Last week, the 2022 United Nations (UN) Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, more commonly known as “COP27”, wrapped up in the Egyptian city of Sharm El-Sheikh. The goal of the conference was to discuss the severe climate change trends the world is witnessing and explore ways to alleviate its consequences through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the use of advanced technologies and renewable energy resources. As COP27 drew to a close, this important occasion provides the possibility to highlight the dramatic consequences that climate change has in Palestine, particularly the Gaza Strip.
Al Mezan stresses that the Palestinian struggle is also a climate justice issue, and this is especially important in the context of the occupied Gaza Strip. In Gaza, where since 2007 Israel has imposed a settler-colonial closure and blockade, ongoing Israeli practices and violations of international law have significantly exacerbated the repercussions and implications of climate change. The lives of more than two million Palestinians in besieged Gaza are affected by Israel’s direct and indirect targeting of the environmental components and their right to live in dignity is denied.
In particular, Israel’s settler-colonial closure and blockade on Gaza have impeded the ability to develop strategic projects aimed at preserving the environment and meeting the diverse needs of the population at a time when the consequences of climate change are intensifying. The Gaza Strip is still enduring a prolonged electricity crisis resulting from the recurrent attacks on Gaza’s sole Power Plant, the ban on the entry of fuel, and the obstruction of the entry of equipment necessary for developing the energy sector.
The population’s ability to access sufficient and safe drinking water has dramatically diminished, as about 97 percent of the water pumped from Gaza’s coastal aquifers does not meet World Health Organization quality standards. This is because Israel’s repeated military attacks against the Strip—characterized by the indiscriminate targeting of water and sanitation facilities, as well as vital environmental infrastructures such as sewage treatment plants and water grids—have rendered some treatment plants inoperable, prompting the pumping of untreated sewage into the sea, and causing sea pollution in more than 70 percent of the Gaza’s coastline.
The rainwater harvesting lines targeted by Israel have created flooding that has led to soil and crop drift in some areas of the Strip and rising water levels on roads and public and private structures, increasing the possibility of the spread of epidemics and diseases. In addition, Israel’s continued storage of rainwater through artificial dams has triggered environmental changes that have affected plants and trees located on the banks of the valleys and caused the migration of wild birds.
In addition, the dropping of thousands of tons of bombs, missiles and explosives containing poisonous and hazardous materials during Israeli military operations against Gaza, as well as the aerial spraying of chemical pesticides in areas adjacent to the Gaza/Israel perimeter fence, and the periodic leveling and bulldozing of Palestinian farmland by Israeli bulldozers, have severely and seriously compromised Gaza's environment. In the same context, Israeli authorities continue to ban the entry of breakwater rocks from the West Bank to the Gaza Strip, which are necessary to prevent coastal erosion resulting from increased wave heights that could increase the risk of catastrophic flooding.
Finally, Al Mezan calls on the international community—particularly States participating at COP27—to pressure Israel to stop its violations against the environment and its components, immediately lift Gaza’s closure and blockade and all associated restrictions on the entry of equipment and materials necessary for improving the environment in the Strip. At the same time, international and regional organizations and donors must uphold their obligations and pledges to Palestinians and provide the necessary fund for the reconstruction process, and direct support toward the rehabilitation and development of environmental infrastructure and facilities and the energy sector in a manner that contributes to the improvement of the environment and climate stability.