Israel Environment Bulletin Spring 1996-5756, Vol. 19, No. 2

TOWARD SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN ISRAEL

by Dr. Israel Peleg,
former Director General, Ministry of the Environment

From the Foreword to "Towards Sustainable Development in Israel"

The achievement of an optimal balance between human activity and economic development, on the one hand, and environmental and natural resource protection, on the other, requires a comprehensive development policya policy of sustainable development.

Such a policy, according to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development and Agenda 21, should rest on a number of principles, including:

– Preservation of a reasonable quality of life for present generations without compromising the quality of life of future generations; Provision of development needs in one area without causing environmental deterioration in another area; – Treatment of environmental problems at source before they spread to wider areas.

Several countries have begun implementing the principles of sustainable development by establishing sustainable policies for such sectors as industry, energy, transportation, tourism, and agriculture. In Israel, a comprehensive system of environmental management, based on the incorporation of environmental considerations into decision making on development projects, already exists. Within this framework, requirements for the protection of environmental resources (e.g. soil, water, air and ecological systems) and for the prevention of nuisances (e.g. emissions, waste, noise and risks) are integrated in a large number of projects. However, environmental management cannot be limited to responses to individual development proposals. A policy which integrates long-term environmental needs with development needs must be adopted.

For example, policy on the establishment of power plants must be part of an overall energy policy, which emphasizes energy conservation and clean energy use. Industrial policy must take account of energy conservation, water conservation, emission reductions, waste reductions and material reuse. Transportation policy should seek to implement the principles of energy conservation through land conservation, concentration of transfer terminals, and operation of public transportation systems. In these and in other areas, both individually and collectively, integration is the key word. The integrative approach must serve as a basis for new thought patterns on environment and development.

The era of peace will bring about significant changes in the Middle Eastpolitical, social, economic and environmental. However, the promise of unprecedented economic development carries environmental risks as well. The era of peace will herald major changes in three of the major components which impact the ecological system: population growth, resource use and environmental pollution. For this reason, the need for a sustainable development policy is especially urgent.

A sustainable development policy cannot be formulated by the body responsible for environmental protection alone. It must be the result of wide discussion and dialogue among all relevant partiesincluding diverse interest groups with different priorities. Such dialogue will facilitate:

– clear definition of the environmental problems and the causes of environmental damage; – identification of common policy guidelines; – establishment of targets for environmental improvement or nuisance reduction, based on clear timetables for goal achievement: – establishment of implementation strategies which are binding on all interest groups; – establishment of enforcement measures for bodies which do not implement the agreed goals.

I initiated the preparation of this document, which proposes preliminary guidelines for a national policy on sustainable development for the year 2000, in order to define sustainable development in the Israeli context. As part of the process, government ministries provided the Ministry of the Environment with both qualitative and quantitative data on their environmental activities, both direct and indirect.

Following discussion of this preliminary paper within the framework of a directors general committee, this position paper will be transformed into a government decision whose aim is to:

– establish the need for a sustainable development policy in Israel; commission the Ministry of the Environment to propose a sustainable development policy to the government;

– establish a directors general committee to determine the mechanism for creating the necessary dialogue among the different sectors, including industry, energy, transportation, tourism and agriculture. The directors general committee will be aided by professional experts and academics, and will base its work on environmental and economic research;

– submit a draft proposal for a sustainable development policy for Israel within four months of establishment of the directors general committee.