In Western countries and in Israel, pollution is said to pose the greatest risk to public health. The Ministry for Environmental Protection is tasked with the monitoring, regulation, supervision, enforcement, and the reduction of pollution and its risks. The Ministry also provides support tools and incentives to encourage improved energy efficiency and to reduce pollution from the four primary sources of pollution: industry, energy generation, transportation, and open burning.
Another key issue facing the Ministry is waste treatment and the mplementation of a new national treatment strategy for this purpose. Currently, roughly 80% of Israel’s waste is buried, and the remainder is recycled. Waste burial creates a variety of environmental hazards: air and odor pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater and soil pollution, the utilization of land that is a limited resource, public health risks, and an ineffective use of resources. The OCS is aspiring to reduce waste burial and to recycle waste for the production of valuable raw materials. Other challenges it is addressing include decreasing risks from hazardous materials, reducing emissions, and conserving water and natural resources.
In order to face these environmental challenges, the Ministry of Environmental Protection is fostering the development of innovative initiatives for environmental technologies (cleantech) aimed at reducing environmental risks and minimizing the use of natural resources in a variety of energy generation and product manufacturing processes. The main markets for these technologies include primarily the various energy field derivatives (energy efficiency, creating renewable energy, storage and distribution), as well as water resource management. In addition to the energy and water sectors, other environmental technology sectors include smart and sustainable transportation, waste resource management, and advanced industrial manufacturing that streamlines raw materials usage.
In Israel, there are a few hundred companies that operate in a variety of environmental technology fields, however the implementation of innovative, technological, environmental solutions requires government backing on several fronts:
- Assistance in establishing pilot environmental technology facilities – A facility or a process on a larger scale than lab testing designed to examine the real-life feasibility of the implementation of the innovative technology on an industrial scale.
- Funding – The stage of demonstrating the environmental technology on an industrial scale is costly; banks, institutional entities and venture capital funds should be encouraged to fund it.
- Regulation – An innovative technology that has not yet been field tested cannot guarantee to meet the required environmental performance and emissions regulations. Field testing necessitates the drafting of regulatory policy that takes into account the risk of temporary and controlled deviation from performances and values attributed to an optimal available technique. To this end, the OCS has a new treatment policy in the licensing of pilot facilities for environmental innovation designed to remove regulatory obstacles under the auspices of the Ministry. Regulatory support includes assistance with bureaucratic procedures for facility licensure under the framework of the Ministry’s regulation authorities, and the possibility for controlled relief of pollutant emission values over the course of the pilot period.
The problems facing cleantech markets are not unique to Israel. On the one hand, we are witnessing the consistent growth of environmental technology markets around the world, and this growth is projected to continue; on the other hand, in order to realize the environmental and economic potential of environmental technologies, governments worldwide must join forces and support these initiatives.
A new program launched by the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Innovation Authority will create conditions that will allow innovative environmental technologies to mature and to be implemented on an industrial and global scale. The program offers monetary and regulatory support of environmental technology initiatives at the beta stage, the stage for testing commercial feasibility. Over fifty projects from a wide range of environmental fields have been submitted for the first support round, with a total budget equaling roughly nIS 150 million.