Earth Day 2021: An unprecedented opportunity to restore our Earth

April 27, 2021 by Ran Yaakoby
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The coronavirus pandemic has presented us with one of the most acute challenges of our generation.

Ambassador Ran Yaakoby

It has also, however, presented us with a unique opportunity to pursue economic recovery programs following the pandemic that incorporate strong sustainability and low-carbon measures. The world could effectively use the exit from COVID-19 to accelerate a green transition, and the commemoration of this year’s Earth Day has thus taken on an even deeper meaning.

For over a decade, the UN Environment Programme has produced an “Emissions Gap Report” that analyses the disparity between where greenhouse gas emissions should be by 2030, and where they are actually predicted to be. The 2020 report found that, despite a “brief dip” in greenhouse gas emissions caused by the pandemic’s broad economic slowdown, the world is still headed towards a temperature rise of over 3 degrees this century, well above the goal of 1.5 degrees set out in the Paris Agreement. In fact, there is 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.

When it comes to climate innovation and sustainability, Israel can serve both as an example and as a provider of solutions to global problems. The country’s arid and water-scarce conditions, 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 replacements. 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.

Israel also happens to be a global water powerhouse. The country holds the world record for water reuse, recycling almost 90% of its wastewater for use in agriculture. It also has one of the most unique national water systems in the world, with some 80 percent of its drinking water being desalinated saltwater. Over a century of experience in reforestation have also made Israel a leader in the reforestation of semi-arid areas, expertise that 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.

Israeli embassies across the globe commemorate Earth Day on an annual basis. Just like every year, Israel’s diplomatic missions will be launching a global campaign to mark the occasion, highlighting the many innovative and cutting-edge solutions that Israel has provided to global problems. The New Zealand Mission is actively involved in the Cop-26 task force group and holds its own office accountable to the international “green office’ standard. To mark this year’s Earth Day, it organised a tree planting ceremony with a Maori tribe, not only to commemorate this special day but also to seal its strong connection with the indigenous people of the land.

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 programs from COVID-19. Its cutting-edge technologies and decades of practical experience were all borne 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.

With all of the hardships that the coronavirus pandemic has inflicted around the world, it has also provided us with a unique opportunity to change our ways moving forward. Israel is willing to share its experience and know-how with every country in the world; we only have one planet, and we must all work together to protect it.

Ran Yaakoby serves as Ambassador of  Israel to New Zealand and Non-Resident Ambassador to the Cook Islands, Samoa and Tonga.

Earth Day was held on April 22


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