As global companies increasingly invest in alternative energy strategies to minimize the economic costs of climate change and maximize business potential, local companies appear to be missing the boat.
"While global firms are developing new policies of environmental accountability as part of their strategy to find ways how to turn their products into green products in light of the economic threats of global warming, the vast majority of the business sector in Israel has yet to assimilate this concept and understand the risks it is taking by ignoring this new reality and the economic opportunity it could be missing out on," Alona Schaefer Karo, director-general of Life & Environment told The Jerusalem Post on the sidelines of the "Green Economy" conference in Tel Aviv on Sunday.
"Today we don't even see one Israeli company in the industry - not referring to clean-tech or green start-ups - which has a proper environment strategy similar to, for example, Toyota," she said.
Life & Environment, which organized the first green economy conference of its kind, serves as the umbrella organization of more than 95 organizations that deal with public health, sustainable development and public participation in planning.
Also speaking at the conference, Dr. John Llewellyn, senior economic policy adviser at Lehman Brothers warned that companies already investing in the "business of climate change" and seeking alternative energy solutions would prosper, while those that did not would "wither and die."
"It is clear today that climate change, an environment of high oil prices and the effects of global warming are going to change the economic landscape companies are operating in as economic cost rises disproportionately with temperature and thus companies need to take actions to offset that cost," he said. "According to our research study, the global cost of climate change could be running at an annual 2 to 3 percent of gross domestic product by 2100."
Similar to Europe, Llewellyn added, the US and Asia were expected to enact legislation over the next few years that would increase the cost of carbon dioxide or CO2 emissions and, as a result, many global companies were starting to look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint.
"Israel is only a tiny part of the global warming problem but it certainly can be part of the solution, being strong in providing hi-tech solutions," he said.
President Shimon Peres, a strong supporter of green initiatives, said in his address to the conference that it was better to be dependent on the sun than on Saudi oil.
"Oil is the world's biggest enemy and destroys democracy. Global terror is being financed by oil in countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela," he said. "Once we switch to the use of solar energy we will see what Iran, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela will do when oil prices will start to drop."