COP28: Protesters bring calls for Gaza ceasefire to climate summit

COP28: Protesters bring calls for Gaza ceasefire to climate summit
At the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, activists read out the names of Palestinians killed in Gaza and linked the Palestinian cause to the movement for climate justice.
3 min read
Dubai, UAE
03 December, 2023
Protesters at COP28 highlighted the connection between the Palestinian cause and the fight for climate justice [Getty]

Over 100 activists held a peaceful protest calling for a ceasefire in Gaza at the UN's climate summit in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Sunday. 

The demonstration took place in the UN-managed Blue Zone of the COP28 conference, where world leaders have gathered for two weeks of climate negotiations.

It is a rare sight in the UAE, where demonstrations are restricted but "peaceful assembly" has been allowed during the conference. 

Wearing keffiyehs and raising their fists, demonstrators held banners that read "Ceasefire", "End Environmental Apartheid" and "Climate Decolonisation". Chants of "Free, free Palestine!" were short-lived, as UN restrictions prevent the naming of states or raising the Palestinian flag.

Instead, activists waved flags with watermelons - a pro-Palestine symbol. Speeches to the crowd highlighted the connection between the Palestinian cause and the fight for climate justice.

"We are here to condemn the geopolitical power of the Global North, of those major polluter richer nations that are among the major countries subsidising and funding unfolding genocide," said Colombian climate justice activist Gina Cortés Valderrama.

Activists, many of whom were moved to tears, also took turns reading out the names of the Palestinians killed in Israel’s war on Gaza. More than 15,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its bombardment of the territory on 7 October, including more than 6,000 children.

"The names are still being written," Valderrama said, reminding spectators of the rapidly climbing civilian death toll after a week-long truce expired on Friday. 

On Sunday morning, the Government Media Office in Gaza announced that more than 700 Palestinians had been killed by Israel’s bombardment within the span of 24 hours, while 1.5 million people are now displaced.

Absent from the official agenda, Israel’s war on Gaza has cast a shadow over proceedings at this year’s UN climate summit.

On Thursday, the conference opened with a moment of silence for "all civilians who have perished during the current conflict in Gaza", as called for by president of last year's COP27 in Egypt, Sameh Choukri.

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Several heads of state used their opening remarks to draw attention to the war, including those of Jordan, Iraq, South Africa and Turkey. Both Israeli president Isaac Herzog and Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas did not appear for their scheduled speeches.

World leaders have also engaged in sideline diplomacy, with the US, UK and France among those that used the summit as an opportunity to discuss the war. 

Outside of the diplomatic sphere, Gaza has also been in the spotlight. Several panels hosted by civil society groups have highlighted the need for an end to Israel’s occupation as part of the wider movement for climate justice, as well as the environmental cost of war. 

At a press conference on the opening day of the conference hosted by the COP28 Coalition, activists wore t-shirts spelling out "Ceasefire" and expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people.  

"There can be no climate justice on occupied land," said youth activist Dylan Hamilton.

The New Arab will have continuous coverage of COP28 from Dubai. Click here for more.