While no climate change litigation has been brought by citizen(s) challenging Israel’s national climate policy or law, the following grounds could be used for a basis:
- Constitutional grounds: under Israeli Basic Laws which form the constitution of the Country, Citizens have a right to dignity, liberty and property. In 2002 the Supreme Court was called to discuss the right to dignity, liberty and property and the right to a clean environment in the case of The Israel Union for Environmental Defence V. The Government of Israel, HCJ no. 4128/02. The Court was asked whether the text of the Basic Law could be construed to include the right to an adequate environment. The Supreme Court found that the right to a clean environment cannot be derived from the right to human dignity and liberty, but recognized the constitutional right to a “minimal environment”. The term “minimal environment” was not further defined and was left for to broad interpretation.
- National Legislation: Under the Clean Air Act Citizens can bring an action against the State if the State has been found to have committed an act or omission which results in air pollution. The definition of air pollution under the Act includes substances like carbon dioxide and methane resulting from combustion so the connection to climate change could be argued. The Protection of the Coastal Environment Law 5764-2004 does not specifically deal with climate change, however it places obligations on The Drainage Authority to prepare plans for each river or any water source within its territory. These plans must factor in the sustainable use of these resources to address the needs of future generations.
- International obligations: The Israeli Court in Custodian of Absentee Assets v. Samara et al. Civil Appeal No. 147/55 ruled that international customary law is automatically incorporated into Israeli National Law. However, international treaties which Israel has signed must be incorporated into national legislation.
Under the Clean Air Act a court can award damages to citizens who have suffered loss due to the breach of obligations under the Act. The Clean Air Act also places an obligation on the Israeli Government to create and implement a National Pollution Reduction & Prevention Program. If such a programme is not created, the Government can be ordered to do so, as happened in the case of The Israel Union for Environmental Defense v. The Government of Israel, HCJ No. 1092/12.
The Locus Standi requirement is broad. Under the Clean Air Act any citizen can bring forward an action if they have suffered damage. Individual citizens can gain standing under the Israeli Basic Law for human rights claims.
Absence of more cases can be attributed to the fact that Climate Change Law is currently in its ‘teething stage’ in Israel.
- The Israel Union for Environmental Defence V. The Government of Israel, HCJ no. 4128/02.
- The Israel Union for Environmental Defense v. The Government of Israel, HCJ No. 1092/12
- Custodian of Absentee Assets v. Samara et al. Civil Appeal No. 147/55
For more country specific context and relevant national climate change law see: https://climate-laws.org/geographies/israel
This country report has been produced by Robbie McAdam, C2LI Research Assistant, Humzah Khan, C2LI Senior Research Assistant and Kate McKenzie, C2LI Legal. This summary is based on Dr. Tzipi Iser Itsiq, Adv., Tzvi Levinson, Adv, “Climate Change Litigation in Israel – Trends, Prospects and Challenges” in F. Sindico and M. Moise Mbengue, Comparative Climate Change Litigation: Beyond the Usual Suspects, Springer, 2021.