energy projects.

He also noted that countries with gas or access to gas continue to “play by the 1970s energy playbook where renewables are not central to the decision-making process. This includes Lebanon and the Gulf states.”

There will be a need for regional cooperation to achieve climate goals, said Gideon Behar, the Foreign Ministry’s special envoy for climate change and sustainability.

Although collaboration with Israel’s neighbors “sounds like wishful thinking now” as the war in Gaza rages on, “the only way the region as a whole can be climate resilient is by thinking regionally,” Gannot Rosenstreich said. “Not only are emissions global, but as water and other resources get scarce, it will be a huge problem for everyone. The Arab Spring demonstrations began because of rising food prices. Prices will go up because of the climate crisis.”

She highlighted the potential for mutually advantageous projects integrating solar energy production with desalination. Such initiatives can foster

collaboration between nations “in a self-interested manner” and still promise a collective and improved future for all regarding climate-related concerns and broader societal benefits.

Behar said that Israel can lead when it comes to climate technologies.

“Israel has developed an impressive ecosystem of climate innovation in terms of diversity, capabilities, and solutions,” he said. “A report on climate innovation… revealed that one in every six