by Nick Kolyohin
JERUSALEM, June 20 (Xinhua) -- Air pollution in Israel has posed a significant problem to the environment and health, participants told Xinhua during a leading annual conference on science and environment in Israel.
The Israel Society of Ecology and Environmental Science (ISEES) organized the annual convention of science and environment, which was held in Tel Aviv University on Wednesday and Thursday.
One of the popular topics was about the recent reports that Israeli Ministry of Finance will abolish in 2020 its green policy of reducing taxes on purchases of less polluting hybrid cars.
Orr Karassin, a senior lecturer in public policy at the Open University of Israel, expects a reduction in the demand for green cars in Israel because of the anticipated increase in tax.
Even with the current tax exemption, the hybrid electric vehicles account for only 10 percent of the whole market of automobiles in Israel, Karassin said.
In Israel, there is no enough consideration and implementation of green tax policy or internalization of environmental impacts into the taxing system in general, she noted.
Karassin was one of more than 800 participants in the annual convention.
The mission of ISEES is to improve environmental policy-making by equipping decision makers and civil-society stakeholders with academic knowledge, expertise, and practical implementation tools.
The key speaker at ISEES conference was Christiana Figueres, former head of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
"Air pollution has slowly but surely been recognized as one of the major threats to human life," Figueres said in an interview with Xinhua.
According to the World Health Organization's data, there are 4.2 million deaths every year around the world as a result of exposure to outdoor air pollution.
Another 3.8 million deaths are the result of household exposure to smoke from dirty cookstoves and fuels.
"The deaths are the final consequence. In addition to lungs, air pollution also affects brains and hearts. It is one of the major health threats that we are dealing with," Figueres said.
"Fortunately, there is growing intolerance of air pollution, and we are seeing more and more civil societies coming out on the streets to protest against air pollution in many developed countries," Figueres told Xinhua.
The UNFCCC does not deal with the air pollution directly, and its mission is to tackle the challenge posed by climate change.
Climate change and air pollution are two completely different issues. The first one is about the planetary health and the latter about human health, Figueres pointed out.
"On the pollution levels, Israel is in a good place among the OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries," said Barak Fishbain, an associate professor at Israel Institute of Technology (Technion).
According to Fishbain, the industry in Israel is highly regulated. So the majority of air pollution in Israel comes from transportation.
"There is still a lot to do," Fishbain said in an interview with Xinhua, who is a member of Technion's Enviromatics Lab.
The leading Israeli institute also has environment institute in China, namely Guangdong Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (GTIIT), which offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs for international students.
China and Israel are developing and researching new green technologies to make the world more ecological and less damaging to nature.
Adam Teva V'Din, an Israeli environmental prominent organization, stated that it sent on Monday an urgent letter to Israeli Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin, following the government's intention to raise taxes on green vehicles.
According to Adam Teva V'Din, the expected budget cuts of 2.5 billion new shekels (700 million U.S. dollars) will cancel the original government plan to reduce air pollution.
It is estimated that around 2,500 people die every year in Israel because of the air pollution which causes more casualties than the terror attacks and car accidents combined.