On the 29th of March 2019, EcoPeace staff participated in the Climate March, the largest environmental event in Israel organized by the municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa and a group of major Israeli environmental organizations. Early in the morning, EcoPeace staff ran a booth in Meir Park to raise awareness about the effects of climate change on the MENA region, the necessity of a trans-boundary cooperation with regards to water issues, and to inform the public about the numerous projects organized by EcoPeace to achieve this goal. Amy and Yuval, two members from EcoPeace’s Tel Aviv office, shared EcoPeace’s values of peace, cooperation and respect of nature. Then, Sarah Henkel, a research assistant and I, an intern at the Tel Aviv office, joined the voices of thousands of activists, students, families, schools and artists and marched to Kiryat Hamemshala to ask for concrete actions from the Israeli government. More than 4, 000 people from all over the country protested and carried banners with slogans like “We want clean air”, “Climate Change knows no borders “, and “Water knows no borders”.
When I arrived at Meir park, I was really impressed to see so many environmental organizations such as Green Course, Zalul, Greenpeace, and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel gathering their force to ask for climate justice and the inclusion of the environmental protection in the political agenda. At a time of political election, it is all the more regrettable to notice that only very few parties decided to tackle environmental issues and include concrete measures in favour of the protection of the environment.
Yet, the climate crisis is a real and urgent issue that implies immediate actions, especially in our region. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) identified the MENA region as a climate change hot spot due to its natural water scarcity, low levels of socio-ecological resilience, social tensions and political conflicts, and ongoing immigration crisis. According to the last report published by EcoPeace (available at www.ecopeaceme.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/climate-change-web.pdf ), climate change will threaten regional security, exacerbate water stress and have numerous negative impacts regarding the environment and the socio-economic situation of the Middle East.
Even though the government does not pay enough attention to this crisis, some more local entities, like cities, seem to be more dedicated. Co-organized by the Environment and Sustainability authority of Tel Aviv-Jaffa municipality, this march was the opportunity for the city to affirm its strong commitment to take bold climate actions. In 2017, Tel Aviv-Jaffa has joined the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, together with more than 90 other cities, to ensure that its strategic urban transformation will follow a sustainable path and to help achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement. Indeed, Israel ratified the Climate Agreement in November 2016 and adopted a commitment to reduce by 2030 per capita greenhouse gas emissions to 26% below the 2005 level (source: Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, http://www.sviva.gov.il/).
The following Friday, the Israeli civil society also rallied to the movement happening all over the world, following the Climate marches that occurred in Paris and Montreal during March 2019. The cultural diversity of Israel is a powerful symbol to reflect the international dimension of the climate crisis. Coming from France, I marched with Sarah, from Germany, and friends from Brazil, the United States and the Netherlands. We could hear people speaking in Hebrew, Arabic, English, French or Portuguese on the streets. Apparently, climate action has no cultural borders! I was also particularly thrilled by the major presence of women during the rally. Sarah told me “Look at all the women using megaphones and asking for climate justice!” According to the UN, Climate Action needs women, especially because climate change has a greater impact on the most vulnerable parts of the population, especially women. Ensuring the participation of women and strengthening their leadership in the environmental field represent an essential way to implement effective climate solutions and build climate resilience (source: https://unfccc.int/news/5-reasons-why-climate-action-needs-women). In a joyful atmosphere, Sarah and I marched along with these women, surrounded by students, teenagers and children. People from all generations, from all ages, were present to ask for a structural change in our relation with nature: “Vote to protect our planet!”
Contributed by: Naomie Lecard – EcoPeace Intern