Palestinian officials have withdrawn a 4-page letter to the UN asking the country’s conflict with Israel be recognised as a main cause of its vulnerability to climate change.
Filed on 26 July and also addressed to the governments of France and Morocco, it asked the UN recognise the “severe negative impacts” Israeli occupation imposed on Palestine’s climate plans.
“The humanitarian and socio-economic impact of climate change will highly exacerbate the current situation on the ground which resulted from the extended years of aggressive occupation,” read the submission.
It added: “the impact of the occupation extremely limits the capacities of Palestinians in being able to cope or adapt to climate change impacts and warrants special consideration”.
The Palestinian Authority also asked that the upcoming UN climate summit in Morocco “recognize State of Palestine’s specific needs” in any final agreement at the meeting, known as COP22.
“Recognize State of Palestine’s specific needs and special circumstances of being particularly vulnerable to the adverse effects of climate change and decides to support Palestine’s efforts to implement its National Climate Change Strategies and Action Plans and Developing and implementing its Low Emission Development Strategies in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including via Receiving Support in the Provision of Financial, Technological and Capacity Building Support”
Two weeks later, Ramallah retracted the proposal without explanation. It would likely have attracted condemnation from Israel and the US.
In an email exchange, Palestinian ministerial advisor on climate change Nedal Katbeh-Bader said his administration wanted to be sure it “secured consensus on the issue” before COP22.
Decisions at the UN usually have to be secured by consensus, and any decision opposed by the US is unlikely to carry.
Palestine became a full party to the UN climate convention in December 2015, under a strategy to secure membership to international institutions.
Its accession caused a minor row during the COP21 talks when Saudi Arabia insisted the “rights of people under occupation” be included in the agreement. That did not make the final cut.
Earlier this year 28 leading Republicans including Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz said US funding of the UN climate talks should be suspended, since the country does not recognise Palestine as a state.
The US government, which is the largest single source of funding for the UN climate talks and the Green Climate Fund, argued the UNFCCC is just a treaty and membership does not imply statehood.
Palestine was one of the first countries to formally ratify the new Paris climate agreement.
Addressing the UN president Mahmoud Abbas said occupation was “destroying the climate in Palestine, and Israeli settlements are destroying nature in Palestine”.