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Cablegate: Israel Environment & Science Notes

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DE RUEHTV #0324/01 0421049
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 111049Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 5350
INFO RUEHZN/ENVIRONMENT SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY COLLECTIVE
RUEHRC/USDA FAS WASHDC
RHMFIUU/HQ EPA WASHINGTON DC

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 TEL AVIV 000324

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR OES/ENV AND NEA/IAI and NEA/RA
USDA FOR FAS/OCBD/DRDAD AND FOREST SERVICE-SORIANO
JUSTICE FOR ENVIRONMENT AND NAT RESOURCES-JWEBB
EPA FOR INTERNATIONAL
Amman for ESTH-Bhalla

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: SENV TSPA ENRG KGHG IS
SUBJECT: ISRAEL ENVIRONMENT & SCIENCE NOTES

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Summary
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1-4.(U) NASA at Space Sciences Conference
5. (U) Opposition Parties Target CO2
6-7.(U) Israel's Cities Fight Global Warming
8. (U) Record Decline for the Dead Sea
9. (U) Kosher Electricity
10. (U) Bagging the Sack

NASA Addresses Space Science Conference
---------------------------------------
1. (U) Two visiting NASA astronauts, the Mars Rover project director
from the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, and the General of US Space
Command were a hit with their hyper-active five-day schedule in
Israel last week. They headlined the Ilan Ramon Space Sciences
Conference, where they lectured on Living and Experimenting in
Space, Future Mars Exploration Programs, and Space Science and
Education, and also addressed the Knesset Science and Technology
Forum. The group members also made presentations and took questions
at four public schools, three universities, the IDF Air Force
Academy, and Haifa Naval base. The Israel Space Agency, the
Ministry of Science, the Ministry of Education, and Embassy ESTH
office all helped coordinate the visit.

2. (U) The conference was held on the fifth anniversary of the Space
Shuttle Columbia (STS-107) accident of 2003, in which Israeli
astronaut Ilan Ramon perished along with five American astronauts.
During the visit of the NASA team to Israel's parliament, Knesset
member Benny Elon, chairman of the Science and Technology Committee,
told the visiting delegation that Israel wanted to see another
Israeli astronaut participate in the manned space flight program.
Ramon was the only Israeli to ever fly in space, and Elon wants to
see greater Israeli science contributions to and benefits from space
technology.

3. (U) President Peres, in his keynote at the Space Sciences
conference, noted that Israel performs best when it engages fully in
a challenge, as Israel's contributions to space science demonstrate.
Taking risks in the pursuit of knowledge is an Israeli strength,
and he lauded all astronauts as supremely courageous in the risks
they take for the advancement of knowledge. Peres encouraged
students today to live for discovery, not live for money. He
observed sagely, "It is the mind that fills the pocket, not the
pocket that fills the mind."

4. (U) Although science education was the theme of the visit,
several lectures addressed the strategic importance of space. For
Israel, "the sky is not the limit" said Israel Air Force Commander
Major General Elyezer Shkedy. The communication and command role of
space is critical, given present technology, and terrorism was now
capable of reaching beyond the planet's atmosphere. Physical
security now depends on cyber-security and thus space security -
where communication satellites are located, Shkedy noted. Israel's
security now depends in part on extending its circle of knowledge in
space technology, which should be structured into the education
system at all levels.

Parliamentarians Target CO2 Emissions...
---------------------------------------
5. (U) In light of Ministry of Environmental Protection projections
that Israeli CO2 emission will grow by 63 percent by 2025 due to
growing transportation and electricity needs, Knesset Labor party
leader Ophir Pines-Paz presented legislation calling for a 25% cut
in Israel's greenhouse gas emissions by 2025 over 2000 levels. The
Bill reportedly is supported by 70 Members of Knesset (a slim
majority), who want to avoid the fines that developed countries are
liable for under terms of the agreements reached at the Bali Climate
Change negotiations in December. Israel is expected to be granted
status as a full OECD member soon, which imposes obligations to curb
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The GOI has not previously set
itself GHG reduction targets.

