Experts call Israel a ‘laboratory’ for eco-innovation

Statements come at UN Economics Commission conference in TA; "Israel good at doing more with less," says chief economic adviser to PM.

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July 13, 2011 03:35
3 minute read.
Gilad Erdan (left) and UN's Jans Kubis

Gilad Erdan (left) and UN's Jans Kubis 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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Strategists from around the world agreed that “Israel is a laboratory” for eco-innovation and can serve as a platform for larger countries looking to harness sustainable technology during a special conference held by the United Nations Economics Commission in Tel Aviv on Tuesday.

The meeting, called “Promoting Eco-Innovation: Policies and Opportunities, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe,” included members of the commission, Israeli contributors and other experts from across the globe, who strategized about how to generate policies and achieve cooperation to further the spread and efficiency of green technology tools.

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“Israel is a laboratory of innovative policies and practices in many areas, including technologies, financing and project management,” said Jan Kubis, UN under-secretary general and executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe.

“Perhaps such a laboratory could serve as a training center that could share its experiences gained here and help other countries.”

Eugene Kandel, head of the Israel Economic Council and chief economic adviser to the prime minister, agreed with Kubis, adding, “We see Israel as a global lab.”

“We’re pretty good at inventing innovative solutions that are applicable and can be put together pretty quickly,” Kandel said.

As a culture of immigrants who have historically tackled difficult issues, said Kandel, Israel is particularly suited to battle global sustainability challenges, such as food, water and energy.

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“What characterizes [immigrants] is that they can’t do things the way their ancestors did,” he said, noting that even when he came to Israel in 1977, it was an entirely different country.

But by the 1980s, solar water heaters were a regular on Israeli residences, and today the country has become a major exporter of eco-technologies, he added.

“We are able to not only feed the population but export,” Kandel said. “We are leaders in the world of reusage of water and are probably the leaders in desalination as well. Within three years, Israel won’t be dependent on nature for its water needs.”

In addition to water desalination tools, Kandel mentioned agricultural technology, irrigation and livestock farming as some of Israel’s exportable strengths.

“We are looking to develop these ideas in Israel, try them out here and then globally expand them,” Kandel said.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan said that the challenge after inventing such solutions, however, is the responsibility “to translate the success in areas such as information technology, agricultural production and medical breakthroughs into workable ecological and environmental innovations.”

Such solutions are crucial across the globe, Erdan said, stressing that economist Thomas Malthus’s prediction that a population explosion would wipe out the food supply was wrong.

“He could not foresee the technological development of the 20th century,” Erdan said. “Technological development of the 20th century will need to be superseded by eco-innovation of the 21st century, all of this to prevent and minimize environmental contamination and halt natural resource degradation.”

In order to really push forward eco-innovation, citizens everywhere must aim to “reduce environmental impact of any activity,” agreed Salvatore Zecchini, vicechair of UN Economic Commission for Europe Committee on Economic Cooperation and Integration and chair of OECD Working Party on Small to Medium Enterprises and Entrepreneurship. According to Zecchini, environmental advances can rarely occur successfully without the cooperation of neighboring states.

“Eco-innovation is doing more with less,” Kandel added.

“The only reason that Malthus is being proven wrong again and again [is] because people are learning to do much more with much less. And I think Israel is a great example of this.”

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