Palestine at the COP28

Monjed Ghado, Tuesday 12 Dec 2023

There has been a strong Palestinian presence at international forums despite the Israeli war on Gaza, including at the UN COP28 Climate Conference in Dubai.

Palestine at the COP28

 

Palestine has been participating in all international forums since the Israeli war on Gaza began on 7 October, with a view to making its voice heard.

Palestine is taking part in the UN COP28 Climate Change Conference in Dubai as a way of emphasising that climate justice is inseparable from justice for Palestine.

Hundreds of people at the conference marched in solidarity with Gaza around the conference location, demanding an immediate ceasefire.

The conference, with Saudi Arabia managing Arab views, has included discussions addressing various Palestinian issues. Participants from different Arab and foreign countries have expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people.

Officials have highlighted the environmental impacts of the war, stressing the need to monitor emissions resulting from prohibited weapons. Palestine has officially affirmed its presence at the Climate Conference, stating that this symbolises a confirmation of Palestinian rights and a call for justice in all aspects of life.

Ahmed Abu Taha, director of Projects and International Relations at the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, emphasised Palestine’s participation at the conference in Dubai as a response to global climate issues and a commitment to protecting ecosystems amidst the aggression against the people of Gaza.

He said that Palestine has put forward its own plans, aligned with those of the rest of the world, to protect the climate and to play a full part in the global system despite the ongoing tragedy of the genocidal war.

He emphasised that the Palestinian participation conveys a message highlighting the fact that crimes such as the bombings, killings, displacement, and environmental destruction in Gaza contradict the international community’s efforts to preserve the climate, environment, and biodiversity.

The use of internationally prohibited weapons by Israel has resulted in the destruction and pollution of the Palestinian environment, he said. Such Israeli crimes have killed thousands of Palestinians, depriving them of their basic rights.

The destruction of water purification stations in Gaza has meant limited access to fresh water. Israel’s use of white phosphorus has damaged the soil and polluted the air.

Abu Taha highlighted the catastrophic situation in Gaza, stressing the urgent need for environmental experts to examine climate issues in the Strip. Palestine urged the COP28 Climate Conference to condemn and hold Israel accountable for the damage inflicted on the Palestinian environment.

Palestine also works with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and this is the first time that a pavilion has been dedicated to Palestine at a UN climate conference. Abu Taha said that Palestine has raised Israel’s environmental and climate crimes in Gaza and the West Bank at the relevant international forums.

The Palestinian participation is the result of collaboration between official entities represented by the Palestinian Environmental Quality Authority, civil society institutions, and international organisations operating in Palestine.

Human rights activists emphasise the importance of ending the Israeli occupation and halting the war on Gaza, asserting that there can be no environmental justice without justice for Palestine.

Oxfam International Climate Justice Adviser Safaa Al-Jayoussi said there was a need to address issues such as the use of fossil fuels and emissions harming the climate, including from regular and internationally prohibited weapons.

Hadeel Qazzaz of Oxfam International’s Gender Programme in the Middle East said that many civil society representatives from Gaza and the West Bank were absent due to the Israeli war on Gaza and closures on the West Bank.

In an interview with Al-Ahram, she said that wars impact the climate, and the destruction in Gaza will have significant negative effects on Palestine’s climate in the short and longer term.

Qazzaz said there had been various events at the conference, including marches and workshops, where participants had discussed the war on Gaza. The sympathy for Palestine was evident through the interventions in different workshops, she added.

Qazzaz addressed Israel’s burial of toxic waste, use of white phosphorus munitions, destruction of the environment, killing of humans, trees, and birds, and destruction of drinkable water wells and sanitation services, all contributing to environmental destruction.

Discussions at the COP28 focused on the Loss and Damage Fund, with Qazzaz noting that the Palestinian delegation had initially concentrated on climate and environmental issues but had shifted towards human rights and the urgent need to stop the war on the Palestinian people.

She said there were ongoing negotiations regarding the Loss and Damage Fund and challenges in terms of funding, operations, and financial commitments. Some countries had offered loans rather than grants, adding to such challenges, she added.

Journalist Zaina Shahla emphasised that various gatherings, marches, and events at the conference had condemned Israel’s crimes in Gaza. They had aimed to underscore that human rights, starting with the right to a decent life, are an essential part of climate justice.

* A version of this article appears in print in the 14 December, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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