Earth Day 2021: Israel & India must set off together on yatra for a greener planet, says Consul General Ya'akov Finkelstein, Israeli Consulate General, Mumbai

We want a future with less carbon and less pollution, a future based on green energy… I welcome this vital initiative by Prime Minister Modi and I want to assure you that Israel is your partner in this quest.

--Israeli PM, Benjamin Netanyahu, at ISA Conference

For the second consecutive Earth Day, the world is compelled by the Covid-19 virus. Efforts to combat the pandemic world-wide have given a temporary respite to the challenge of controlling emissions and climate change. Nonetheless, research shows a direct link between environmental crises, climate change and the novel coronavirus.

Experts have found that global warming has led to the emergence of new infectious zoonotic diseases such as Covid-19, meaning that our current global pandemic is most probably tied to the grim environmental situation of our planet. This fact should serve as a strong and urgent call to action for all of us.

Paris pact

How far are we from where we want to be? The ‘Emissions Gap Report’ by the UN Environment Programme analyses the disparity between where greenhouse gas emissions should be by 2030 and where they should be to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. Last year’s report found that the world was still heading towards a temperature rise of over 3 degrees this century, well above the goal of 1.5 degrees set out in the Paris Agreement.

Interestingly, India is the only country to achieve the ‘2°C compatible’ standard, and one of the few countries on track to meet its Paris target, achieving 21 per cent of its pledge to reduce emissions intensity of GDP by 33-35 per cent by 2030. India is also just 2 per cent short of its 2030 target of 40 per cent of installed non-fossil fuel electricity capacity.

Where is Israel in all this?

When it comes to climate innovation and sustainability, Israel can serve both as an example and a provider of solutions to global problems. The country’s arid condition, combined with its entrepreneurial and problem-solving spirit, have made Israel a leader in the field of environmental innovation. Drip irrigation and the development of resistant, fortified crops are world-renowned and highly sought-after technologies that were actually originally developed in Israel.

The country is also at the forefront of one of the world’s latest trends in sustainability: animal protein replacement. Innovative Israeli companies have successfully produced lab-grown protein that is almost indistinguishable from high-quality meat and have even grown real meat from animal cells in a lab. It will have a big impact on use of arable land, water and greenhouse gases emissions.

Israel is also a global water powerhouse. The country holds the world record for water reuse, recycling almost 90 per cent of its wastewater for use in agriculture. It has one of the most unique national water systems in the world, with some 80 per cent of its drinking water being desalinated saltwater.

Forestation expertise

Over a century of experience in reforestation has also made Israel a leader in the reforestation of semi-arid areas. Israel is probably the only country in the world where the number of trees today far exceed the number at the time of her independence. Israel’s expertise in the forestation will only grow in value, as large-scale tree planting and other nature-based solutions become ever more prevalent as methods of mitigating against the effects of climate change.

Following the Paris climate agreement, India, along with more than 170 countries, has established the International Solar Alliance (ISA), which aims to bring together more than 120 tropical countries blessed with abundant sunshine. Addressing the ISA meeting last year, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: “We want a future with less carbon and less pollution, a future based on green energy and that’s why I welcome this vital initiative by Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi and I want to assure you that Israel is your partner in this quest.”

India has set an ambitious target of 175GW of installed renewable capacity by 2022. Israel made roof-top solar heaters mandatory almost 50 years ago. India’s strides in growing ‘more crop per drop’ and developing new technologies, present a unique opportunity for Israeli companies, some of them already selling and even manufacturing in India.

Green recovery

Israel has an exceptional set of assets that mean it is well-placed to make a unique contribution worldwide when it comes to pursuing green recovery programmes from Covid-19. Its cutting-edge technologies and decades of practical experience were all born of the demanding environmental challenges that Israel faced from the very outset of its statehood and the solutions it developed to meet those challenges could now serve the world well.

Israel is already sharing with India its experience and knowhow in the fields of water, agro-technology and renewable energy and we are pleased to share it with every country in the world. We only have one planet, and we must all work together to protect it. Let us walk this yatra together!

The writer is Consul General, Israeli Consulate General in Mumbai

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