Israel Environment Bulletin Winter 1992-5753, Vol. 15, No. 5


International Workshop on Regional Implications of Future Climate Change
Weizmann Institute of Science, April 28-May 2, 1991

In recent years, the effect of future climate change on the environment has been placed at the forefront of scientific as well as political activity worldwide. Awareness of the impact of expected changes on all ecosystems has led both heads of state and presidents of national academies of science to place the issue at the top of their list of priorities.

In order for the State of Israel to plan its immediate and long- term action on this issue, and to enable it to participate in global efforts by acceding to the relevant international conventions and protocols, the Israel National Academy of Sciences and the Minister of the Environment decided to organize the first workshop in Israel on the regional implications of these expected changes.

Following is a summary of the major objectives, findings and recommendations of the workshop:


The objectives of the workshop were to determine the requirements, the necessity and the importance of climate change research in Israel, by encouraging:

– evaluation of the reliability of forecasts of climate change in this region as indicated by present global and regional models.

– joint examination of the appropriate research disciplines by members of the scientific community in Israel, in order to understand all aspects of the expected environmental impacts.

– an intensive search of the existing literature and databases for research studies on past climate changes in the region, in order to draw conclusions regarding future climate change.

Major Findings

A. Global models indicate a rise in temperature of 2 to 4 C in the Eastern Mediterranean Basin, similar to the expected average global rise. This temperature increase is predicted as a result of conditions expected about 50 years from now, when the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will be equivalent to double the present concentrations of CO2.

B. Although global models show an increase (mainly in summer) in average global precipitation, this increase has a very high local variability. Thus, different global models predict a different distribution between summer and winter precipitation; some models predict an increase, whereas others predict a decrease in the precipitation expected in the future in the Mediterranean Basin.

C. Local meso-meteorological models indicate a possibility of an increase in future precipitation in Israel.

D. It was emphasized that the rise in temperature is followed by an increase in evaporation from the ground, independent of the type of ground cover. Thus, a decrease in the total quantity of water charging the groundwater aquifers is to be expected despite the possible increase in future precipitation.

E. On the national level, there are two possible strategies that can be adopted in order to reduce anticipated risks and damages.

1. The European approach, spearheaded by Holland, calls for immediate activity on the national scale in order to minimize anticipated adverse effects. This approach incorporates plans expected to contribute to the national economy as well as taking future threats into account at present. Expectation of a higher sea level in the future has already led Holland to launch projects to protect her sea front by expanding into the sea.

2. The American approach emphasizes the need for additional research before taking any actions which have economic implications. This approach has led to a significant increase in resources allocated to climate research in comparison to other scientific research fields.

F. Compared to other countries, there is an abundance of data and findings in Israel which can sustain detailed research on past climate changes, in addition to changes in the environment and water resources. These data, covering various time scales, ranging from a few decades to thousands of years ago, should enable researchers to calibrate and verify regional climate models as well as global climate models.

G. Human activities during past decades, which have led to alterations of the landscape and ground cover (i.e., natural vegetation, agriculture, forests) have caused changes in the reflectivity of the ground to solar radiation and in local precipitation, on the one hand, and changes in evaporation from the ground, on the other hand. These changes have affected the national water balance. It appears that efforts to cover arid or semi-arid areas with vegetation have led to an increase in the water balance, whereas planting trees in areas that enrich aquifers has led to a decrease in the water balance.

H. Studies on the cloud transformation from marine to continental types over the Mediterranean were presented, and the implications of the findings on Israel’s national effort to increase precipitation by cloud seeding were reviewed.

I. Reported recent temperature changes in this region (including the regions of the Black Sea, the Adriatic Sea and the Eastern Mediterranean Basin) indicate an opposing trend to that reported globally. Thus, in the 1970s, a significant decrease in the annual average temperature was observed in the region, in contrast to an increase in the annual temperature averaged over the globe.

J. It was emphasized that conclusions drawn from climate data obtained from areas that have undergone urbanization should be assessed with caution.

K. The fauna and flora in Israel are sensitive to climate change but appear to be able to adapt to it. It was suggested that global changes in flora and fauna should be monitored as an indicator for changes in the water balance and climatic conditions.


A. Interdisciplinary short and long-term research projects on climate changes in the past, present and future should be enhanced and encouraged in order to establish a data base in Israel that will serve as input to the various climatic models.

B. Establishing a detailed research program on the local and regional water cycle is of vital importance to Israel. Such a program should include the following research fields: cloud development; the impact of ground cover changes on the albedo on the one hand, and on evaporation on the other, and their impact on the recharge of groundwater aquifers in Israel. These issues should be studied in view of future changes expected in the water level of inland water bodies, and in view of the future rise in the Mediterranean Sea – estimated today to be between 8 and 30 cm in the year 2030.

