November 17, 2010

Israeli Diplomat Emphasizes Environmental Legislation

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“We need a stronger commitment, we need new ideas, we need new solutions and we need leaders that will really lead the world to protect itself from the things that we are unfortunately causing,” former Israeli Minister of Internal Affairs Ophir Pines-Paz, said Wednesday in a lecture titled “New Frontiers in Environmental Legislation.”

The lecture, organized by the Cornell Israel Public Affairs Committee and Cornell Hillel, focused on Israel’s recent environmental progress and the need for global anti-pollution efforts.

Pines-Paz began the lecture with a description of Israel’s Office of Internal Affairs when he became its minister in 2005.

“There were no economic incentives for clean technologies, no regulations on emissions and no public participation tools. No one could accomplish anything; it was like a war zone,” Pines-Paz said.

In the past, environmental issues tended to fall into the shadows of Israel’s underlying conflict with Palestine and the struggle for peace. However, in recent years, Israel has instituted record-breaking and environmentally conscious policies, Pines-Paz said, such as the installation of solar collectors on 90 percent of Israeli roofs and recycling more than 70 percent of Israeli waste water.

Pines-Paz went on to discuss Israel’s “the polluter pays” policy. The policy, which requires payment to the government for both licensed and unlicensed pollution, went into effect in October 2001, according to the Israel Democracy Institute’s website.

“Israel’s ‘polluter pays’ policy demonstrates that the country is committed to bringing all those who threaten the environment to justice,” CIPAC’s Vice President of Campus Relations Yotam Arens ’12 said.

Pines-Paz noted the personal responsibility held by factory owners and managers in Israel who can be fined or sentenced to jail if their factories violate pollution laws. Israeli insurance companies provide no insurance for environmental losses experienced by these factory owners, which, according to Pines-Paz, makes for “very, very careful” pollution management.

“When people understand that they will have to pay personally, that it will be out of their own pocket, that is the game changer,” Pines-Paz said.

Looking beyond Israel, Pines-Paz expressed his disappointment in the 2009 Copenhagen “Climate Conference.” He noted that, although those who attended the conference had hoped to develop a “new roadmap for handling the problems of climate change,” they were not successful.

Without the commitment and cooperation of the United States, China and India, Pines-Paz said that he does not see efforts such as the Copenhagen Conference as a possibility for collaboration between states to combat global warming.

“I strongly believe that the U.S., India and China must find a way to work together and have an agreement between themselves. I think that the only successful way is to have an agreement between those three countries, because there is no way that all of the countries in the world can reach an agreement,” Pines-Paz said.

He emphasized the economic aspects of environmental legislation and the importance of governments providing incentives to gain participation from their populations. Businesses must be encouraged to produce environmentally-friendly products, and consumers must be discouraged from purchasing products that pollute the environment, he said.

Pines-Paz’s lecture concluded with a question and answer session, during which he offered advice to the U.S.

“If you are leading the world, then lead it,” Pines-Paz said.

Keren Bitan ’14, who attended the lecture, agreed.

“China, India and the U.S. are leading the world socio-economically, therefore it must be those same countries that lead the world environmentally.”

Original Author: Kayla DeLeon