An estimated 10,000 people gathered in Tel Aviv on Friday to take part in the annual climate march, the first since 2019, as last year’s event was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several key Israeli environmental organizations, including the Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI), Green Course, Greenpeace and the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, participated in and led the march, which is believed to have been the largest environmental event in Israel this year.
“It is evident that the strength of the public is increasing year by year,” SPNI CEO Iris Hann said. “It is especially rewarding to see the significant presence of children and teenagers, who have come to take responsibility for the future world in which they will grow up.”
Participants gathered at 10:30 a.m. in Tel Aviv’s Rabin Square, participating in educational activities, exhibits and other activities, before setting out across the city to march under the event title “The leaders have run out of time.” The protest concluded at Rabin Square at 1 p.m. where they regrouped to listen to speeches from leading Israeli climate activists.
Several MKs and ministers. including Environmental Protection Minister Tamar Zandberg of Meretz, Labor leader and Transport Minister Merav Michaeli, MK Limor Magen-Telem of Yisrael Beytenu and MK Alon Tal of Blue and White also participated in the march.
מצעד האקלים 2021- 10,000 צועדים וצועדות! הצעירים דורשים עתיד! pic.twitter.com/TrIKF9sFFz— אלון טל - Alon Tal (@AlonTal_MK) October 29, 2021
“I am thrilled and excited by the masses of people who came to the climate march,” said Magen-Telem, speaking from the event itself: “organizations, parents, educational institutions and youth movements, who are all mobilized with all their hearts for the goal of caring for the environment, the climate, and for future generations.
“I spoke to young people full of ambition and vigor,” she said. “Everyone understands the great importance and significance of the climate crisis.”
PROTESTERS MARCHED with signs and banners, some demanding change from the government, some from the public, and some simply warning of what is to come should the situation not change.
“We are in a climate emergency,” one homemade poster announced, with another one close by displaying an illustration of a penguin above the caption “please don’t kill us.” A large inflatable globe, courtesy of Greenpeace, was also seen hovering above the crowd as they marched.
“We are marching for the preservation of nature and our future,” SPNI’s Hann stated. “Our health as human beings is directly linked to, and dependent on, the health of our nature, and it is exciting to see that the future generation of this country and of SPNI has mobilized for a better future.”
Asked why she decided to join the climate march, one participant, Chen, explained her journey in learning about environmentalism and how she works to act on her beliefs.
“At the age of 15, I was exposed to the dire state of the environment,” she explained. “I realized there was no time to waste, and I had to start acting – so I decided on my own to start refusing to use disposable items, even if it meant being different from everyone, and to be the only one standing against my class, or my commander in the army.
“Along with this, I tried to educate others, wherever possible, on what could be done to make things better,” she said.
“I came to the climate march because I cannot sit still while the situation deteriorates, and I wanted to spread what I understood a long time ago. But it is not certain that the officials understand and act accordingly.”
A State Comptroller report released on Tuesday echoed this worry, as it revealed that 84% of public bodies have no plans in place to tackle climate change, and there is doubt as to whether or not the country will meet several key goals, such as a 30% increase in renewable energy by 2030.
However, signs also point to the government stepping up and taking action ahead of the UN Climate Change Summit (COP26) in Glasgow this week, after heavy criticism both from the comptroller report, and the same public who showed up on Friday to protest.
On Friday, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Energy Minister Karine Elharrar agreed to raise the government’s target for reducing emissions to net-zero by 2050, after listening to criticism of their previous goal to reach a reduction goal of only 85%.
Israel will be reducing greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050.PM Naftali Bennett: "We are responding to the global challenge of tackling climate change, finding technological solutions and joining the efforts to achieve this important goal”.https://t.co/lNob5ji6hH— Prime Minister of Israel (@IsraeliPM) October 29, 2021
“I am pleased that the government has put this issue on the agenda, and is taking a series of steps to combat the effects of pollution on the environment, the health of residents and on the economy,” Magen-Telem said of the government’s announcement of recent plans to tackle climate change.
“I will continue to fight for innovation and initiative in the climate field in education, the promotion of green technology, the transition to renewable energy and more.”
Climate activist Chen is positive about the future of the climate movement and the slowly developing awareness around the issue.
“At the march today, I understood that I am not alone in this anymore – and even though there is a way to go until we reach the solution, at least there are people to march with along the way.”