Israel approves plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions


The Israeli government has approved a plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiency.

The plan adopted Sunday in a unanimous vote by the Cabinet is expected to save the Israeli economy $8 billion, the government said. It is part of Israel’s effort to meet its commitments from last year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Under the plan, Israel will allocate about $132 million in guarantees for loans over 10 years for programs to increase energy efficiency and nearly $80 million grants for projects that will lead to energy efficiency in industry, business and local governments.

The government also has committed to examining other ways of lowering greenhouse gas emissions, including reducing coal use and switching to natural gas, as well as assisting in the development of the Israeli clean-tech industry and providing tax incentives to encourage the use of renewable energy and promoting green building construction.

“We hope that the plan we are approving today will first of all lead to a reduction in sickness caused by pollution, and in addition will lead to greater efficiency and savings in the economy,” Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon said in a statement. “We intend to continue investing the resources required to keep reducing air pollution and emissions of greenhouse gases in Israel.”

Rising number of local governments set targets to cut emissions


Twenty local governments, representing areas producing 5 percent of global climate-changing emissions, have committed to targets to cut those emissions, with the majority also setting goals for renewable energy, a platform uniting them said on Thursday.

The Compact of States and Regions, launched last September, said more local governments would join the effort over the summer, making their combined emissions savings one of the most significant pledges to be presented ahead of a new U.N. climate deal due in December.

The state and regional governments that have already set targets include British Columbia, California, Ontario, Oregon, Quebec, New York, Washington, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, the Basque Country, Catalonia, Lombardy, Rhone-Alpes, Scotland, Wales, Australian Capital Territory and South Australia.

Christiana Figueres, the United Nations' top climate change official, told a gathering in France of local leaders from around the world that the actions of cities and regional governments to curb global warming offered huge benefits in public transport, cleaner air and better waste management.

“You are doing nothing less than creating a new reality for the world,” she said. “You are making possible that we are moving toward a low-carbon, high-growth society – both of those together.”

Local governments are playing a vital role in the run-up to the U.N. climate conference in Paris later this year, said Premier Jay Weatherill of South Australia.

“We recognize that the challenge of climate change is also an opportunity for our state, and we want to ensure a prosperous, sustainable economy and future for our citizens,” he added, urging more local leaders to register their emissions-cutting targets with the compact.

The targets set by the 20 sub-national governments, representing more than 220 million people and gross domestic product of $8.3 trillion, vary in their ambition.

Several have set the bar high, pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. The German state of Baden-Württemberg is aiming for 90 percent reductions by 2050, while Australian Capital Territory wants to cut 100 percent by 2060.

HEALTHIER WAY OF LIFE

On Wednesday, French President Francois Hollande encouraged all local governments to get involved in the fight against climate change and to work for a successful outcome at the Paris climate talks.

“No matter how strong national contributions are, in reality this engagement will be empty, if it is not fulfilled by local governments,” he told the conference in the French city of Lyon.

Regions and cities should also be able to access international climate finance to support their efforts, he added.

Anne Hidalgo, mayor of Paris, and Michael R. Bloomberg, the U.N. secretary-general's special envoy for cities and climate change, said they would co-chair a climate summit for local leaders, including mayors and governors, on Dec. 4 during the Paris talks.

The summit will aim to support cities and local governments and their communities in setting more ambitious targets to reduce carbon emissions, put in place realistic plans to meet them, and report on progress.

It will also help ensure city voices are heard at the negotiations, and that their efforts are reflected in any new global climate agreement, the organizers said.

“We want to deliver optimal instruments to reduce the carbon footprint on urban areas, and allow, to the benefit of all, a healthier, more sustainable and more prosperous way of living,” Hidalgo said in a statement.

Fifteen percent of the world's largest cities have already committed to cutting their emissions by at least 70 percent by 2050, it noted.

Hollande also urged local governments to make use of an online tool called the Non-State Actor Zone for Climate Action (NAZCA), developed by the United Nations and the French and Peruvian governments.

Businesses, cities, regions and investors have already showcased more than 2,700 climate initiatives through NAZCA. It offers a platform for evaluating and gaining recognition for their efforts, Hollande said.