Israeli NGOs Light Channukah Candles and Push for Government Action in Copenhagen

Last night, Israel’s NGO delegation to the Copenhagen climate talks kicked off a week of activism with a very special Channukah candle-lighting.

Delegates gathered in City Hall Square of the city to publicly light the Channukah menorah, but with a climate-flavored twist.  Instead of singing the traditional words to age-old Channukah songs, the activists changed the words to reflect their reason for attending the conference.  “We light this candle for coal, and for cars – when will Israel have a [climate] plan?” they sang with mischievous grins (see video below, in Hebrew).

This clever stunt is one of thousands of NGO (non-governmental organization) activities taking place throughout the duration of the Copenhagen conference.  According to the UN framework, only official representatives of nations can make decisions in climate negotiations.  But that hasn’t stopped hordes of activists from descending on the Danish capital to push their leaders toward a strong, effective, and just international climate treaty.

Activist strategies range in scope and intent.  An estimated 60,000-100,000 marched through the streets over the weekend in support of a just climate treaty (including almost 1,000 who were arrested for more disruptive, riot-like protest tactics).  But the nature of the conference allows activists to get creative, too.  Lebanese climate rock-stars IndyAct (who we’ve interviewed live from Copenhagen here), for instance, dressed up as “850” delegates, representative of oil industry interests, and satirically lobbied official conference delegates.

The Israeli NGOs, too, are using their creative juices to make their presence known.  In addition to the Channukah gathering, the delegation is sponsoring a bike ride through Copenhagen, a screening of the film Urban Legend and discussion with director MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz), and a debate on “No to Coal” campaigns, co-organized with 350.org.

The Israeli delegation sits under the umbrella of the Paths to Sustainability Coalition, which was founded in 2002 to promote and lobby for national policies addressing the climate crisis and its impacts.  The coalition includes dozens of Israeli environmental organizations, many of which are represented in the 30+ person delegation to Copenhagen.

The NGO delegation believes that, to date, the Israeli government has not taken sufficient action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  They therefore

[call] upon the government of Israel to formulate a comprehnsive, ambitious and bold climate policy and to allocate the resources necessary for its implementation.  Israel must set clear and substantial greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction targets, on par with the standards of developed countries of the world, and in accordance with Israel’s level of economic development.

Their demands encompass a holistic array of climate related policies, including energy, transport, water, waste, and more.

Click here to read the Paths to Sustainability Coalition’s policy platform, or here to see the official invitation to this week’s events.

:: Paths to Sustainability, New York Times, IndyAct Blog

For more on the COP-15 climate conference in Copenhagen:
From the eye of the reporter: Finding the Arab delegates in Copenhagen
Greenpeace Petition Calls on Netanyahu to Attend Copenhagen Climate Change Summit
Lebanon’s Wael Hmaidan From IndyACT Reports From Copenhagen While “Saving the Planet”

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