C. The following projects should be initiated:

a. An in-depth study of the impact of land use and land use intensity on the national water balance and energy consumption.

b. An in-depth study of the impact of afforestation on the national water balance.

c. Studies of the expected impact of sea level rise on the shoreline and beaches of Israel.

d. A study of the impact of climate change on the quality of life in Israel, taking into account the required changes in the near future as a result of accession to international environmental conventions (i.e. the impact on the economy, energy demand, type of energy, water demand).

e. A study of the expected impacts on agriculture as a result of the possible decrease in available water quantity and the increase of CO2 concentration in the air.

f. A study of the changes in the structure and function of natural ecological systems, nature reserves and open spaces, and the limits of expansion of plants and animals to be caused by the expected global changes.

g. Incorporation and promotion of the subject within the educational curriculum.

Operational Recommendations

A. To re-evaluate existing priorities, giving priority to interdisciplinary environmental research, to recognize environmental research as an independent field similar to physics and chemistry, and to allocate suitable resources to such projects.

B. To increase the awareness of the various government ministries in Israel to the above mentioned requirements, and to place appropriate funds at their disposal.

C. To establish in the relevant bodies (especially in the Meteorological Service, Hydrological Service, and the Israel Oceanographic and Limnological Research Institute) a base of historical data on the one hand, and of current measurements on the other hand, of the meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic variables that directly affect the regional aspects of climate change.

METAP Regional Environmental Financing Workshop Antalya, Turkey, December 12-14, 1991

The Mediterranean Environmental Technical Assistance Program (METAP) is a grant program, started in 1990 and funded by the Commission of the European Communities, the European Investment Bank, the United Nations Development Program and the World Bank. The major objectives of the METAP revolve around the following: development of a strong pipeline of environmental projects, reinforcement of the institutional structure of environmental management in the Mediterranean basin and formulation of environmental policies, especially with regard to environmental funding and investment. The Financing Workshop recently convened in Turkey within the framework of METAP brought together Mediterranean experts in finance and the environment to discuss environmental financing experiences.

Following is a summary of Dr. Uri Marinov’s presentation, entitled "Economic Strategy as an Instrument of Environmental Policy, Case Study of Israel."

The theory underlying the economic approach to environmental policy is that polluters ought to be liable for all expenditure involved in safeguarding the environment against the damage they cause. The mechanisms used to put the "polluter pays" principal into effect fall into two general categories: some are revenue collecting devices which provide funds for environmental purposes; others create incentives for companies to reduce the level of pollution they contribute to the environment. Mechanisms in Israel fall exclusively into the first category – increasing revenues – although in other countries both types are used. It is worth noting that the two types are mutually contradictory: the former provides a stream of revenue unconnected to the amount of pollution actually produced; whereas the latter contains a self-limiting element. That is, revenues collected according to the amount of pollution must inevitably decrease as less pollution is produced.

Economic methods for implementing environmental policy depend on market forces for compliance. Some environmentalists believe that the voluntary nature of economic enforcement makes protection of the environment too insecure. And since governments have generally failed to demonstrate enthusiasm for creating economic mechanisms compelling enough to ensure compliance, supervision and direct regulation have often been substituted.

Five kinds of economic mechanisms are in use today:

– Levies are a price paid by the polluter for the use of environmental resources (e.g. the system of emissions licensing in the USA and Germany, the fee added to the purchase price of products like pesticides, packaging materials, batteries and fertilizers and sewage effluent fees designed to finance regional treatment plants).

– Subsidies are usually used to provide incentives for the development of "clean" technology, or in cases where the polluter will not survive financially if he complies with environmental regulations.

– Deposit-return whereby consumers of bottled beverages pay a set fee in addition to the purchase price. This fee is restored in exchange for the return of the product or container.

– Market creation involves the creation of artificial markets in which participants buy the right to pollute, which they may then transfer to third-party purchases. Market creation is rarely used, in part because the concept of saleable pollution rights is difficult for the public to grasp.

– Financial enforcement incentives make compliance with the law an economically viable option: non-compliance results in punishment, either in advance or in the future. In order to be effective, these incentives must be relatively high. Moreover, enforcement is costly, as it involves continual monitoring of industrial activity.

In Israel, the use of economic mechanisms to implement environmental policy is still in its infancy. Among the devices available, mostly levies are imposed – and these are too low to provide an incentive for changing environmental behavior. Israel, like most countries, uses revenues from polluter levies to finance environmental activities.

Following are some examples of Israel’s use of economic devices to implement environmental policy.

1. Levies

Including user fees (sewage, solid waste collection), product taxes (quarry restoration, marine pollution prevention, disposable beverage containers), administrative levies (permit fee, monitoring fee) and differential taxes (lead-free petrol) .

Israeli municipalities collect two types of sewage fees. The first is a one-time fee paid by new home and apartment owners, based on the size and location of the dwelling. The fees collected are used for the construction of sewers and sewage treatment plants. The second type is used for maintaining sewage systems, and is based on the amount of water used by each consumer, and included in the water bill.

Both sewage fees amount to a substantial sum of money – although exact figures are not available. By law, the fees should be set at a level appropriate for running the sewage system as a closed system; in reality, however, funds collected for sewage are used to finance other activities within the municipality.

Home owners and industrial consumers pay a solid waste collection fee to the local authority. Since the fee is usually incorporated into the annual municipal tax assessment, the consumer cannot attach a specific value to the service. There is no incentive for reducing waste volume or separating its contents; only a separate fee reflecting the true cost of disposal would provide the consumer with such an incentive.

