Palestine: A distinctive voice for climate action

Those illegally denied control over their natural resources must be heard in the global climate conversation.

palestine farmers
The Palestinian Authority developed a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy in 2010 [Getty Images]

Leaders have converged at the United Nations in New York to sign the world’s action plan to curb global warming and avert climate change’s worst consequences.

The signing of the Paris Agreement is a testament to the world’s ability to act collectively to address an existential problem. It is also a chance to recognise nations and peoples with unique struggles against extreme climate conditions.

The State of Palestine is one among many countries around the world facing such challenges. Now as a State Party to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN treaty body in charge of climate action, the State of Palestine has a unique role.

Climate change threatens Svalbard’s 3,000 polar bears

It can, in particular, share expertise about conservation in harsh environments and serve as the voice for those without full control over their natural resources in the context of international climate action.

Palestine has long been a dedicated partner in the international negotiations on climate change. Since the Rio Conference in 1992, I have represented Palestine at six international climate meetings. At each of these meetings, I highlighted the specific vulnerabilities faced by occupied peoples, who must, for example, cope with limited control over, and constant deprivation of, their natural resources.

While people living under occupation face distinct challenges, I also know that everyone, everywhere shares similar concerns. We all face rising temperatures, water scarcity, drought and rising sea levels. That is why learning from each other and sharing our determination is universally beneficial – and absolutely vital to saving our planet for future generations, an urgent objective set out by the UN in its Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development.

Palestinians are experts in survival on minimal resources, having developed their resilience and refined practices for sustaining life in a cruel environment. This is especially true in agriculture, where Palestinians have for decades applied innovative farming techniques with proven results.

UPFRONT: ‘To avoid climate change, we need system change’

Today, Palestinian farmers use recycled waste water, water harvesting and drip irrigation to overcome Israel’s usurpation of our water and to conserve our limited resources, as well as maintaining local seedbanks to preserve agrobiodiversity. Communities cut off from the Israeli-controlled energy grid look to alternative energy sources, such as solar panels.

Becoming a State Party to the UNFCCC affords us the opportunity to build upon these techniques through climate finance, technology and capacity-building, and to better share our practices with others in the Mediterranean and beyond.

Yet, pursuit of such opportunities is impaired by the fact that Palestine continues to be illegally denied control over its natural resources by Israel, the occupying power, particularly as a result of its ever-expanding settlement enterprise in the West Bank, its blockade of Gaza, and its attacks on infrastructure, which have devastated the quality of our natural resources and our access to them.

National action plan

This underscores the fact that truly addressing the challenges we face as a people in all realms, whether political, social, economic, humanitarian, environmental or otherwise, requires first and foremost ending the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 and securing the freedom and rights that the Palestinian people have been for too long unjustly denied.

As we continue to exert all efforts to that end, we are simultaneously seeking to responsibly carry out our duties to improve the lives of our people in accordance with international law and with a view to their resilience and sustainable development as a part of the global community.

Thus, in 2010, the Palestinian Authority developed a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy that set out a national action plan to address some of our biggest threats.

Currently, we are preparing to submit to the UN an INDC, our national contribution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, confirming our commitment to shouldering our responsibilities to achieve a carbon-neutral future, in spite of the fact that the Israeli occupation prevents us from fully executing our climate policy.

It is in part because of these circumstances that the State of Palestine decided to become a State Party to the UNFCCC.

WATCH – Climate change: Fact or fiction?

For the first time the State of Palestine will sit as an equal among fellow countries in the global fight against climate change, which stands among the top priorities on the international agenda.

With this strengthened position we can ensure that people without complete control over their natural resources have an equal platform to voice their needs and be part of the global conversation and effort.

The Paris Agreement was a tremendous diplomatic achievement. We are proud that the State of Palestine is a partner in pursuing ambitious climate action. Yet, to bring about the substantive change we all seek, we each must do more at home and abroad.

The State of Palestine is a respected party in the UN and will work with our diplomatic partners to ensure effective implementation of the Paris Agreement and further enhancement of climate commitments. We want a world with a sustainable future that we can all share, as equals, in stability and peace. As a new State Party to the world’s action plan on climate change, we are eager to work towards that bright future.

Dr Riyad H Mansour is the ambassador for the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.