Israel Environment Bulletin Winter 1995-5755, Vol. 18, No. 1

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION

SIXTH MEETING OF THE PARTIES TO THE MONTREAL PROTOCOL ON SUBSTANCES THAT DEPLETE THE OZONE LAYER
Nairobi, October 6-7, 1994

The meeting was opened by Ms. Elizabeth Dowdeswell, Executive Director of UNEP and Secretary-General to the meeting, who announced that as of October 1994, 139 parties had ratified the Montreal Protocol, 93 parties ratified the London Amendment and 34 parties the Copenhagen Amendment, which had entered into force on June 14, 1994.

Some of the major decisions taken at the meeting included:

  • For 1995, no level of production or consumption is necessary to satisfy essential uses of halons in parties not operating under paragraph 1 of Article 5 of the Protocol;
  • For 1996 and 1997, essential use nominations for controlled substances other than halons would only be granted for metered dose inhalers and for the space shuttle, and in the case of non-Article 5 parties, for laboratory and analytical uses;
  • Further study and clarification is required to formulate the most suitable definition for "quarantine" and "pre-shipment" applications for the control of methyl bromide;
  • The Technology and Economic Assessment Panel should evaluate alternatives to hydrochloroflourocarbons and to methyl bromide.

    Israel ratified the Montreal Protocol and the London Amendment in 1992 and ratified the Copenhagen Amendment in January 1995. Even prior to ratification, Israel implemented the stipulations of the Copenhagen Amendment both with regard to quantities of CFCs and halons consumed and reporting obligations. Data on the consumption of HCFCs in Israel is now being gathered and will be reported in 1995.

    Methyl bromide is the only controlled substance produced in Israel, and efforts are currently being made to prepare relevant legislation and other administrative measures to control its production and consumption. Israel informed the meeting that it is interested in developing cooperative projects concerning both the reduction of methyl bromide emissions and the monitoring of ground- level UV radiation in the Middle East.

    CONFERENCE OF PLENIPOTENTIARIES ON THE PROTOCOL FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA AGAINST POLLUTION RESULTING FROM EXPLORATION AND EXPLOITATION OF THE CONTINENTAL SHELF AND THE SEABED AND ITS SUBSOIL
    Madrid, October 13-14, 1994

    Eight years and four expert meetings preceded the adoption of the Offshore Protocol in October 1994. The fifth protocol to the Barcelona Convention requires the parties to take all appropriate measures to prevent, abate, combat and control pollution in the protocol area resulting from research, exploration and exploitation of the resources of the seabed and its subsoil. It stipulates that all such activities are subject to prior written authorization from the competent authority to assure, inter alia, that they will not adversely impact the environment. Additional stipulations relate to the prevention of marine pollution, contingency planning to combat accidental pollution, research and monitoring, cooperation among the parties, and liability and compensation.

    Ms. Ruth Rotenberg, Israel’s representative to the conference, served as rapporteur and signed the Final Act and Protocol on behalf of the State of Israel.

    SIXTH MEETING OF THE WORKING GROUP ON THE ENVIRONMENT
    Manama, Bahrain, October 25-26, 1994

    Environmental management, maritime pollution, desertification, water quality, sewage and waste management, and hazardous wastes were among the subjects raised for discussion by the forty-one delegations participating in the sixth meeting of the Working Group of the Environment. Significantly, the visit to Bahrain by Minister of the Environment Yossi Sarid marked the first such visit by an Israeli minister to a Gulf state.

    Following are some highlights of the meeting:

  • Endorsement of the Jordanian proposal to establish a regional environmental education and awareness center in Jordan, and submission of an Israeli proposal for "A Middle East Tree- Planting Day" as part of an environmental awareness campaign.
  • Endorsement of the Bahrain Environmental Code of Conduct for the Middle East as a non-legally binding set of guidelines.
  • Support for a Canadian proposal to create an Environmental Impact Assessment Forum to promote and foster information sharing and problem solving on EIA among regional parties.
  • Support for a proposal to establish a regional environmental center in Bahrain.
  • Endorsement of the Upper Gulf of Aqaba Oil Spill Contingency Project and for early implementation of joint regional activities.
  • Endorsement of the UN’s proposal to launch a sub-regional project on desertification in the Arava Valley, and submission of Israeli proposals for an intersessional workshop and a summit on desertification.
  • Endorsement of a proposal to hold an intersessional expert meeting on national rules and regulations on low-level radioactive waste.

