Green organizations to boycott UN COP28 climate confab in Dubai

Zalul and Adam Teva V’Din cite government’s climate failures, while student-led Green Course plans annual march for climate to coincide with opening day of international meet

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

People attend the UAE Climate Tech Forum in Abu Dhabi, May 10, 2023. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP)
People attend the UAE Climate Tech Forum in Abu Dhabi, May 10, 2023. (Photo by Karim SAHIB / AFP)

Some of the largest Israeli environmental organizations plan to join their international counterparts in boycotting the annual United Nations climate conference in Dubai at the end of this year.

They say their goal is to protest the Israel government’s lack of progress on emissions reductions, as well as the choice of an oil-producing country — the United Arab Emirates — to host COP28 and of the head of a huge national oil corporation to chair it.

Amit Bracha, CEO of the environmental advocacy organization Adam Teva V’Din, said the choice of Sultan Al-Jaber, head of Abu Dhabi’s oil industry, as chairman, was “a mockery, a spit in the face of all humanity.”

The stay-away was also to protest the Israeli state’s “lack of action” on climate. The government dragged itself from COP to COP conference without any ambitious climate law, he charged, while doing “next to nothing” to reduce climate-warming gas emissions.

There was no funding to encourage renewable energy, nor any real efforts to expand the electricity grid so that the country’s electricity could be produced by 100% solar energy in the future, he went on.

Instead, the government was expanding fossil fuel gas exploration in the Mediterranean Sea and had voted to ease restrictions for fossil fuel-burning power stations.

Amit Bracha, executive director, Adam Teva V’Din. (Courtesy, Adam Teva V’Din)

Mor Gilboa, director of the marine environment organization Zalul, accused the government of double standards.

It was planning to send what he called a “flamboyant” delegation to the COP28 confab, set to take place November 30 to December 12 at Dubai’s Expo complex.

On the other hand, it was threatening the marine environment both with plans to ramp up gas production and permission to allow — and possibly even increase — the transport of crude oil in the Gulf of Eilat.

Green Course, a mainly student-led organization, said that this year, like last year, it would not be taking part in COP’s “greenwash festivities.”

Instead, it would be leading Israel’s annual march for climate on November 30, the confab’s opening day.

The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel said it was still debating whether to participate.

Maya Kadosh, the Foreign Ministry’s Special Coordinator for COP28 since February, said, “We are now at a critical point facing the climate crisis and Israel has innovative solutions that can help the world to cope. Israeli players from all sectors should come together and share their wealth of knowledge and experience with other bodies from other countries attending the UN meeting.”

She added that there was heightened interest in attending COP28 this year from many sectors — business, academia, and government.

Last year, when Israel set up its first COP pavilion, many Israelis made important connections, but in an unplanned, haphazard way, she said.

There was standing room only within the events section of Israel’s first-ever pavilion at a UN COP event, as other people sat at tables just outside, at the UN COP27 climate conference, Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, November 9, 2022. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

“This year we’re coming far better prepared. People are coming to us, from the private sector, the civil sector, academia, and government, and asking us to help them organize more focused meetings, in advance.”

An inter-ministerial committee is working on getting a climate bill through at least part of the legislative process before the confab begins, although with the Knesset having gone into recess Sunday, until October 15, little time remains to do so.

So far, the finance and energy ministries have stymied attempts by the Environmental Protection Ministry to include specific targets in a climate bill.

The government has budgeted just under NIS 9 million ($2.43 million) for COP28 and plans to send a 1,000-strong delegation — its largest to date — headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Isaac Herzog.

A Foreign Ministry spokesperson explained that the budget was neither overblown for this size of conference, nor would the money be used to pay for the 1,000 participants. Costs would be covered for some government officials, including security personnel and various logistics experts, but the majority of the participants would pay their way fully.

“It’s not that the government is sending 1,000 people. It’s giving Israelis a platform on which to take part, with the government organizing the registration,” the spokesperson said.

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