Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz on Tuesday called upon UN Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon to appoint a special envoy tasked with fighting climate change in the Middle East.
Peretz proffered the proposal during his speech at the UN Climate Summit 2014 in Manhattan.
The envoy would administer a team made up of representatives from Israel and its neighbors, including Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, the Environment Ministry said. Forming such a team is crucial, as climate change is expected to severely affect the region, according to ministry forecasts.
By the end of the century, for example, homes of about five million Israelis will be submerged, the ministry said. Israel and countries all over the region will meanwhile become a way station for thousands of climate refugees aiming to reach Europe, due to droughts and rising sea levels.
More than 120 heads of state attended Tuesday’s summit, the largest-ever gathering on climate by global leadership.
Ban hosted the Climate Summit in order to whip up support for aggressive reform in advance of next year’s Paris talks, where countries are to come together from November 30 to December 11, 2015, to discuss the parameters of and sign a global legally binding agreement on the issue. The secretary-general was adamant that countries’ representatives leave Tuesday’s Climate Summit understanding what a devastating threat the world faces.
“Climate change is the defining issue of our age,” Ban said.
“It is defining our present. Our response will define our future.
To ride this storm we need all hands on deck.”
Over the course of the day, world leaders stood in front of their fellow delegates and pledged their support for implementing progressive climate policies in their own countries.
“The climate is changing faster than our efforts to address them,” US President Barack Obama told the Climate Summit.
“Our citizens keep marching.
We cannot pretend we do not hear them.”
Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, addressing his remarks to John William Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda, president of the General Assembly, said, “Mr. President, if we truly believe global warming is a global problem, we should then accept that addressing it also requires genuine global cooperation.”
American actor and environmental activist Leonardo DiCaprio kicked off the summit with an impassioned speech, calling all nations to immediate action. Climate events, including rising acidity in the oceans and rapid melting at the poles, are happening far ahead of projections, he said.
“This is now about our industries and governments around the world taking decisive largescale action. Now must be our moment for action,” DiCaprio said.
He echoed Ban and US President Obama by saying that the debate is over – climate change is here. It is crucial, the actor said, that world powers in both the public and private sectors work fast to address their role in contributing to climate change.
“None of this is rhetoric, and none of it is hysteria. It is fact. The scientific community knows it. Industry knows it.
Governments know it. Even the United States Military knows it,” DiCaprio said.
He quoted Adm. Samuel Locklear, head of the US Pacific Command, who recently said that climate change is the single greatest security threat facing the world.
Regarding industry leaders, DiCaprio said that “they deserve our scrutiny” rather than tax dollars.
“The economy itself will die if our ecosystems collapse,” he said.