    During the course of the meeting, several delegations reported on activities undertaken to advance cooperation in several fields, including: the joint Palestinian-Dutch project for an Environmental Profile of Gaza, which includes Palestinian capacity-building; the United States environmental sensitivity mapping project in the Gulf of Aqaba; the World Bank Desertification Initiative; the United States project on wastewater treatment for small communities; and the Italian-sponsored seminar on solid waste management and follow- up steps.

    MEDITERRANEAN 21 MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE
    Tunis, November 1, 1994

    The Mediterranean 21 Ministerial Conference proved a milestone both for Israel, individually, and for the Mediterranean community, collectively. The participation of Israel’s Minister of the Environment in the conference marked the first time that an Israeli minister was invited to visit Tunisia. (Significantly, earlier in the year, Director General Israel Peleg, attended the Mediterranean 21 meeting in Tunisia). Regionally, the gathering witnessed the firm commitment of the Mediterranean community to the spirit of the 1992 Earth Summit and to a path of sustainable development.

    The ministerial meeting was preceded by a preparatory meeting of experts which drafted the proposals which were subsequently endorsed by all the participants. Four important resolutions were adopted:

  • Tunis Declaration for Sustainable Development in the Mediterranean Basin;
  • Resolution Concerning the Agenda Med 21 Document;
  • Resolution Related to the Creation of a Mediterranean Commission on Sustainable Development;
  • Resolution Relative to the Use of Land Policy Tools to Ensure the Conservation of the Mediterranean Coastal Areas.

    There was general agreement that the implementation of these new initiatives, largely designed to promote sustainable development in the Mediterranean region, will remain within the framework of the Mediterranean Action Plan which continues to constitute a successful example of regional cooperation. It was also agreed that the Agenda Med 21 document will be disseminated as a reference tool and will constitute one of the basic documents for the work of the proposed Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development.

    Environment Minister Yossi Sarid’s address to the meeting was warmly welcomed. The speech focused on the Middle East peace process (see first page of this Bulletin) and on the importance of strengthening MAP’s ability to continue its successful work, including implementation of the principles included in Agenda 21 for the Mediterranean.

    THIRD MEETING OF THE STEERING COMMITTEE FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF A SUBREGIONAL SYSTEM FOR COMBATING MAJOR MARINE POLLUTION INCIDENTS CONCERNING CYPRUS, EGYPT AND ISRAEL
    Nicosia, November 7, 10-11, 1994

    Representatives from Cyprus, Egypt, and Israel as well as representatives of the European Commission and the Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Response Center for the Mediterranean Sea (REMPEC) attended the meeting.

    The steering committee reached agreement on the initiation of three national training courses for medium-level personnel between March 10th and April 10th, 1995 and on a joint subregional training course for high-level decision makers to be held in Israel during the first week of May 1995. Other agenda items related to the preparation of a common policy on the use of dispersants and finalization and approval of the subregional contingency plan.

    Implementation of the system will not only enhance the capabilities of Egypt, Israel and Cyprus to protect the marine environment through joint response to major pollution incidents, but will assist these countries to develop their national capabilities in order to enable them to combat, both individually and collectively, major oil spills.

    MEETING OF LEGAL AND TECHNICAL EXPERTS TO EXAMINE AMENDMENTS TO THE BARCELONA CONVENTION AND ITS RELATED PROTOCOLS AND THE MEDITERRANEAN ACTION PLAN
    Barcelona, November 14-18, 1994

    The purpose of the Barcelona meeting was to initiate a process of updating and adaptation aimed at making the Barcelona Convention and the Mediterranean Action Plan increasingly effective and practical instruments, especially in light of the principles and guidelines adopted at the Rio Earth Summit. Ms. Ruth Rotenberg of Israel served as rapporteur of the meeting.

