Boris Mints
Boris Mints

The Matanel Garden, COP26, and Israeli innovation – tackling climate change

In the heart of Tel Aviv University, students, staff, and visitors alike are now able to witness the growth of a remarkable “Green Wall”, a biodiverse wall of living vegetation over 30 metres in height, which will grow and develop over the coming decades.

This wall is a significant centrepiece of the Matanel Garden that opened only last month with the support of the Boris Mints Institute, adjoining the Naftali Building. The Garden and its linked faculties are fast becoming a major hub for interdisciplinary green research in Israel and globally.

The Green Wall itself acts as a living laboratory, which is being used to test how wastewater can absorb carbon dioxide, and how plant life can impact heat transfer and energy generation within buildings. Yet more generally, the Matanel Garden exists as a powerful symbol of Israeli innovation in the face of the greatest challenge that humanity faces – climate change.

Our greatest challenge

Climate Change is indeed one of the most severe challenges for humanity in the 21st century. Its negative impact can already be seen throughout every natural habitat, rising sea levels among many other areas.

Governmental responses to address the challenge has been hindered due to lack of international coordination of actions, as well as an absence of political will to take serious action in order to create policy solutions. Thus, it is on the scientific and research community to lead the way and to work together to tackle this crisis.

And how appropriate that Tel Aviv University, and Israel in general, is becoming a global centre for green research and technology. After all, despite the many immediate challenges Israel has faced as a modern state, it has been a global exemplar of sustainability. In fact, Israel is one of the only nations in the world that entered the 21st century with more trees than a century ago! This is the product of a national programme of sustainable afforestation and forest management, most notably in arid areas. Now, Israel’s universities and research institutes are firmly establishing themselves as global centres of research into green tech and development, and the Boris Mints Institute is proud to support promising environmental research, in areas ranging from sustainable food production to green energy solutions.

The irony of COP26

In light of the significant and growing contribution that Israel is making in the fight against climate change, it is hard to ignore two major ironies about the recent COP26 conference.

First, that Israel’s energy minister Karine Elharrar was unable to enter the main conference because of a lack of wheelchair accessibility. As a result, she was prevented from being able to promote green energy, and the potential for greater collaboration between Israel and other countries.

Whilst at the same time, outside the conference, a small number of demonstrators saw fit to use COP26 as an excuse to stage a protest against Israel, singling out the world’s only Jewish state without any concern for the essential aims of the conference and Israel’s vital contribution to the fight against climate change.

In this context, it feels more important than ever to support Israeli innovation in green technology and sustainability. Collaborations between Governments continue to falter, not least with the watering down of commitments to phase out usage of coal which marked the end of the COP26 negotiations. That is why I am placing my hope in our brightest scientific minds and believe it is absolutely essential to support interdisciplinary research that can address the climate crisis and secure our shared, global future.

About the Author
Dr. Boris Mints is a businessman, philanthropist and committed supporter of cultural and social projects. He is currently the Chairman of the Council of Patrons of The Conference of European Rabbis (CER), which is the primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe. He is also a President and Founder of The Boris Mints Institute, which is based at The Gershon H. Gordon Faculty of Social Sciences in Tel Aviv University, and honorary Professor of Tel Aviv University. In 2016, Dr Boris Mints expanded his family philanthropic contribution by creation of The Mints Family Charitable Foundation. He also established the Museum of Russian Impressionism in Moscow in 2014.