Israel Commits to a Future Without Cars

Heavy traffic in Tel Aviv. (Roni Shutzer /FLASH90)

Israeli government economists are setting a target of 80 percent reduction in carbon emissions by 2050—an ambitious plan that will depend in part on Israelis giving up their cars and switching to renewable resources, The Times of Israel reported on Monday.

A 16-page roadmap for getting there, which calls for sweeping changes in urban planning and the operation of industries, was presented at the Eli Hurvitz Conference on Economy and Society on Monday before being translated and submitted to the United Nations by year’s end, in line with the requirement of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

On the weekend, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu — one of 70 world leaders virtually attending the Climate Ambition Summit 2020 — announced that Israel was “totally committed to a successful transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy by 2050.”

The plan brings together targets formulated by multiple ministries, which amounts to nothing less than a radical change in the social landscape.

The Energy Ministry says it wants to cut emissions of all facilities under its control, including those for electricity production, by 80% by 2050. But since it is predicated on reducing private vehicle use to almost nothing, some would regard it as fanciful.

The Transportation Ministry envisages transit-oriented development — a form of urban development that directs development of homes, businesses and other venues toward public transportation hubs and creates sustainable, walkable communities. This would reduce traffic jams, thereby saving time and increase leisure time, and also help to close social gaps by making access to jobs and services easier, they hope.

It aims for 25% of all buses and vehicles weighing less than 3.5 tons and 10% of heavy trucks to be zero-emission by 2030, with that number rising to 100% by 2050. Distances traveled in cars and heavy trucks will come down while sustainable methods of travel (including walking) are expected to rise, from 37% in 2018 to 50% in 2030 and 70% by 2050.

The National Planning Council’s section of the roadmap calls for dense urban construction and the preservation of open spaces outside of cities, with shade trees helping reduce the effect of urban heat islands. It also urges green building, with 100% of new houses and 25% of new apartment buildings of three to five stories being net-zero energy by 2025, and all of them by 2030.

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