    A wide variety of issues, largely related to broadening the scope and the effectiveness of the Barcelona Convention and MAP, was raised during the course of the meeting. Initial discussion focused on two essential issues: the geographical coverage of the Barcelona Convention and the proposed Mediterranean Commission for Sustainable Development. After a general discussion, participants examined, article by article, the wide range of amendments proposed by the Contracting Parties to the Barcelona Convention and its protocols.

    Israel’s position was that MAP and the Barcelona Convention have been successful tools of regional cooperation for nearly twenty years and therefore, the existing framework should be preserved with the necessary improvements. Furthermore, MAP and the Convention are essentially environmental in nature, with a developmental orientation, and should remain so rather than the reverse.

    INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENT & DEVELOPMENT OBSERVATORIES IN THE MEDITERRANEAN: AN INFORMATION AND DECISION MAKING TOOL
    Rabat, Morocco, December 7-10, 1994

    The Rabat conference, convened on the occasion of the official opening of the Moroccan National Environment Observatory and under the joint organization of UN and other agencies, was aimed at decision makers and specialists in charge of establishing information systems or national/regional development and environment observatories in the Mediterranean region. The conference presented the different approaches of MAP countries to the functions of the observatories, described current activities, and assessed the contribution of information centers, data banks and monitoring systems to decision making on environment and development.

    Issues for discussion included standardization and harmonization of data systems and environmental indicators, availability and accessibility of data, implementation of data gathering by decision makers, budgetary restrictions, centralization of data, and preparation of national and regional action plans.

    The participation of Director-General Israel Peleg in the Morocco conference won wide media coverage.

    THE U.S. AND INTERNATIONAL CORAL REEF INITIATIVE

    Israel has expressed interest in joining the U.S. and International Coral Reef Initiative, a global effort to conserve, restore and effectively manage coral reef ecosystems. The Coral Reef Initiative is being undertaken as a response to global environmental concerns such as loss of biodiversity, land-based sources of marine pollution, climate change and sustainable development. The program will strive to reverse the current trend toward degradation of these valuable ecosystems, creating a global partnership to address problems and to increase the capacity of countries for management and sustainable use.

    Israel believe that the Gulf of Eilat-Aqaba, internationally renowned for its biodiversity of marine life, is particularly suited to participating in the Initiative. Israel has already set up a framework for the prevention of marine pollution and preservation of the coral reef and has amassed scientific knowledge on the ecology of the reef system, the restoration of damaged reefs, and the development of environmentally-sound tourism in the area. Participation in the Coral Reef Initiative is also expected to further strengthen the emerging cooperation between the countries in the Gulf of Aqaba region, aiding them in capacity building and helping them preserve the unique and sensitive ecosystem which they share.

    GLOBE Program

    Agreement has been reached between the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Ministry of the Environment of the State of Israel on cooperation in the GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment) Program. GLOBE, initiated by U.S. Vice President Al Gore, is an international environmental science and education program that will bring students, teachers, and scientists together to study the global environment. It intends to create an international network of students (from kindergarten to twelfth grade) studying environmental issues, making environmental measurements and sharing useful environmental data with the international environmental science community.

    Students at GLOBE schools will conduct a variety of activities. They will make environmental measurements at or near their schools; report their data to a GLOBE data processing site; receive vivid graphical global environmental images (visualization products) created from their data and the data from other GLOBE schools around the world; and study the environment by relating their observations and the resulting visualization products to broader environmental topics. All the activities will be conducted under the guidance of specially trained GLOBE teachers.

    Every GLOBE school will conduct a core set of environmental measurements in the following critical areas: atmosphere/climate, hydrology/water chemistry and biology/geology. These measurements should contribute to the scientific understanding of the dynamics of the global environment. The program as a whole is expected to increase student awareness of the global environment, contribute to increased scientific understanding of the earth, and support improved student achievement in science and mathematics.