Israeli diplomats and ministers have taken a quasi-Messianic tone as the Rio+20 United Nations conference approaches.”Our main message is that the world has the problems and challenges and Israel has the solutions,” said Galit Cohen, senior deputy director-general of Israel’s Environment Ministry. “Israeli innovation for the world.”
Israel has a reputation as an international hub of green technology. It has not only fostered a market for clean technology and sustainable innovation, but has also made these developments a national priority.
Eyal Rosner was recently appointed the director of Israel’s national initiative to develop transportation technologies that reduce the use of oil. In 2011 the program was approved by the government and given a budget of NIS 1.4 billion ($365 million) for a decade of research and development, from jet fuel alternatives to oil-replacing technologies of all shapes and sizes.
Israel is now home to over 100 alternative energy start-up companies and another 100 university-based research groups. Not bad for a young nation with slightly less people than New York City, and possibly up to 13 percent of that population living abroad.
Israeli Environmental Protection Minister, Gilad Erdan, expressed concerns that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will use the global conference as a chance to harp on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rather than focusing on environmental issues.
According to Erdan, Israeli delegates would rather discuss technology and solutions to the environmental issues that plague the region, mainly desertification and water scarcity.
Israel has already been able to develop international cooperation and connection through its national water company, Mekorot. The Rio+20 Conference may be an opportunity to diversify those cooperative efforts. Or it may turn out to be just another occasion of U.N. theater, abundant photo opportunities and scant tangible action.
Image of solar powered water heaters in Jerusalem via Gilabrand, Wikimedia Commons
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