Israel: Political Vacuum Leads to Slew of Green Laws


The Knesset, Israel's parliament: Soon to be painted green? (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

The Israeli Knesset, perhaps the most hyperactive spot in this more-wired-than-most country, may have caught on a bit late, but it appears that the green wave washing over the country has finally reached the benches of Israel’s parliament.

Maybe it was the teetering of the governing coalition or the multi-year water crisis, or maybe it was just the sticky and oppressive summer heat. Whatever the cause, the summer session of the Knesset closed last week with an unprecedented burst of environmental legislation.

Here's a roundup of the new laws...Laws that passed their final reading:
Clean Air Law – After years of marathon discussions, and a few influential demonstrations, a law was finally passed that regulates the emission of pollutants into the air. The law requires the government to reduce air pollution through standards, monitoring, enforcement and even leveling fines and criminal charges against heavy polluters. The law will only go into effect in 2011, but it's a safe bet that industry will begin taking it into account immediately.

Environmental Enforcement Law – Until now, only the central government had the authority to enforce a variety of environmental laws, and it also collected the associated fines from offenders. Under the new law, local authorities will now be authorized to enforce these laws, and the income they receive from the associated fines will serve as an incentive to strongly enforce environmental laws within their jurisdictions.

The Polluter Pays – Assigning an economic value to pollution has a way of getting polluters to think long and hard about cleaning up their act. This law will do just that by adding an element of economic disincentives to all of the environmental laws already on the books.

Laws that passed their preliminary readings, and must still pass a final reading in the Knesset:
Encouragement of Bike Transportation – Drawn up by a group of environmental NGO’s and supported in its first reading by a huge majority of 66-1, this law, when passed, would require the paving of bike paths, parking facilities for bikes, showers at places of work (riding to work can be a sweaty business in the Middle East), and will give bikers the right to take their bikes with them on trains, light rails and buses. The law’s sponsors believe it will contribute to reducing air pollution and traffic accidents, save highway space, improve the health of the public and, of course, protect bike riders from reckless drivers.

Reducing Use of Plastic Bags – In much of the world, disposable plastic bags have already gone out of style. The law would abolish the free plastic grocery bag, and require grocery stores to offer their customers cheap, multi-use alternatives instead.

Water and Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings – These two bills would require the installation of water- and energy-saving devices in all of Israel’s public buildings.

Water Polluters – Israel faces a serious water shortage in the near future, and this law would tighten enforcement of pollution of water sources.

In addition, laws are in the works that deal with radiation-emitting cellular antennas, greenhouse emissions, ending government subsidies for polluting factories and cleaning up polluted brownfields.

Behind almost all of the new laws stands a trio of maverick lawmakers – Dov Hanin, Michael Melchior and Ofir Pines-Paz - who have devoted their time in the Knesset to pushing the environment to the top of the agenda. May lawmakers everywhere take an example from them.

Via:: NRG (Hebrew link)

Tags: Air Pollution | Air Quality | Biking | Buses | Carbon Emissions | Israel | Pollution

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