Spotlight: Israel determined to fight air pollution, lower greenhouse gas emissions

Source: Xinhua| 2019-05-27 01:23:07|Editor: Mu Xuequan
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by Nick Kolyohin

JERUSALEM, May 26 (Xinhua) -- Israel has made rules and decisions over the past years about climate change and air pollution, as well as decreasing emissions of greenhouse gases.

Domestically, Israel focuses more on the fight against pollution; while in the international arena, the focus is tackling climate change.

Some scientific research studies suggest that there is even sometimes a contradiction between the two aspects, as surprisingly, particle pollution could actually diminish the intensity of global warming.

Israel signed the Paris Protocol in 2015 and it needs to be committed to a reduction in emissions of greenhouse gases.

Nevertheless, because of its small area, Israel could harm its citizens' health due to high levels of air pollution more than it can affect the global environment.

Pinhas Alpert, former head of Porter School for Environmental Studies at Tel Aviv University, was part of the high-level Israeli governmental communities on those issues.

"I was part of a committee whose purpose was to plan how to reduce air pollution in Israel. We looked at what should be done to improve the situation in the country," Alpert said in an interview with Xinhua.

Israeli environmentalists are aware that steps needed to be taken to reduce the levels of air pollution, especially in big cities.

The most polluted cities include the coastal cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa, as well as small cities around coal power plants and industrial factories.

Almost 45 percent of Israel's electricity is still produced by coal-based power plants, and there is a constant effort to shut them down to replace with natural gas.

It is expected that Israel will be free of coal by 2030, mostly due to major gas discoveries in the Mediterranean Sea, as well as environmental activists' pressure.

There are two main causes of pollution in Israel: transportation and industry. Most of the activists, policymakers and the media concentrated traditionally on industrial pollution.

"We discussed for over 10 years whether to build a new coal powerplant; finally, we decided not to build a new one because of public pressure," said Alpert.

The Israeli government has launched in 2015 a national plan to reduce air pollution and environmental risks in the Bay of Haifa with a budget of 330 million new shekels (91.6 million U.S. dollars).

"Part of the measures to improve the air quality in our opinion was to regulate and restrict the entrance of big polluting trucks to cities," said Alpert.

Another reason for the pollution problem is a steady rise in the standard of living which brings more consumption of goods, and eventually, it creates more polluting energy to produce all the products.

Moreover, there is a particular meteorological condition in Israel that brings natural particle pollution from the desert areas of Africa, especially dust from the Sahara Desert.

According to the latest estimations, around 2,500 people die annually in Israel because of air pollution.

The dominant polluters in the cities, according to Alpert's study, are mineral dust, carbon, volatile organic compounds, sea salt, and sulfate.

Environmental cutting-edge technologies could be a major tool of advanced environmental protection.

The Israeli government and high-tech sector are working together to find new ways to mitigate the pollution.

Yoav Yair, dean of the School of Sustainability at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, said that there is an improvement in Israel's air quality, a tendency which looks promising.

"Israel's change from coal to natural gas helps reduce particulate pollution," according to Yair.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that is responsible widely for global warming, which is a shared belief by the majority of climate scientists around the world.

"Israel has been committed to moving from coal-based to renewable energies and reduces its greenhouse gas emissions by switching to solar and wind power," Yair told Xinhua.

Until 2030, Israel aims to have 17 percent of its energy to be renewable, and it is expected that 10 percent will be reached by 2020.

"There is still a long way for Israel to go to meet its international commitments, and solar energy is becoming increasingly popular," said Yair.