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Israel knows environment, like citizens, needs protection

The mention of Israel usually evokes notions of a country that is paranoid when it comes to its national security. Since biblical times, the history of the Jews is replete with narratives of a people facing and overcoming genocide from different enemies.

From being enslaved by Egypt’s pharaohs to extermination calls by Germany’s Furher, Adolf Hitler, the Israelis have seen it all. It is not by accident that cooperation in security, particularly counter-terrorism measures, was top of the agenda during the visit of Israeli Premier Benjamin Netanyahu to Kenya.

But unbeknown to many, Israel is also a global powerhouse in several technological innovations in several fields including medicine, energy, agriculture and environment. Israel pursues innovations in the environment sector with the same vigour it ensures its security and survival.

It is a small densely populated country facing both land and water scarcity, as arid zones comprise more than 45 per cent of the land. It has no access to a number of widely used low-carbon sources of energy such as nuclear, hydroelectric and geothermal power. It is an energy island.

Still, Israel is one of the greenest countries in the world, in addition to being food self-sufficient. It is a net exporter of fruits and horticultural produce, which are grown with the least amount of water imaginable. Let us look at some invaluable examples that Kenya, which is about 86 per cent arid or semi-arid, can emulate from Israel.

For instance, an Israeli company has developed reusable plastic trays to collect dew from the air, reducing the water needed by crops by up to 50 per cent. Israeli engineers and agriculturalists have also developed a revolutionary drip irrigation system to minimise water used to grow crops.

This involves releasing water in controlled, slow drips to provide precise crop irrigation through smart drip and micro-irrigation. Climate change is also a key topic in Israel. They have ministries on climate and the environment among the key ones.

And according to Israel’s First Biennial Update Report submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change last December, the country is working towards making a permanent transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy.

The report states that Israel plans to reach its target through the following sector specific action: First is energy efficiency through a reduction of 17 per cent in electricity consumption relative to the business-as-usual projected levels in 2030.

Second is in the energy sector where 17 per cent of the electricity generated in 2030 will be from renewable sources. Third is making a 20 per cent shift from private to public transportation.

Generally, the main sectors that Israel targets in its strategy to reduce greenhouse gases (based on emission reduction potential and associated economic costs) include power generation, residential building energy consumption, commercial/public building energy consumption, industry, transportation and waste management.

The Israelis take the environment so seriously that in June 2006 the Cabinet approved a request by then Environmental minister to change the ministry’s name to Ministry of Environmental Protection to reflect the current thinking about the environment. The environment needs protection.

Like Israel, Kenya should see the December 2015 Paris Agreement as both an economic and environmental opportunity. The former’s innovations have broken the paradigm that once portrayed reduction of GHG emissions disrupt economic growth.

Indeed, climate change mitigation presents an unprecedented Israel with an opportunity to become more efficient, to save, to develop innovative technologies and to position herself as a “Start-Up Nation” in the realm of climate change solutions. The writer is executive director, Centre for Climate Change Awareness—[email protected]

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