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    Expert Knowledge Base

    During the Sustainability Outlook – Israel 2030 Project, experts in various fields were requested to identify trends in their field of expertise over the last two decades, identify where they could see opportunities and risks for the future and indicate where intervention and policies were needed to strengthen resilience.

    Final Publication – Outlook 2030

    Trade and Economy

    Expert opinion prepared by Dr. Doron Lavee and Tomer Ash of the Pareto Group, Inc.

    Past Developments:

    The government was involved in the market and gave priority to economic development and full employment. In general, as both regulator and employer, the government opposed the imposition of environmental limitations on governmental bodies. The economy was small and geared towards local needs such as construction, agriculture, and infrastructure.

    Current Trends:

    The Israeli economy shifted from local production to foreign trade, which today accounts for 61% of the GDP. These days the economy is very vulnerable to global impacts. Per capita GDP has risen to $28,000, a development that was led during the past two decades primarily by elite technology (high tech). Privatization of the economy resulted in a separation between the regulator, on the one hand, and the producer and employer on the other, thus enabling government – as regulator – to set environmental restrictions and to work for the inclusion of social and environmental liability in business. The Israeli economy adjusted itself following global market conditions (including OECD requirements) and international environmental standards. Today, despite the high level of concentration of the economy, particularly in the area of banking, it does not affect environmental issues. There is a close link between the defense industry and innovation, generating a spinoff of innovation in the civilian sector.

    “Business as Usual” Scenario:

    Global economic activity is expected to double by 2030. The Israeli economy, a small player within the international marketplace, is vulnerable to fluctuations. To date, the Israeli economy has demonstrated an ability to withstand crises and continue developing. GDP grew during the past decade by 20% and since the 1990s by approximately 75%. In recent years there has been a significant increase in the export of chemicals and medicines, which have severe environmental consequences. At the same time, the transition from production of goods to the provision of services (which characterizes developed countries) is likely to reduce pressures on the local environment. If current trends do not change, the increase in GDP per capita is likely to be reflected in increased household consumption. For the trend of rising GDP per capita to continue, the economy should generate a competitive advantage, refrain from risks, and develop the ability to adapt to global changes, as well as transition to “green growth” practices. Given the dependence on global market developments, the government will need to adopt measures designed to place the economy at the forefront of innovation, including “cleantech” industries and especially those areas in which Israel has a competitive advantage and the potential to position itself as a global leader.

    Recommendations for the future:

    1. Making Israel a leader in innovation will require extensive investment in education, research and development, training institutions, and promotion of technological and non-technological innovation.

    2. The fields of green growth, cleantech, efficiency, and reduction (of raw materials, energy, water, land-use, and waste) are potential avenues for market leadership.

    3. Israeli could find itself in competition with global markets and exposed to risks related to import and export.

    4. If Israel’s foreign debt increases, it will be inherited by future generations.

    5. Under a scenario in which Israel does not take measures to encourage innovation, Israel could lose its place in the global markets and experience a decline in GDP per capita.

    Full Report- Hebrew

    Land and Space

    Expert opinion prepared by Arch. Dan Stav, former deputy director for planning and development at the Israel Land Authority

    Past Developments:

    Land was considered a national resource, to be used by the state in pursuit of its objectives, foremost of which was establishing governance over land reserves. Land was allocated for use in a process that effectively transferred “ownership” of the land to a status comparable to private ownership. Privately owned lands were compulsorily purchased for marketable and public purposes. Following a change in public priorities, reflected in a multitude of legal suits, the compulsory purchase of land has been reduced and is used only for public purposes, primarily infrastructures.

    Current Trends:

    Today land is perceived more as a means of production and less as a resource for the achievement of national objectives. At the same time, its price does not include external costs such as payment for infrastructures or environmental damage. The lack of full pricing of land facilitates a trend towards the expansion of built-up areas at the expense of open spaces and does not facilitate the renewal of existing urban areas.

    “Business as Usual” Scenario:

    Land will serve as an economic asset that enables short-term solutions to economic and social problems. A preference for the expansion of built-up areas can, therefore, be expected, at the expense of more efficient use of land, and with a resulting loss of open space. Urban renewal will occur only when it is considered “economical.” In the absence of urban renewal, residential development, commercial, and industrial activities will move out of the cities.

    Recommendations for the future:

    A scenario for reducing the rate of expansion of the built-up area  – a scenario for preserving and protecting open space:

    This scenario would entail the formation of an integrated network combining transportation – public transportation in particular – with business and employment, in the form of a central column stretching from Naharia to Be’er Sheva, with extensions and sub-circuits. This network would constitute a skeleton for a nationwide municipal network – a singular national metropolis. 

