‘Economy of Tomorrow requires green strategies'

Environmental program focused on long-term sustainability would be turning point for stability, experts say.

Environmental activist 311 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Environmental activist 311
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Only an economic policy rooted in concepts of long-term sustainability and natural resource preservation will be able to bring the country the prosperity and social welfare that its people seek, according to authors of a new project.
“Israel is currently confronting a combination of economic, social and environmental crises,” the report says. “Crisis management must also be integrative in order to create a sustainable and healthy economy that bridges social gaps while generating real quality of life in a manner that does not harm residents’ pockets and health, or undermine their trust while weakening the social fabric.”
The report, titled “The Economy of Tomorrow: Challenges, Solutions and Recommendations,” was released on Wednesday evening in Tel Aviv and is sponsored by the Israeli Economy of Tomorrow Project and by the German organization Heinrich Boll Stiftung Israel. While an original draft was originally written by Green Movement co-chair and project steering committee member Prof.
Alon Tal, the first author on the latest version is Rachel Berner Shalem, a senior economic analyst. The editors of the project included Sagit Porat, professional director of Tel Aviv University’s Akirov Institute for Business and the Environment and Ronny Daniel, a project manager at The Israeli Society for Sustainable Economics and an associate at Whiteboard Service Design.
Containing contributions from a series of environmental and social researchers and activists, the project has the support of many environmental organizations and academic institutions – like the Life and Environment umbrella group for Israel’s environmental organizations, the Green Movement, Adam Teva V’Din – The Israel Union for Environmental Defense, Friends of the Earth Middle East, the University of Haifa, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies.
Promoting green economic concepts and recognizing the importance of environmental and social sustainability, the project joins a series of initiatives around the Western world that have collectively become known as the “Green New Deal,” according to the project.
Rather than seeking “tree hugger” environmental solutions, the report aims to focus on practical data and experience to find better alternatives for green taxes, transportation, energy, green society and employment, the authors write. Although gross domestic product has been the main instrument for indicating quality of life in the Western world, The Economy of Tomorrow argues that following this indicator only does not properly reflect other factors of well-being.
Activities like smoking, pollution and traffic accidents all may contribute positive economic value according to GDP, but they also cause significant damage left unaccounted for.
“If the indices we use fail to reflect this situation, indices that will provide optimal policy guidelines and data must be found,” the report says, and goes on to present various green indices adopted around the world.
In addition to altering the type of index that the country uses to calculate wealth, the report also suggests introducing “green taxes” in which the polluter pays for his actions and non-polluting activities can receive positive reinforcement. Although market economies tend to “encourage economic creativity and efficacy,” all too often the negative results of consumption and production end up preventing the markets from achieving sustainable growth and optimal social circumstances, the report explains.
Improving the efficiency of transportation is also a key element of The Economy of Tomorrow, and will help increase market productivity, reduce the cost of living, lower housing prices and diminish damage caused by air pollution, according to the report authors.
“Despite this, the government chooses to continue to shelve good programs for many years while avoiding prioritizing mass transportation,” the report says.
Looking at energy, The Economy of Tomorrow pinpoints electricity production as one of the main sources of pollution and notes that today’s electricity production is based mainly on fuels whose prices are ever-rising and which come from countries hostile to Israel.
“Creating an alternative to energy production that is not dependent on external parties will guarantee Israeli independence and strength in the event of war or economic crisis,” the report says.
A sustainable energy market in Israel can emerge through behavioral changes with respect to energy consumption, demand management in homes and public places, green construction standards, regional cooperation and use of renewable energy and natural gas, according to the report.
Addressing issues of social justice is also critical to the growth of a successful green economy, as the lower class is currently unable to escape the cycle of poverty and the middle class is facing difficulties coping with Israel’s high cost of living, the authors write.
Green jobs for neglected populations as well as an open local economy that supports small and medium-sized businesses could therefore provide immense economic benefit.
Cleantech “can and should be a cornerstone for Israel’s technological future, one that will be reflected in the development of human capital and job creation,” the report says.
The Economy of Tomorrow project bears many similarities with the Green Growth strategy being promoted by the Environmental Protection Ministry, and the permission for a government task force to create a green growth economic plan was approved by the cabinet last year. Praising the version that Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan has tried to push through the government, Tal said that the only problem with the ministry’s program is that it simply has not been able to achieve government approval.
“This Green New Deal is not sort anomalous extreme green program. It’s now public policy in Norway, South Korea,” Tal said. “Israel doesn’t need to feel that we’re so out there. We can realize that just as the New Deal of the 1930s redefined the modern economy of the Western world, Green New Deals that are increasingly being adopted can be looked upon as a turning point for stability.”