Quarry operators pay a fee calculated according to the type and quantity of material quarried. The income from the levy accrues in the "Quarry Restoration Fund" administered by the Ministry of Industry and Commerce. This is a dedicated fund from which money is set aside in order to finance the restoration of disused quarries, but such a levy does not necessarily promote environmentally sound mining techniques.

All ships calling at Israeli ports, and all oil unloading platforms operating in Israel pay a marine pollution prevention fee, which is fixed according to size of ship and amount of oil. The amount paid by each vessel is not connected to safety measures (or lack thereof) for reducing the risk of pollution, should an accident occur.

The fee is collected in a Marine Pollution Prevention Fund, which in 1991 reached $0.5 million. It is used to finance the Marine Pollution Prevention Division of the Ministry of the Environment, which employs twelve inspectors, vehicles and equipment, a boat, and a station in the Gulf of Eilat. There is no doubt that the Fund has played a major role in significantly reducing oil pollution on Mediterranean and Gulf of Eilat beaches.

The disposable beverage container fee is imposed within the framework of the Cleanliness Law. It constitutes 0.25% of disposable beverage sales. In 1991, fees paid under this provision amounted to $0.4 million – enough to finance clean-up campaigns, educational programs, and the entire enforcement infrastructure for the Cleanliness Law. Some 30,000 cleanliness trustees volunteer their services to help enforce the law and an average 1000 tickets are issued every month against violators.

Both marine pollution prevention levies and disposable beverage fees are administered by an inter-ministerial committee which is chaired by the Director-General of the Ministry of the Environment. In addition to the fees, fines paid by violators of the Marine Pollution Prevention Law and the Cleanliness Law are paid into these funds, thereby increasing incentives for more vigilent enforcement.

Several administrative levies have been issued in the past as part of the permit-issuing process; however, the Finance Ministry claims that fees of this type bypass – and in actual fact enlarge – the budget of the beneficiary body. This claim has some credence only if the activities of the body are fully budgeted. Nevertheless, as long as any public body is required to carry out duties under the law and these are not budgeted, there will be a place for generating dedicated income in order to maintain "non- budgeted" activities separately. A resolution was recently passed by the government which bans the establishment of any new dedicated administrative levies.

A monitoring fee is a fee charged to industrial facilities which emit pollutants into the air. The fee is collected for a specific purpose: to carry out monitoring in the vicinity of these facilities. Monitoring activities are budgeted as a closed budget. The fee charged to every polluter is based upon the relative share of pollution emitted, and this is calculated according to the amount and type of fuel in use in the facility.

To switch from regular to lead-free petrol, the Ministry of Energy has adopted the system employed by some of the European countries: the tax on lead-free petrol is reduced, making it less expensive to the consumer than regular petrol – thus providing an incentive for increasing its use.

2. Subsidies

Import duties are waived on equipment for monitoring and controlling pollution and for reducing waste. The Director- General of the Ministry of the Environment is empowered to make decisions on the waiver of customs duties.

3. Enforcement Incentives

A number of provisions impose fines on activities which pollute the environment. Some require the polluter to pay for removal of the nuisance, for cleaning up the damaged area, and for repairing the damage. Generally, these fines are too low to provide incentives to reduce pollution levels.

Environmental Protection

within the framework of

The Multilateral Peace Talks for Regional Cooperation in the Middle East Moscow, January 29-30, 1991

The expansion of the peace process is expected to bring about sweeping changes in the ability of societies to address environmental issues. Once peace and stability are restored to the Middle East, multiple options will exist for cooperation on environmental matters. Several of these were discussed by participants to the multilateral peace talks recently held in Moscow.

Israel believes that environmental quality may well have the widest potential to fulfill the objectives of the multilateral peace talks, namely, the creation of confidence building measures among the parties, for the following reasons:

– sustainable development ranks high on the global agenda and the search for solutions to environmental problems is of major concern both globally and regionally.

– environmental pollution knows no borders and the creation of global or regional frameworks for environmental protection and the prevention of transboundary pollution is essential.

– environmental cooperation can be developed gradually, by stages, without immediate recourse to rigid contractual frameworks.

– environmental quality elicits few conflicts and serves common objectives of environmental improvement and pollution prevention.

– a basis for environmental cooperation between Israel and its neighbors has been in existence for over 15 years within the framework of the Mediterranean Action Plan.

Dr. Uri Marinov, who headed the Israeli delegation to the environmental talks in Moscow, proposed several projects for environmental cooperation. These included multilateral cooperation for the prevention of marine pollution in the Gulf of Aqaba, environmental management in the Gulf of Aqaba, regional cooperation in the Eastern Mediterranean for the prevention of marine pollution, environmental management along the coasts of the Eastern Mediterranean, regional cooperation on air quality and a regional convention for environmental protection.

The Moscow talks were designated to discuss the framework and process for future environmental talks. In light of the professional, apolitical atmosphere which characterized the talks, Israel is hopeful that the process initiated in Moscow will soon lead to substantive progress in environmental cooperation in this region.