    1. Constraining the spread of development entails strengthening cities and urban life, implementing urban renewal projects from an inclusive national perspective, and implementing measures to restrict urban sprawl;
    2. Housing that is accessible to large population groups will be constructed using new and specialized methods and systems;
    3. Preparations will be undertaken for the possibility of future waves of immigration or ingathering, with an emphasis on urban absorption;
    4. Use of underground space will be increased, among other means by changing ownership rights of underground space;
    5. The rate of expansion of built-up areas will be reduced to 0.1%-0.5%
    The scenario for reducing the rate of expansion can be combined with other scenarios:

    A scenario for reducing the allocation of land for infrastructures, under which:

        1. Infrastructures will pay for their use of land,

        2. The integration of infrastructures will be encouraged, including tunnels within cities and corridors between cities.

    A scenario for preservation and development, under which:

        1. Preservation of open spaces will not be based on the past model of a division between conservation and development, but on models which integrate conservation and development biosphere reserves.

    Full Report- Hebrew


    Expert opinion prepared by Shimon Tal, Tal Consulting, Inc., former water commissioner

    Past Developments:

    The provision of water was perceived as a strategic foundation for achievement of national objectives; the water supply network was administered at the national level; until the 1990s agriculture was held as a dominant objective in the political perspective relating to management of the water supply network. The water economy infrastructures (legal, physical, and administrative) were constructed with due consideration to the severe shortage in water sources and the expected future intensification of this shortage.

    Current Trends:

    Water continues to be perceived as a resource in short supply.
    The objectives of water supply have been expanded today and include the conservation of landscape and natural water sources as national objectives. Water also plays a political role in the Middle East, and Israel must abide by its obligations under political agreements in which water is an important issue among the issues on the negotiating table. Other trends include: drawing a distinction in the administration of the water economy between policymakers (the government and its ministers) and ongoing professional management (the Water Authority); advancing the objectives of sustainability in the water economy by increasing the sources of water – desalination and recycling of wastewater for agriculture; preservation of water sources by preventing their contamination and by rehabilitating contaminated water sources; ensuring availability of drinking water by developing procedures and methods for alternative water supply during times of crisis.

    “Business as Usual” Scenario:

    The master plan for the water system that was approved in July 2011 prepares the water system to operate in conditions of uncertainty, such as a decrease in natural water sources. Under the procedures of the water system , water supply for urban and industrial consumers will be determined by market allocation . The preservation and promotion of national objectives (scope and distribution  of agriculture, water for nature, and provisions regarding water in the peace agreement) will be achieved by means of price subsidies. Ensuring reliable water supply for various needs will be achieved by efficient exploitation of the operative water storage systems and other water sources. Plans to double the potential water sources will be achieved through desalination, more efficient use of energy sources for water production, and use of wastewater for agriculture, alongside reduction of the risks of land and groundwater contamination. There will also be active engagement in the search for regional solutions to develop additional water sources and overcome regional shortages. The development of additional water sources (fossil waters in the Negev, exploitation of surface runoff) will entail examination of their economic feasibility. The efficiency of water use will be achieved by demand management and managing runoff and drainage.

    Recommendations for the future:

    The approved master plan for the water system is in fact a development plan for the coming years.

    Full Report – Hebrew


    See also: Policy Packages for the Water Sector SPREE Project


    Expert opinion prepared by Dr. Amit Mor and Shimon Saroussi, Eco Energy, Inc.

    Past Developments:

    Israel was dependent on fuel imports and suffered the consequences of being an “electricity island” disconnected from international networks. Coal was selected as strategic source for energy production, and measures were taken to reduce environmental consequences in accordance with accepted practices at the time; the production, transmission, and distribution of electricity are carried out by a government company (the electricity company), whose goal is ensuring the reliable supply of electricity.

    Current Trends:

    The inclusion of natural gas in the energy market paves the way for private electricity producers, constitutes a substantive structural change for Israel, and reduces dependence on fuel imports; to date, the scope of renewable energy development has been very limited; a significant reduction in air pollution from the burning of fuel for energy production has been achieved, but it is still unclear how Israel will meet its obligations to reduce greenhouse gasses.

