In contrast to the widespread embracement abroad of binding strategies, such as “Local Agendas 21,” local government in Israel has not yet adopted a comprehensive policy on the promotion and implementation of local sustainability policy. At the same time, signs of a turnabout echoing this international trend are increasingly manifest.
Thus, at the initiation of and with the encouragement of the environmental committee of the Israel Center of Regional Councils, an expanding number of non-urban local authorities are actively involved in the formulation of strategic plans for sustainable development and the adoption of more advanced tools for environmental management. Similar, albeit less comprehensive, developments are taking place in Israel’s municipalities, especially the large ones. Concrete expressions of this growing awareness include the readiness (even if at times limited and hesitant and at times forced) to protect environmentally unique areas, such as sand dunes (Ashdod, Holon) or micro-regions with unique species (Ness Ziona, Netanya, Jerusalem), and the growing municipal interest in the development of public spaces for public well-being, such as municipal parks. Important outcomes of this general trend are municipal cooperative efforts to advance more ambitious projects, such as the joint development of metropolitan parks or the common commitment by Israel’s 15 major cities (known as the Forum 15) to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under the Cities for Climate Protection program (ICLEI).
Municipal action matters. The causal link between local sustainability and municipal performance is hardly abstract. Municipal action impacts on local sustainability by means of decisions and activities under the control of the local authority – whether directed at sustainability or not. These decisions and actions are embedded in the overall municipal set of competences and activities. Because of their public nature, they are subject to parallel requirements for institutional transparency and accountability.
Local sustainability needs to be publicly assessed in the same manner as any other field of municipal action.
In recent years, an important tool was developed for local authorities – a performance indicator system for local government.4 This tool was designed to provide, by means of concise data (indicators), a clear, objective and comprehensive picture of local management, in terms of resources, outputs and outcomes. However, this preliminary effort disregarded the issue of sustainable development.
The present study aims to overcome this limitation in the context of a wider conceptualization of the role and ends of local government. It presents the first phase of the development of a parallel system of performance indicators, directly focused on the issue of municipal sustainability
The study is divided into four main chapters: the first chapter presents the conceptual system which guides the study, centered on the distinction between “local sustainability” and “municipal sustainability.” The second chapter presents a model of “managed municipal sustainability.” The third chapter presents the areas and subjects covered by the present scheme and the proposed indicators.
The final chapter reviews the feasibility of implementing this system in light of operational considerations: the availability and quality of the required data, the processing of the data, and the modes of presentation and dissemination of the results (the indicators).