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JIIS Bulletin - October 2010
JIIS paves the way to a sustainable future
So, what will you be up to in 2030? JIIS researchers may not have the answer to that question at their fingertips, but they will try and help guide Israeli policy in a direction that will ensure that you are doing whatever you are doing then in a safe, sound and sustainable environment.

The Institute's Environmental Policy Center (EPC) recently launched Sustainability Outlook 2030, a joint initiative with the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection to draft Israel's first long-term policy framework for environmental governance. The two-year project is led by EPC Director Valerie Brachya. 

Brachya points out that "2030" evolved out of the global recognition that there is a need for a long-term framework for governmental intervention in environmental issues. Israel has acknowledged this need, and "whilst changes over the coming decade have largely been determined by decisions which have already been taken," she says, "planned interventions in the coming decade are still open to change and can determine whether Israel will be on a sustainable or a non-sustainable path by 2030. 

"The preparation of a long-term framework for Israel to progress along a path towards sustainability comes at a most propitious moment, as international organisations are revising global outlooks in advance of the global summit on sustainability in 2012" (known as Rio+20, since it will be 20 years since the world's first major environmental summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992).

"We are going to provide policy makers, primarily but not exclusively in government, and leaders of public opinion with a forward-looking document," says Brachya, clearly enthused by the task at hand. "It will be designed to be the initial stage of an ongoing process, to be reviewed and revised on a regular basis. It will reflect conceptual thinking and environmental responsibilities at the international level but will specifically relate to those issues most relevant to Israel's own interests." 

The rationale of the 2030 project is that policy makers should be well aware of what is likely to happen, recognize the paths they want – and do not want – to be on, so that they may in good time create and harness opportunities as they arise and minimize risks and vulnerabilities before they occur. "This is considerably different from the situation we usually see, of urgent responses to unanticipated changes or of the sudden need to cope with a crisis situation." She adds that the establishment of an investigating committee to review why a crisis occurred (as recently reported on water in Israel) is a valid and understandable mechanism for coping with an unplanned result, but would be better managed if such a review was undertaken in advance as a forward looking process to identify and plan how such risk situations could be avoided.

Not that that is easy, of course. "The long-term future is full of uncertainties. In this project we are not trying to forecast a likely future but rather to put on the table, for all to see, the range of possible futures assumed to have sustainability probability and the paths towards them. You might say that we are 'backcasting' rather than forecasting. To do this, we will be doing a lot of scenario building, a process by which phases and events are set within a time period." Among the methods to be employed to achieve this are an "indicator base" to compare, for example, sustainability indicators in Israel with, say, OECD countries concerning economic, social and environmental indicators of performance; an "expert opinion base," which will see two groups of experts – in socioeconomic, technological and governance issues, as well as environmental experts – harness their knowledge to anticipate possible future directions relevant to scenario building for sustainability, "beyond the usual published reports."

Brachya makes it clear that the 2030 project "will provide a framework, not a work plan. It will leave the immediate decisions up to the operating administration, but it will provide well-defined paths along which key intervention points and conscious choices are made and concrete actions taken to promote a sustainable pathway. 

"Keep in mind that good intentions have not necessarily achieved good results in the past. It really all comes down to sound public administration and good governance." 
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