... As Do Israel's Cities
-------------------------
6. (U) Fifteen of Israel's biggest cities have an even more
ambitious target: to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by
one-fifth by the year 2020. The Forum of 15, as the association
calls itself, announced on February 5 they will voluntarily reduce
greenhouse gas emissions in their communities. The target level is
drawn from other urban activist efforts, such as the International
Council for Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI) campaign, and
Cities for Climate Protection (CCP). Because most greenhouse gas
emissions are generated in cities, city residents are the first to
suffer from an impaired quality of life, including pollution-related

TEL AVIV 00000324 002 OF 002


diseases and environmental decay. Some experts ascribe the
increasing number of asthma cases among Israeli children to exposure
to smog.

7. (U) To achieve their goal, the Israeli cities will undertake five
actions: (1) Conduct a baseline emissions inventory and forecast,
based on energy consumption and waste generation; (2) Establish an
emissions reduction target for 2020; (3) Develop an action plan of
policies and measures that the local government can take to reduce
GHGs, also incorporating public awareness and education efforts; (4)
Implement policies and measures contained in their Local Action
Plan, such as energy efficiency improvements in municipal buildings
and water treatment facilities, streetlight retrofits, public
transit improvements, renewable power applications, and methane
recovery from landfill; and (5) Monitor and verify progress on the
implementation of these measures.

Record Decline for the Dead Sea
-------------------------------
8. (U) The Dead Sea, already the lowest point on Earth not covered
by ocean, has gotten slightly lower. Israeli hydrologists measured
a 20 cm (8 inch) decline in the water level of the Dead Sea during
January, the sharpest decline in years. The water level has dropped
up to 3 feet per year recently, and now stands at 420.94 meters
below sea level, a drop of 20 meters (65 feet) in the past 30 years.
Numerous sinkholes have opened along the shoreline as a result, and
tourist hotels once at the water's edge are now half a mile from the
Sea. Conservationists are calling for renewing the flow of water
from the Jordan River to the Dead Sea. The billion-dollar proposal
to pipe water from the Red Sea to refill the Dead Sea is the subject
of a feasibility study funded by the World Bank, but the study is
still in the bidding stage.

Only in Israel: Kosher Electricity
----------------------------------
9. (U) Communities of ultra-orthodox Jews have protested to the
Israel Electric Company (IEC) that the electric current supplied to
them forces them to break their religious injunctions against
lighting a fire (in modern equivalent, creating a spark or turning a
lightswitch on) and making other Jews work for them on Shabbat
(Saturday). They contend that electricity they receive necessitates
starting and stopping generating sources, and employs Jewish workers
on shifts through the weekly restday period. IEC has responded with
a plan to offer them "kosher electricity," from guaranteed sources
of stored battery power transmitting energy which was generated
prior to the Shabbat period. Religious piety doesn't come cheap,
however; the kosher electricity will be more expensive due to the
investment in batteries and dedicated lines it requires, and will
cost consumers more.

Bagging the Sack
----------------
10. (U) Two Knesset Members have introduced legislation to require
store owners to charge 1 Israeli shekel (about 27 US cents) per
plastic bag, in an effort to curb their widespread use. An
environmental hazard, plastic bags now account for a quarter of
Israel's landfill volume, as Israel's 7 million consumers use over 5
billion of them annually. The Knesset bill intends to push citizens
to bring re-usable bags with them to the store, and to recycle
plastic bags to keep them from polluting streets, beaches and
waters; the sacks take several hundred years to decompose, and have
had damaging affects on Israel's wildlife, reefs and ecology.
Israel's plastics industry, while acknowledging the need for
recycling, claims up to 300 industry workers could lose their jobs,
and that waste reduction anticipated is overstated. Reportedly, 60
percent of Israeli households re-use old shopping sacks for
household trash collection, and they will turn to buying plastic
garbage bags as an alternative, with the net saving of waste volume
estimated at only 5 percent. Israel's vocal environmental lobby
backs the proposed measure, and stresses that educating children
about it is the best way to change society's behaviour.

MORENO

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