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Bennett says Israel to set up fund to encourage investment in green technology

En-route to climate summit, PM says Israel’s real contribution to climate change lies in its ability to innovate, but this needs huge capital investment

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett talks to reporters before boarding a plane to Scotland for the COP 26 United Nations climate talks, October 31, 2021. ( Haim Zach GPO)
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett talks to reporters before boarding a plane to Scotland for the COP 26 United Nations climate talks, October 31, 2021. ( Haim Zach GPO)

GLASGOW, United Kingdom — Israel will set up a special fund to encourage local tech entrepreneurs to invest in green technology, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett told journalists aboard a plane flying to Scotland on Sunday prior to the start of the United Nations climate conference, COP 26.

The fund will be used to encourage private sector investments by providing matching investment, Bennett said, noting that the government intends to find a way to establish the fund even though it does not figure in the upcoming state budget, currently going through the Knesset.

Bennett did not provide a figure for the planned investment.

The prime minister has on several occasions said that the best way for Israel, a relatively small country, to contribute towards tackling climate is through innovation.

However, he conceded that that developing such technology would require large amounts of capital for what was a high-risk venture. The ecosystem to push this forward did not yet exist in Israel, he added.

He said that he had spoken to many of the hundreds of Israelis who have had two or even three profitable exits from tech start-ups companies, with a view to them becoming involved in green tech.

The first step was to issue a call for innovation, he said. This would be followed by the establishment of the fund combined with a search for international investment.

Once technologies had been designed, it was important that Israel serve as a “sandbox” where pilots could be carried out easily and quickly adopted by state bodies such as the Israel Electric Company, he added.

Illustrative: A desalination plant in Hadera, May 16, 2010. (AP Photo/Ariel Schalit)

The Prime Minister is leading a 120-strong delegation to the Glasgow meeting of government officials, NGOs, academics and others.

Energy Minister Karine Elharrar and her new director-general Lior Shillat are part of the delegation, along with Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg and her ministry’s director-general, Galit Cohen.

In an interview earlier in the week with London’s Times newspaper, Bennett said that Israel’s tech sector must pivot toward the battle against climate change.

“For the world to get to zero emissions by 2050, changing our behavior will do less than half the job. The other half will come from technology that has yet to be developed. That’s where Israel has to lead,” he said.

The premier noted that one of the issues was that climate change solutions do not bring immediate success to entrepreneurs in the way that other technological developments do, and that there were too many bureaucratic hurdles in the way.

Bennett told The Times that he plans to fix the situation by cutting red tape “with a machete” and by ensuring the government — on both a local and national level — as well as the utility companies, will sign up as early customers for any potential tech.

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