    “Business as Usual” Scenario:

    The price of oil is not expected to decline, yet the price of natural gas is expected to rise. Within a decade natural gas will provide 70% of the market’s needs for electricity production and for large industries’ energy supply. Measures will be taken to ensure a variety of natural gas sources. Despite greater energy efficiency, there will be an increase in energy consumption by 64% compared to 2009. The scope of renewable energy production will reach 10%. Given that Israel will remain an “electricity island” and that the electricity network lacks redundancy, it will be necessary to back up energy sources with diesel and fuel oil.

    Recommendations for the future:

    Scenarios under which energy sources will increase:

    1. Maintenance of a long-term reserve of natural gas for Israel by limiting its export;

    2. Import of liquid natural gas (LNG), its storage, and construction of a re-gasification facility at sea (stationary or mobile container);

    3. Increasing the scope of electricity production from renewable energy sources to 20% of the total of electricity production by allocating approximately 300 square kilometers in the Negev desert for solar facilities;

    4. Construction of nuclear power plants at a capacity of approximately 4 GW.

    Scenarios under which energy efficiency will increase:

    1. Construction of a smart bi-directional electricity network to accommodate heavy demands, including electric motor vehicles;

    2. Use of natural gas for transportation (CNG, methanol);

    3. Use of local fuel derived from oil shale for transportation and industry;

    4. Adoption of measures to increase energy efficiency by 20%

    Full Report – Hebrew

    Ecosystems and Ecosystem Services

    Expert opinion prepared by Prof. Uriel Safriel, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

    Past Developments:

    Human development has  resulted in the transformation of natural ecosystems into pastures, forestation, agricultural tracts, artificial bodies of water, and urban areas. These efforts have benefitted human beings (for example, by providing food) but have weakened other functions (such as natural protection from flooding). The systems that provide most ecological support services in Israel are natural forests and groves. The biological diversity in Israel has enjoyed relatively good protection and has been the subject of extensive research and scientific exploration.

    Current Trends:

    The local ecosystems of today are already unable to meet the needs of the population, thus increasing Israel’s dependence on imported biological goods (grains, beef, timber ) from dry ecosystems elsewhere. These ecosystems are under pressure because of growing populations and global warming, and their continued capacity to provide services is therefore uncertain. Development efforts in Israel have decreased, fragmented, and contaminated natural ecosystems, particularly forests, scrubland, freshwater systems, and coastal areas. The loss of these systems as control mechanisms exposes Israel to extreme events. Some have technological alternatives, but these are expensive. Water subsidies for agricultural purposes facilitated agricultural development in a way that did not accord with local ecosystems, and local produce was transformed into produce for export, without taking into consideration the value of the control mechanisms of the ecosystems as opposed to the income from marketing agricultural produce abroad. Cultural services (landscape and heritage) in all their aspects generated great value in terms of tourism and recreation. Despite Israel’s need to preserve the ecosystem’s control mechanisms and reinforce resilience following change, it in fact undermines the natural systems that provide natural protection.

    “Business as Usual” Scenario:

    Continuation of current development practices will exacerbate the erosion and fragmentation of Israel’s ecosystems. Food supply will be increasingly dependent on imports and therefore vulnerable to the uncertainties of the ecosystems of the countries providing for Israel’s needs. Global warming poses a threat to Israel’s ecosystems, for example via invasion of foreign species, frequency, and intensity of floods, water loss, soil erosion, and fires, none of which the state can influence. It is expected that agricultural systems will be abandoned and natural ecosystems will return, and that a process of rehabilitation of natural ecosystems will occur as a result of increased water supply resulting from desalination and the option of replenishing natural water sources.

    Recommendations for the future:

    Scenarios under which agriculture does not compete for water:

    1. Cancellation of water subsidies for agriculture and return of abandoned lands to their natural state in light of the inability to sustain agriculture through local supply alone and the inability to complete with imported agricultural produce;
    2. There is a possibility that agriculture could become less dependent on ground resources (such as greenhouse cultivation) and could be made efficient through water use at the cost of desalination;

    3. Agriculture could be furthered on the basis of fossil water.

    Scenarios that give priority to control mechanisms:

    1. Granting priority in land use to the cultivation of ecosystems that are important in providing control mechanisms, rather than ecosystems for provision of agricultural produce;
    2. Returning agricultural systems and deforested areas to their natural states, taken as a positive measure that is likely to contribute to ecosystems’ productivity;

    3. Strengthening the resistance to climate change by preserving areas of sharp climatic transition;

    4. Promoting biological diversity such as organic agriculture and urban nature;

    5. Guaranteeing protection for natural water supply systems in future regional agreements covering water supply.

    Full Report – Hebrew

    Social Aspects of the Environment

    Expert opinion prepared by Dr. Yaakov Garb, Ben Gurion University

    Past Developments:

    Environmental conditions in Israel are determined by a number of factors: salient production processes, economic-political context at the time, governmental regularization systems, and public engagement in environmental issues. The prevailing environmental perspective has been one of “modern ecology” based on the assumption that the environment can be protected through the internalization of environmental considerations by political, economic, and social institutions. This perspective, however, obscures the inherent contradictions and instability of existing systems.

