Maybe it was the teetering government or the water crisis, or maybe it was just the sticky and oppressive summer heat. Whatever the cause, the summer session of the Knesset closed last week with an unprecedented burst of environmental legislation.
Leading the charge was a trio of maverick lawmakers – Dov Hanin, Michael Melchior and Ofir Pines-Paz – who have devoted their time in the Knesset to pushing the environment to the top of the agenda. Green Prophet salutes these guys and their accomplishments.
Here’s a roundup of the laws that we hope will make Israel a cleaner and healthier place to live:
Laws that passed their final readings:
Clean Air Law – After years of marathon discussions, and a few influential demonstrations, a law was finally passed that regulates the emission of pollutants into the air. The law requires the government to reduce air pollution through standards, monitoring, enforcing and even leveling fines and criminal charges against heavy polluters. The law will go into effect only in 2011, but it is a safe bet that industry will begin taking it into account immediately.
Environmental Enforcement Law – Until now, only the central government had the authority to enforce a variety of environmental laws, and it also collected the associated fines from offenders. Under the new law, local authorities will now be authorized to enforce these laws, and the income they receive from the associated fines will serve as an incentive to strongly enforce environmental laws within their jurisdictions.
The Polluter Pays – Assigning an economic value to pollution has a way of getting polluters to think long and hard about cleaning up their act. This law will do just that by adding an element of economic disincentives to all of the environmental laws already on the books.
Laws that passed their preliminary readings, and must still pass a final reading in the Knesset:
Encouragement of Bike Transportation – Drawn up by a group of environmental NGO’s and passed in its first reading by a huge majority of 66-1, this law, when passed, would require the paving of bike paths, parking facilities for bikes, showers at places of work (riding to work can be a sweaty business around these parts), and will give bikers the right to take their bikes with them on train, light rail and bus rides. The law’s sponsors believe it will contribute to reducing air pollution and traffic accidents, save highway space, improve the health of the public and, of course, protect bike riders from crazy Israeli drivers.
Reducing Use of Plastic Bags – In much of the world, disposable plastic bags have already gone out of style. The law would require grocery stores to offer their customers multi-use alternatives.
Water Polluters – Israel faces a serious water shortage in the near future, and this law would tighten enforcement of pollution of water sources.
Water and Energy Efficiency in Public Buildings – These two bills would require the installation of water- and energy-saving devices in all of Israel’s public buildings.
In addition, laws are in the works that deal with radiation-emitting cellular antennas, greenhouse emissions, ending government subsidies for polluting factories and cleaning up polluted brownfield sites.
Original Image: Jewish Virtual Library