The Rio +20 Conference last June ushered in a new era for implementing sustainable development. World leaders came together and pledged to fully integrate the social, economic and environmental dimensions of development- and to forge a new path towards our common future.
In Rio, we adopted ground-breaking guidelines on green economy policies. We mobilized civil society and the private sector as important partners in this transition. We strengthened UNEP on several fronts. We decided to work towards developing a set of Sustainable Development Goals, which will build upon the Millennium Development Goals and converge with the post 2015 development agenda. We agreed to establish a high-level political forum for sustainable development.
Mahatma Gandhi once said: "you must be the change you want to see in the world." Implementation is imperative. We must ensure that the outcomes of Rio+20 are reflected in our actions and translated into concrete progress.
More powerful international frameworks will certainly contribute to better results. At the same time, there is no substitute for the concrete actions of individual countries.
Israel has been doing its part. We recognize the importance of adopting forward-looking macro-economic policies that promote sustainable development and lead to sustained, inclusive and equitable economic growth. But we also recognize that macroeconomic policies must do more than promote economic growth. They must must provide a social safety net to its citizens and correct externalities that harm the environment.
Israel spends a significant portion of its tax revenues on guaranteeing universal healthcare, housing and education. More than 15% of our tax revenue goes to social insurance. Our fiscal system applies a tax rate of over 80% to polluting gas vehicles, and a 10% tax on electric ones.
Our livelihoods depend on limited resources. Arable soils, fresh water, forests and biodiversity are under growing pressure. Increases in population and living standards are leading to ever-increasing demands for energy, water and food. For this growth to be sustainable, we must rethink the way we consume our resources.
Israel has extensive expertise to contribute in this respect. We have few natural resources – and live in one of the most arid countries on earth. Facing these challenges, Israeli innovators came up with solutions that make efficient use of natural resources. They invented, among other things, revolutionary technology for sustainable energy.
Today, Israel leads the way in sustainable energy through innovation and policy. More than a hundred solar companies operate in Israel. Ninety percent of Israeli homes are fitted with solar water heaters. Electric cars can drive clear across Israel with infrastructure that supports them the entire way. The annual Eilat-Eilot Conference on Renewable Energy attracts entrepreneurs and researchers from all over the world. Our government is putting us on a path to ensure that renewable sources represent ten percent of our energy mix by 2020.
Water is another field in which Israeli expertise can contribute significantly to sustainable development. Israel is one of the most arid countries on earth, and we excel in the efficient usage of water. We recycle over 70% of our wastewater, far more than any country in the world. By 2013, 75% of Israeli households will be using desalinated water. Advanced drip irrigation systems allow farmers to produce efficiently in an extremely dry climate.
Advanced water technology is only one of Israel's policies for sustainable agriculture. Israeli farmers constantly research and introduce new botanical species that require less water and resist better to heat and pests. They encourage water preservation and the requalification of desert land.
These same policies put Israel at the forefront of the fight against desertification. Israel was the only country to enter the twenty-first century with a net gain in its number of trees.
As part of our commitment to share our expertise, we have presented a resolution last year calling for the expansion of access to agricultural technology – especially smallholder farmers and women.
Israel shares the challenge of resource scarcity with a great part of humanity. 1.2 billion people suffer from water scarcity, and 1.3 billion do not have access to electricity. Israeli innovation can offer sustainable solutions to these essential development needs.
We have little choice but to choose the sustainable way. Climate change is harming the livelihoods and physical security of billions. It makes resource scarcity an even more acute problem, exacerbating conflicts and threatening world peace.
Winston Churchill once said: "what we require to do now is to stand erect and look the world in the face and do our duty without fear or favor." We not only have the duty, but the power to create a better future for our children. The time to act is now.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.