    Current Trends:

    Today Israel is struggling with some issues that are unique to it, but several issues are similar to those with which developed countries with comparable income levels and consumption patterns are struggling. Internalization of environmental considerations by the governmental authorities and an increase in public awareness have led to greater appreciation of the environmental costs and increased regularization and enforcement. The small size of the country and lack of natural resources, which leave little room for mistakes, have resulted in relatively high degrees of innovation and resilience.

    “Business as Usual” Scenario:

    Continuation of the “modern ecology” perspective alongside improved internalization of environmental considerations within the state’s regularization systems; more involvement by the business sector and civil society activism; strengthening of the links among science, technology, and environmental protection, and increased use of economic tools; cities will take steps to improve the quality of life in order to attract residents and investments; despite environmental policies, environmental resources and open areas are decreasing, which in the long term will result in the creation of concentrated urban centers in the north and center of the country; accumulation of economic wealth and increased consumption will be the driving forces affecting the environment in Israel.

    Recommendations for the future:

    Scenarios characterized by uncertainty:

    • The “business as usual” scenario is based on an assumption of geopolitical stability in the region and a market economy entailing continued privatization, without taking into account the possibility of an extreme occurrence resulting from climate change or a change in attitude towards Israel in the international arena.
    • An alternative scenario of uncertainty is based on the assumption that this stability will be undermined (for whatever reason) and lead to social unrest.

    Scenarios of equitable intra-generational distribution:

    • In response to social unrest, procedures would be adopted for more equitable distribution of environmental resources for the sake of the current generation (intra-generational equity), but these would come at the expense of future generations (for example, increased consumption and release of lands for development ).

    Full Report – Hebrew

    Sustainable Management of Minerals for Industry

    Expert opinion prepared by Dr. Vered Blass, Tel Aviv University

    Past Developments:

    Until recent years not much weight was given to the issue of mineral management for industrial purposes, and means of disconnecting economic growth from environmental damage in Israel were not explored. In the mid-1990s many countries began to promote this issue by creating a recycling economy in which raw materials are returned to the production cycle by means of reuse and recycling, reduced waste disposal, and improved efficiency in the use of resources, for example by reducing the amount of raw materials required, reducing energy needed for production and use, etc. In Israel, the issue of efficiency of use of resources is familiar mainly in the context of water, where it is most salient, but in many other sectors as well, such as energy, raw materials, etc. Israel is at the early stages of policymaking and implementation of this perspective in the industrial sector.

    Current Trends:

    Efficiency of resource use refers to various issues such as energy, carbon footprint, raw materials and waste, water, land, etc. Companies, sectors, cities, and countries are beginning to monitor and improve their practices in these areas using a variety of indicators. The perspective of a recycling economy views waste and byproducts as a resource for optimal reuse of products, parts, and materials. To reach high returns of 80-90%, a recycling market needs to be developed, with advanced legislation, industrial symbiosis, and the promotion of the principles of sustainable production and consumption, including changes that would be adopted as early as possible during the planning stages of the products and services consumed. Israel promotes the issue of return and recycling of waste but is still at the early stages of the revolution. One of the important issues in this area is the issue of rare earth minerals. This issue has seized the attention of many countries because 95% of the production of these minerals today is located in China, which has recently begun limiting the export of these minerals to certain countries to maintain competitiveness and local production capacities. These minerals are needed for various applications and innovative products associated with the cleantech industry and with communications, and are therefore significant, particularly in light of Israel’s desire for a transition to green growth practices and to become a leader in the fields of eco-innovation, green IT, and alternatives to oil.

    “Business as Usual” Scenario:

    The absence of clear government policy regarding the management of minerals for industry, both local minerals, and imported minerals; minimal improvement in the rates of return and reuse, and continued dumping; reliance on voluntary procedures on the parts of the industry and the free market.

