Save the planet with innovation – Earth Day 2023

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On April 22nd, Earth day will be celebrated in New Zealand and around the world. Despite the growing acknowledgment of the importance of protecting the fragile and unique planet we live on, it appears that we are only making matters worse. The environmental crises are piling up; the climate crisis, the crisis of biological diversity and the extinction of species, the plastic pollution that reaches every corner of the earth, the growing water shortage, the deterioration of food security for many in the world, the continuous deforestation, intensifying desertification processes and with them, the increase in zoonotic diseases and more are all getting worse.

For a second, it looks like the human race has lost all hope because the pace of environmental crises and their consequences are increasing. But, losing hope is not an option, and just as we are the ones who cause the environmental-climatic crises, we are the ones who can and must not only stop them, but also restore nature, the environment, and the climate to live a better, healthier, and happier life.

Many have written about how this can be done, and indeed, there is a wide variety of areas in which we can make an important change. However, in this article, I would like to concentrate on our experience in the State of Israel in the fields of climate and environmental innovation and offer several practical, applicable, and relatively inexpensive solutions that can help deal with the environmental and climate crises of our time. Due to its location in the desert with a scarcity of natural resources and water, Israel is a living laboratory for developing solutions of this type.

I will begin with water. We celebrated international water day a month ago and we know that the world water crisis is growing rapidly. The Israeli experience shows we must accompany water conservation with a broad communication and informational campaign to encourage the public to save water. It is also necessary to purify as much wastewater as possible and use it in agriculture: Israel purifies 94% of wastewater, of which close to 90% is used for agriculture. Moreover, water loss in urban systems in Israel is minimal, standing at only a few percent. The above practices are thanks to the groundbreaking technologies developed in Israel and the knowledge accumulated over the years, which can be applied in large parts of the world.

The second field is agriculture. The Israeli experience is to move as much as possible to irrigation-based agriculture, preferably one that is efficient, like drip irrigation, which results in higher yields and significant water savings. The development of drought-resistant crops, the use of brackish water in agriculture, the development of crops with a higher yield, biological pesticides, the use of satellites and precision agriculture – all contribute to increasing food security and reducing damage to natural resources. In fact agricultural technology has been one of the major focuses of our embassy’s economic work. In 2022 we held the first ever Israel – New Zealand Agritech Summit, which was opened by both New Zealand and Israel’s Ministers of Agriculture which was followed by a high level agritech delegation from New Zealand to Israel’s world-renowned Agritech and Foodtech week in Tel Aviv.

Animal protein substitutes are another vital area that increases food security and reduces the pressure on the natural systems that are currently vastly overexploited to grow livestock for human consumption. This field shows great promise for humanity. In an era where the climate crisis damages crops, the protein substitutes produced in laboratories can reduce the pressure on the natural systems and allow their restoration. In addition, increasing the use of plant based proteins on the one hand and reducing the consumption of animal products on the other hand, also helps to deal with the serious environmental consequences that eminent from animal food consumption. In December 2022, MFAT released a report into Israel’s world leading alternative proteins market and how New Zealand has already benefited from its links into the Israeli innovation ecosystem as well as future opportunities.  

Few people know this, but from the very beginning of the founding of the State of Israel 75 years ago, its first Prime Minister, David Ben-Gurion, saw the field of solar energy as one of the areas that Israel should lead. Today, more than 200 companies and start-ups in Israel are engaged in renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage – all of which are necessary for successfully dealing with the climate crisis.

Despite its young age and relatively small area, Israel has accumulated vast experience in planting forests in semi-arid regions and preserving them in dry and extreme conditions. This knowhow and experience are priceless for a world where forests that are so necessary to deal with the climate crisis are dying from heat, drought and diseases and are burning.

The entrepreneurial community in Israel, whether it belongs to civil society or business, is becoming increasingly involved in solving the environmental crisis. Over 1,300 companies and start-ups are active in the field of climate innovation; among them, we can mention dozens of companies engaged in the field of carbon capture, others in the fields of satellites and remote sensing, others use artificial intelligence to pre-locate forest areas prone to illegal logging even before a tree is burned or an ax is swung. Others deal with weather forecasting with information from social networks, satellites, climate models, and more. These are only some of the fields in which Israel has gained experience that can help the world.

When we celebrate Earth Day again, we must remember goal number 17 in the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – the SDGs- that is about cooperation. Only through cooperation, sharing best practices, knowledge, experience and more can we overcome the significant challenges at our doorstep. Israel is ready and looks forward to continued cooperation with New Zealand since the future of all of us is a common future that we share. Only if we know how to overcome the crises the earth is facing, together, can we ensure that this future will be good for everyone.

By H.E. Ran Yaakoby, Ambassador of Israel to New Zealand

For further articles on Israel’s climate change technologies please refer to the following links:

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL2303/S00048/marking-world-water-day.htm

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/WO2210/S00211/israel-and-the-importance-of-cop-27-to-the-middle-east-and-the-pacific.htm

https://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/HL2110/S00067/israel-and-new-zealands-climate-change-co-operations.htm