Israel Downgrades Representation at Global Climate Summit

As the COP25 kicks off in Madrid amid global youth protests, only Israel's energy minister will show up as the country's political deadlock continues

Men walk past a COP25 banner at the congress centre IFEMA in Madrid, November 27, 2019
AFP

Breaking from tradition, Israel won't be sending its environmental protection chief to the COP25 climate change summit that began in Madrid Monday, as Minister Zeev Elkin will be taking part in the coalition talks for Likud.

Instead, Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz will lead the Israeli delegation, but only starting next week for the last four days of the conference that ends on December 12.

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Steinitz will be able to present Israel’s achievements on plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, led by its decision to stop using coal to generate electricity by 2030. Otherwise, a team sent by the Environmental Protection Ministry will represent Israel.

This is the 25th session of the UN-organized conference that brings together government officials, civil society leaders and scientists to help fight climate change. It was originally slated to take place in Chile but was  moved to Madrid after the Chilean government canceled due to civil unrest.

This year's edition takes place amid mounting protests worldwide in which young activists have lambasted global inaction on climate change. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced concern in his address Monday, asking, "Do we really want to be remembered as the generation that buried its head in the sands, that fizzled while the planet burns?"

In Israel too, several hundred teenagers did not attend school Friday and marched in solidarity with their counterparts around the world. The protesters marched up Tel Aviv's tony Rothschild Boulevard, culminating at Habima Square in the city center.

"I came to the protest because I want to effect change," said Naama Katz, 14, from the central Israeli community of Kfar Sirkin. As she put it, since  politicians "aren't doing a thing," young people must take matters into their own hands. 

On Thursday evening, the Tel Aviv municipality had announced its support for the protests, as did parents' committees in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Israelis belonging to the Extinction Rebellion and the Red Brigades were also present at the demonstration, and MK Miki Haimovich (Kahol Lavan) told the crowd that Israeli young people realize that the government has no long-term plans to tackle climate change.

“Fridays for Future” global strike against climate change, Tel Aviv, Israel, November 29, 2019
CORINNA KERN/ REUTERS

DPA contributed to this report.