    Recommendations for the future:

    Establishing a policy of a recycling economy in Israel for the short and the long term in the matters of recycling, disposal, development of a recycling technology industry, encouraging industrial symbiosis, and managing trade in imported environmental resources. The Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor should address the issue of rare earth minerals and establish priorities for the Israeli economy. The flow of critical materials needs to be examined by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and strategic cooperation established with member states of the European bloc, Japan, the United States, etc. Resources should be allocated for research and development in the field of recycling technologies, green chemistry, efficiency, and environmental innovation.

    Full Report – Hebrew

    Policies of Sustainable Management of Natural Resources

    Expert opinion prepared by Tzruya Shevach

    Past Developments:

    Israel is poor in terms of natural resources and raw materials and is therefore dependent on imported resources. Israel, like the British Mandate that preceded it, granted rights to companies for extraction of minerals and aggregates – phosphates, oil shale, Dead Sea minerals – with royalties going to the state in exchange for the rights granted. Management of natural resources took the form of the granting of prospecting permits and mining permits by the authorities overseeing oil and mining, respectively, without taking into account the social and environmental consequences. Planning permission was allocated for the exploitation of mineral resources after an assessment of the environmental consequences (following the 1982 regulations requiring environmental impact assessment) and guidelines were established for the rehabilitation of disused mines and quarries. Payments for the rehabilitation of areas damaged by mining and extraction were directed to funds dedicated to these purposes: the fund for quarry rehabilitation (aggregates), the fund for phosphate rehabilitation, and the fund for Dead Sea rehabilitation.

    Current Trends:

    The portion paid to the state from income for extraction of natural resources is small, in direct contrast to the prevalent trend among developed countries today. The situation has changed for Israel concerning resources in light of the discovery of a new natural resource with significant economic value (natural gas). Today there is a concern that Israel could experience the “Dutch disease” – harm to the state’s economy because of the extraction of natural resources with economic value. The government is demanding royalties from the income generated by extracting the resources, without defining the use of the funds. Simultaneously there is an increasing public demand for equitable distribution of the natural resources that belong to the state, not only concerning natural gas.

    “Business as Usual” Scenario:

    Management of natural resources by the business sector because of the lack of any clear government policy regarding management of natural resources that belong to the state, has resulted in random decision making regarding Dead Sea resources, phosphates, natural gas fields, oil shale, other industrial minerals, aggregates, marine sand, and mineral water. There is no clear process concerning the distribution of the benefits of natural resources in accordance with business decisions because of the absence of any policy regarding the distribution of royalties received by the state; and lack of transparency concerning processes and income.

    Recommendations for the future:

    Scenarios for use of income:

    Creation of a sovereign wealth fund along with the Norwegian model for investment of revenues received from national resources; setting objectives for investments of income for the sake of long-term national objectives; adoption of international standards ( EITI – Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative) and OECD guidelines for the management of income from natural resources.

    Full Report – Hebrew

    General points for discussion for the experts

    The experts were requested to relate to the following points:

    What do we know about the past and the present?

    1. What are the salient environmental issues of the day in Israel in your field: How are these issues similar to or different from the salient issues within the global discourse?

    2. What are developments that took place in your field in the recent past and to this day that have affected and continue to affect the environment in Israel? Can they be predicted with a high degree of certainty?

    3. What are the causal factors of these developments? Can these be anticipated? Or are they unpredictable?

    4. What current or anticipated geo-environmental developments in the world or the region (neighboring countries) (e.g., worsening drought conditions) might affect the context for sustainability within Israel?

    5. What are the current or anticipated geopolitical developments in the world or the region (e.g., increased influence of India and China in relation to the United States and Europe, peace agreement or cause for conflict in our region) and how will they affect the context for sustainability in Israel?

    6. What are the effects of these developments (2-5 above) on the environment (problems/opportunities/damage/ability to handle/withstand)? Are they subject to control by the government of Israel?

    7. What are the effects of these developments (2-5 above) on quality of life/wellbeing?

    8. Is current Israeli policy capable of dealing with the problems and harnessing the opportunity to reduce vulnerability and dangers and to develop the resilience needed to handle changes?

    What do we expect will occur in the future?

    1. What is expected to occur in the future in your field? Please outline the possible trends and indicate what is likely to occur as a result (the best case / worst case that may be expected), taking into account the extent of certainty regarding these trends and the possibility of unexpected “shocks”?

    2. What measures should be taken in order to maximize opportunities for change and reinforce the resilience and the ability to deal with inevitable changes and unanticipated changes?

    3. What measures should be taken in order to reduce dangers/vulnerability to change and to overcome anticipated future barriers?