Malaysia says COP28 should address ‘devastating’ climate toll of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza

Malaysia says COP28 should address ‘devastating’ climate toll of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza

DUBAI: The ongoing COP28 summit should address the climate and environmental impact of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza, Malaysia’s environment minister said on Saturday.

Political and business leaders from nearly 200 countries are gathered in Dubai this week for the UN’s annual meeting, which aims to address some of the most pressing points related to global warming and the climate crisis.

As world leaders are in talks over the issues, Turkish President Tayyip Erodgan, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, and Jordan’s King Abdullah have all said that discussions on climate change should not exclude the topic of Israel’s ongoing bombardment of Gaza.

Malaysia’s Minister of Natural Resources, Environment and Climate Change Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad told Arabian Weekly that besides the humanitarian toll — with 15,000 people killed since October and many more injured or missing — the Israeli bombardment of the Palestinian enclave is also destroying the environment.

In retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack by the Gaza-based militant group Hamas, the Israeli military has dropped an estimated 40,000 tons of explosives on the 365-sq.-km territory, nearly four times more than the combined weight of the nuclear bombs dropped by the US on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945.

“The unprecedented levels of assault unquestionably inflict a devastating impact on the environment,” the minister said on the sidelines of the climate summit. “Addressing this is non-negotiable.”

For the hundreds of thousands of people internally displaced by the attacks, toxic contamination from the explosives has made the air difficult to breathe and the water undrinkable.

“The world cannot ignore what is happening there — be it from a humanitarian or climate justice standpoint,” Nik Nazmi said, adding that it is resulting in “not only the Palestinians losing lives, but arguably (also) their future.”

With COP28 featuring several points on which participants need to find common ground — including phasing out fossil fuels, how to decrease emissions from global food production, how to finance energy transition in developing countries, and how to help those countries adapt as climate-related disasters mount— the Malaysian minister also raised the general issue of Israel’s military occupation thwarting climate action in Palestinian territories, particularly in Gaza.

“The occupation robs Palestinians of their right and ability to improve climate resilience due to the inordinate control over Palestinian land, water, and other vital natural resources,” he said

Israel controls water reserves not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, and uses more than five times the amount of water consumed in those two locations combined, according to B’Tselem, a Jerusalem-based NGO documenting human-rights violations in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

The amount of water accessible daily to the Palestinians is the amount the World Health Organization prescribes as the minimum in disaster zones.

“It is very much a climate injustice. Gazans are facing a climate crisis further compounded by the loss of land due to rising sea levels, severe lack of access to clean water for Palestinians, lack of sanitation, impact on food security … all of which aggravate the impact of prolonged conflicts,” Nik Nazmi said.

“They will struggle to cope with climate-change impacts, and are weakened by the turmoil that disrupts livelihoods and interrupts any access to food and other sustenance.”

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