By: George Kurzom
Exclusive to Environment and Development Horizons (Afaq magazine):
A recent international report stated that the amount of increase in atmospheric gases in the past few years is unprecedented; despite the closures imposed by the countries around the world to stop the Covid-19 pandemic, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, according to data reported by the World Meteorological Organization last November, has reached its peak.
The Organization estimates that despite the decrease in the volume of greenhouse gas emissions over the past year, by a rate ranging between 4.2% to 7.5%, due to the significant halt in transportation and other activities, still, the impact of the decline on the continuous accumulation of greenhouse gases due to human activity is negligible, even less than the expected natural annual decline.
According to scientific calculations, by 2030 the emissions should decrease by half, so that there is a chance to prevent an escalation in the global average temperature of more than one and a half degrees Celsius, compared to the pre-industrial era; if the escalation in the global average temperature continues, then that could cause heat waves, droughts and floods. This could lead to hundreds of millions of people slipping into poverty.
A strategic shift towards renewable energies
Just before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic crisis, the global energy market seemed to be heading towards a revolutionary transformation. After years of political-environmental struggle and due to the decreased cost of renewable energy production, technological improvements, and a growing public awareness of the climate crisis – this led to investment in wind and solar energy in many countries.
More developed countries, such as Scandinavia and Germany, have actually generated tens percent of their electricity consumption from non-polluting energy sources.
While it seemed before the crisis that the environmental movement had started to record successes in communicating its messages, there is a feeling that a major change has occurred in the public agenda regarding the interest of governments in the issue of the climate crisis.
However, the biggest concern of the green companies and activists around the world is that the crisis will push governments to reduce or stop investing in renewable energies, and the economic feasibility of this sector will decrease due to the economic turmoil.
For example, the collapse in oil prices in the past few weeks may delay the spread of electric vehicles, because driving a petrol-powered car will be very cheap, at least in the coming months.
The good news is that an increasing number of countries and private companies are committed to reducing carbon dioxide emissions to zero. Only when carbon dioxide emissions are close to zero will the natural process of absorbing the gas into ecosystems such as seas and forests lead to a decrease in its concentration in the atmosphere.
Israel’s low goals are not achieved
Last October, the Israeli government decided that by 2030 the electricity produced from renewable sources will increase by 13% of the total electricity production. The government approved a project proposal submitted by the Israeli Ministry of Energy to increase the share of renewable energies from 17% to 30%.
The remainder of Israel's energy needs (70%) will be covered by natural gas; since (Israel) discovered about ten years ago huge reserves of natural gas, by the Palestinian coast in the Mediterranean Sea.
It is a known fact that natural gas and its facilities are among the most polluting sources of the climate and ecological structure. It is also worth mentioning that in all stages of the natural gas life cycle, large amounts of greenhouse gases are emitted.
Oil and gas companies claim that generating all forms of power from natural gas in particular is less harmful than oil and coal.
However, scientific data disproves this claim and confirms that natural gas is very harmful to the atmosphere and to people's health. During the process of extracting, treating, and then transporting the gas, much more methane is emitted, a lot more than it was expected. These emissions contain volatile organic matter, some of which are sure to be carcinogenic.
In fact, the energy efficiency rating in (Israel) during 2020 was less than half the stated goal (according to the report of the " State Comptroller of Israel "). It is worth mentioning that the medium-term Israeli goal was to produce electricity from alternative energies (especially from solar energy) at a rate of 10% of the total electricity production capacity by the end of 2020.
"Israel" has not been able to achieve the stated goals of diverting 20% of private traffic to public transportation, with the aim of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
Palestinians are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is just one aspect of global concerns. But we also must keep in mind that our region, and Palestine in particular, is located on the sea coast between the Mediterranean and desert climates, which increases the sensitivity of our region and its exposure to climate change, at different levels. We may soon witness huge fires, like those in Australia; In addition to tsunamis coming from the west or devastating floods, it is also very likely that we will witness a rise in the sea level.
For comparison, the carbon dioxide emissions per capita of Israelis are among the highest in the world, as they reach about 11 tons per year per capita (Haaretz newspaper, 9/20/2018), while the Palestinian per capita emissions do not exceed 0.5 tons per year. That is, the average Israeli per capita emissions is equivalent to 22 times the emissions of the Palestinian individual; It is even larger than most European countries, where public transportation and energy conservation are more advanced than Israel.
When comparing the greenhouse gas emissions resulting from the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza Strip with the global or Israeli emissions, we will find that they are minimal.
As the percentage of Palestinian emissions (West Bank and Gaza) is equal to 0.01% of the total global emissions (Environment Quality Authority, 2016. The Initial National Communication on Climate Change submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), and this percentage does not exceed the emissions of one huge Israeli military factory.
Added to that, the weakness and powerlessness of Palestinian self-autonomy, which does not have the independent political ability to work towards reducing climate risks.
Despite all of this, the Palestinian Authority framed environmental policy plans, the most prominent of those plans was in the year 2016, in which it was stated that the Authority would allocate $3.5 billion to plans to adapt to climate change over the next ten years. The plans did not include indicators of how to attain this money!
It is clear that the future of the energy economy will not be centralized or monopolistic based, as the case is on the Palestinian level now, it is moving toward a more regional or small municipal networks distribution.
Therefore, the government plans and policies based on establishing a network of private power stations running on natural gas does not come in line with the current economic trends in the energy market, which puts the citizens in a high economic risk situation which also contradicts with the Palestinian international commitments on climate change.
Also, in the transportation sector, we can increase the use of public transport by allocating more lanes in the current roads for this purpose, as well as using other means such as "congestion charges" at city entrances, we can also start reducing parking spaces and assigning them to pedestrians and cyclists.
Adding to all of that, planning the imposing of vehicle taxes in an environmentally smart way; for instance, eliminating tax benefits for diesel vehicles and imposing vehicle purchase tax according to pollution level, not to mention replacing fuel tax with taxes according to driving distances.
Translated by: Rasha Abu Dayyeh