Israel joins US-Canada plan for net-zero carbon emissions in government by 2050

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The Departments of Finance and Environmental Protection announced Thursday that Israel is joining a White House initiative to net zero carbon emissions by 2050 across all government activities, with the goal of both to reduce global warming emissions and to set an example for the markets. same.

A statement from the Department of Environmental Protection explained that as the largest employers in any economy, governments own large amounts of real estate and cars, and purchase goods and services in large volumes. In doing so, they also contribute significantly to man-made emissions that fuel climate change.

Net zero means that greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere are balanced or offset by carbon, methane and other materials that are removed from the atmosphere and then reused in industry or stored for a long period.

At the COP27 climate conference in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, on Thursday, Dekel Cohen, a senior official in Israel’s Ministry of Finance Accountant General’s Office, and outgoing Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg, joined representatives of more than 50 governments at an event. also attended by US climate envoy John Kerry to celebrate his participation in the White House and Canadian government project, the Green Governments Initiative (GGI). The goal is to share knowledge and act jointly to promote environmental activity at the state level.

Cohen, who is responsible for government assets and logistics, said as part of the US initiative, his division would formulate a work plan for 2050 that would also include milestones.

Work plans from all participating governments should be ready for COP28 in Dubai next year.

Israel will lead a group on green vehicle fleets, having joined other countries about a month ago in pledging to make Israel’s government vehicle fleet net zero by 2035.

Zandberg said, “The Government of Israel today joins a series of governments that are committed to setting an example and leading the market towards zero emissions goals by 2050.”

Also in collaboration with the Ministry of Environmental Protection, as well as other ministries, the Accountant General’s Office has published a framework for green bonds. These aim to provide money for new and existing projects that are sustainable and beneficial to the planet. The framework paves the way for the government to issue such funds in the future as part of its debt management strategy.

Accountant General Yali Rothenberg said his ministry “attaches great importance to tackling the climate crisis and reducing emissions created by government activities as part of achieving climate goals and the commitment set by the government”.

He said he wanted to promote projects in areas such as solar power generation (including the installation of solar panels on government buildings), desalination, composting, construction of zero energy buildings and ensuring that environmental, social and governance policies and performance are properly disclosed. in the financial statements.

Former Knesset speaker Yuli Edelstein (L) and former Knesset chief executive Ronen Flut are seen in front of a solar field outside the Knesset, March 29, 2015. (Courtesy Knesset/File)

The involvement of the Ministry of Finance in climate-related policy is essential.

Just before the UN’s COP26 climate conference last year in Glasgow, Scotland, then Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar verbally pledged that Israel would be carbon neutral by 2050.

But this promise has never been anchored in an official document – ​​neither in law nor even in a government decision. This was first because of the opposition of the Ministry of Finance, and later, after the election was called, by the Ministry of Justice, which declared that such a policy could not be decided by a government of transition.

The Finance Ministry has consistently placed obstacles in the way of the Environmental Protection Ministry’s efforts to formally commit the government to various goals, and in June a climate bill reached the Knesset in a very watered-down form. , passing its first reading.

Behind the scenes, however, in early 2020 a Green Finance Regulators Forum was established under the chairmanship of former Bank of Israel Governor Karnit Flug, with voluntary representation from financial regulators, the Bank of Israel, the Accountant General in the Ministry of Finance, the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office, the Ministries of Environmental Protection and Justice, and Daphna Aviram-Nitzan and Erez Sommer of the Israel Democracy Institute.

The forum meets every two to three months to exchange information and learn about developments around the world.

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