The government on Sunday authorized a major plan to battle air pollution in Israel. The plan, which will cost NIS 140 million to implement, will actually save the country a great deal of money; according to experts, the Israeli economy will lose NIS 8.8 billion in 2015 to pollution-related illnesses.
According to the Environment Ministry, the plan will save as many as 700 lives a year that are now lost because of complications due to air pollution. Speaking at the cabinet meeting that approved the plan, Environment Minister Amir Peretz said that it was admirable that the government had approved the plan even as the budget for many other projects was being cut. “Approval of the program shows how seriously we consider the issue and how important it is to ensure that the air in Israel is fit for the public to breathe.”
In order to reduce pollution, the plan calls for reducing electricity usage in Israel by 2020. This will be accomplished by phasing out energy-hungry appliances and machines, replacing them with energy efficient ones. Most of Israel's electricity is currently generated by burning coal or oil, so less electricity usage means less burning of fossil fuels. The program also sets a goal of generating at least 10% of the country's electricity needs from solar energy by 2020.
As part of the plan, the government plans to demand that the Israel Electric Company implement differentiated fees for kilowatt hour usage, with discounts given for electricity use by households and businesses during off-peak hours, like at night. Currently, the cost of a kilowatt hour is constant throughout the day. The IEC has resisted calls to do this in the past, for unspecified reasons.
In addition to lowering the carbon footprint of electrical generation, the plan will also revive the Israeli version of a “cash for clunkers” program, with trade-ins of old, gas guzzling vehicles for cash. At least NIS 5 million will be allocated for that program. In addition, nearly NIS 30 million will be dedicated to helping businesses encourage their employees to use public transportation, and to implement home working environments for office employees who do much of their work on-line anyway.
At least NIS 40 million will be allocated to improving public transportation. Taxes may be implemented to discourage companies from providing employees with leased vehicles, while subsidies may be provided to companies to encourage more use of public transportation.