Interconnected emergencies: Palestinian and climate activists join forces for Global Day of Action for Climate Justice

Palestinian and climate activists join interconnected crises
6 min read
08 December, 2023

From Dubai to London, climate activists worldwide are joining forces with Palestinian solidarity movements on December 9 for the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice.

The day of action, which is planned to coincide with the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) every year, occurs as Israel’s genocidal onslaught against Gaza enters its third month, in which more than 17,000 Palestinians have been killed.

This year, climate activists are rallying against an unjust global system which has failed to prevent both the extreme violence perpetrated against Palestinians in Gaza and a catastrophic 3-degree increase in global temperatures, which would see mass migrations, droughts, and the Amazon dry out, by the end of the century.

"Reaction to Israel’s unrestrained genocidal assault on Gaza and the timing of COP28 have contributed to further solidifying an intersectional understanding of climate justice and human rights"

On the day of action, many climate activists will raise the banners of climate justice and Palestinian rights, delivering a clear message to global audiences that the climate crisis has no borders and is inseparable from struggles for justice and equality, exasperated by inequalities between the global North and South.

In Dubai, which is hosting COP28, international audiences can expect to see a march calling for climate justice and Palestinian liberation under the slogan “end settler colonialism, end climate colonialism.”

While in London, the Climate Justice Coalition is organising demonstrations in front of companies complicit in investing in fossil fuels and conducting arms sales with Israel.

The climate justice protest will target BAE systems, which supply military aircraft used to bomb Gaza, and BP, which has signed offshore gas exploration licenses off the coast of Gaza, before joining the National March for Palestine, which is scheduled for the same day.

The long-term consequences of Israel's assault on Gaza are clear: the pollution of a weeks-old war, delivered from the bomb bays of warplanes and the barrels of tanks, will last years and perhaps a lifetime.
The long-term consequences of Israel's assault on Gaza are clear: the pollution of a weeks-old war, delivered from the bomb bays of warplanes and the barrels of tanks, will last years and perhaps a lifetime [Getty Images]

Asad Rehman, the director of War on Want and the lead spokesperson for the Climate Justice Coalition anticipates that in London and Dubai, the climate justice and Palestine solidarity movement will “become one march — and we hope that is going to happen everywhere.” 

Rehman, a lead organiser of the protest at COP28 which demanded a ceasefire in Gaza on December 3, believes civil society organisations must attend contested spaces such as COP28 to challenge the most powerful countries who are the largest emitters of carbon and to raise the “intersectionality between issues and recognise that we are in a moment of interconnected crises.”

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"It is telling that the most powerful countries in the world, who are the most responsible for the climate violence that is devastating people’s lives, refuse to accept responsibility for it,” Rehman says, reflecting on the international negotiations at COP28.

“In the Loss and Damage Fund, which is the fund that is meant to help frontline communities and countries overwhelmed by climate crises, the US put in a paltry 17 million dollars, but the very next day announced billions of dollars in military aid to Israel. People see this and [understand] that some lives are worth more than others. Some people are deemed worthy, and others are not, and that is, ultimately, the same lens as settler colonialism."

Maren Mantovani, who is the international outreach coordinator for the Stop the Wall Campaign and serves on the secretariat of the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee, observes that the climate justice movement and the Palestinian solidarity movement have finally come together this year.

Reaction to Israel’s unrestrained genocidal assault on Gaza and the timing of COP28 have contributed to further solidifying an intersectional understanding of climate justice and human rights. 

“The broader [climate justice] movement has understood that there is no climate justice without a general capacity of building justice and a just world order,” Mantovani elaborates.

“What we are in seeing Gaza, [what] the West has shown, is that [they do not] want to create a more just world — a world where climate colonialism and the injustices and inequalities that are at the root of the climate crises can be addressed — on the contrary, they are trying to build, with the model of Gaza, a new paradigm of completely unhinged, unmasked, and extreme violence that is, fundamentally, if unpunished and unstopped in Gaza, the model for everybody else. Who is next?”

Indeed, people from around the world, especially those with histories and experiences of oppression, colonialism, and discrimination, hear their own stories and struggles in the chant, “We are all Palestinians.”

As Rehman expressed, “Gaza is the lens which can show us all the divisions, injustices, and inequities of the world.”

However, as international activists and audiences move to centre Palestinian human rights in climate justice discussions and actions, the world must act rapidly to halt the immediate existential dangers faced by Palestinians in Gaza as well as the rest of the occupied territories.

Speaking from the West Bank, Abeer Butmeh, coordinator of PENGON and Friends of the Earth Palestine, explains that, for Palestinians, to mitigate the daily threats posed by Israel's ongoing occupation, apartheid, and the war on Gaza, means demanding the most basic human rights which include access to resources and water.

“Gaza was suffering before 7 October from an environmental Nakba, a result of more than 16 years of the Israeli blockade on Gaza, which prevents supplying [basic] materials to develop the environmental infrastructure inside Gaza... the situation now is much worse... I think they [the Israeli forces] have killed all the elements of life in Gaza.”

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Israel’s genocidal and ecocidal war against Gaza, unconstrained by powerful states and the international community, has opened a dangerous new paradigm in which internationally sanctioned state violence can be exacted against oppressed and marginalised populations without consequences.

In addition to indiscriminate bombing, the weaponisation of water, food, medical supplies, and sanitation accelerates ethnic cleansing and is a war crime.

For people around the world, especially vulnerable and oppressed communities in the Global South, access to water, resources, and climate mitigation strategies is necessary for preventing globalised forms of climate apartheid, where one group is granted human rights and access to basic resources, and others are not.

Palestinians experience this systemic marginalisation and dehumanisation daily, as Butmeh says, “When Israel controls Palestinian resources, it means that Palestinian people [are vulnerable to] death, [it is not] only a risk or a threat.”

By highlighting the Palestinian struggle on the Global Day of Action for Climate Justice, activists can demand an urgent and permanent ceasefire in Gaza by holding powerful states accountable for violence enacted against oppressed populations and preventing climate apartheid from happening at scale.

Dr Ameera Kawash is an artist, social entrepreneur, and writer. Her work spans examining repressive and discriminatory tech, developing new systems around digital care, and creating place-based and localised approaches to sustainability.

She is a co-founder of Orbital Bloom, a startup at the intersection of art and sustainability. She also earned a PhD from the Royal College of Art in 2022 where her thesis focused on how artists can radically and speculatively retool dominant technologies as artistic practice. Ameera is Palestinian-Iraqi-American and based in the UK

Follow her on Twitter: @DrAmeeraKawash