Israeli environment minister calls climate change activists 'ignorant charlatans'
Minister for Environmental Protection Zeev Elkin said the work of environmental activists actually undermines the public's belief in the value of protecting the environment.
Elkin made his comments at the Israel 2050 conference in Tel Aviv. Entitled "Looking Into the Future", the conference brought together representatives from the government, industry and academia to discuss the environment.
The minister discussed "a series of environmental battles...that have unjustifiably frightened the public", Haaretz reported, saying that he supports environmental groups as long as they don't ignore the facts.
Elkin cited the controversy surrounding the Leviathan natural gas rig off the coast of Israel, which began exporting gas to Jordan this month.
"People left their homes, doctors left their places of work and schools closed out of fear for their health," he said.
"They promised us there would be a Chernobyl in the Carmel Coast region, but air pollution measurements showed how bizarre that was. They garnered important public energy in support of environmental activity and channeled it in the wrong direction."
There have been fears among the Israeli public that the start of production from Leviathan, with gas flowing to a processing platform 10 kilometres offshore, could bring harmful emissions. Monitoring so far has not detected emissions exceeding standards.
Read more: Jordan receives first natural gas delivery from Israel amid widespread opposition
"Instead of presenting an environmental vision, the minister chose to launch a head-on attack on environmental organisations," Amit Bracha, head of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, said.
"Such remarks toward partners along the way are inappropriate."
Elkin also critised non-profit group Zalul, which has sought to remove Haifa's ammonia tank. According to Elkin, the group based their findings on a report which lacked scientific basis.
The report, which was written by independent exprts but reftured by other professionals, led to the tank being removed. Ammonia is now shipped to Haifa by truck, which Elkins said is riskier.
"There is an enormous leadership vacuum at the top of the Environmental Protection Ministry, which should be addressing one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Once again, Elkin has chosen to side with polluting industries and to accuse environmental groups of failures that are all chalked up to him," said Zalul.
Climate activism dominated headlines this past year, with Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg kickstarting a "Fridays for Future" student protest movement around the world.
The teenager rose to the global stage after launching a solo strike against global warming in mid-2018 which surged into a worldwide movement that has seen her tipped as a Nobel laureate.
Israeli activists and demonstrators took part in September's Global Climate Strike against inaction on climate change. in the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv.