Carmit Lubanov

Commemorate Martin Luther King legacy when coping with Climate Crisis 2023

Martin Luther King, Jr., at the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. Picture source: AP Images, Britannica,

This week, 60 years ago at the end of the march for Jobs and freedom, Martin Luther King delivered his inaugural speech “I have a dream” at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial and in front of a quarter of a million protesters:  “I still have a dream… one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed, we hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.” Human rights organizations around the world commemorate his legacy this week, especially among the black communities in the US .However, mentioning the need to raise civil rights on the political and public arena is a daily indispensability, in a large part of the globe, certainly in Israel 2023, which entered the 57th year of the occupation, with the absence of a political solution on the horizon – and at an unprecedented time, since the establishment the state, of the deterioration of the status of civil rights and the weakening of democracy.

It seems that the accumulation of global, state level and local events of civil rights violations, the rise in power of parties identified with values of racial superiority, the hardening of policies towards migrants, in part for those who were forced to leave an unsafe homeland, against a background of political, sexual, ethnic persecution. The list is long, with new additions in the last 2 years, as of facing the unbearable personal cost of civilian lives that the war in Ukraine is taking, affecting the energy market in Europe in wide circles and on the pace for energy transition, as well as of food security, which Ukraine is the grain barn for many countries, that are already coping with the consequences of climate change, as African countries.

This instability is gaining momentum ahead of the UN Climate Conference COP28 which will open in 3 months in the Emirates.   Although for the first time the World Climate Conference gives expression to the issues of minorities and rights as integral themes of the conference program – on the backdrop of the increasing climate crisis, the framing of climate justice and their economic significance, including migration, is still standing on the margins of the international climate discourse, certainly not yet gained the international recognition of its importance for climate economy strategy as a whole. In this context, worth to remind the image of a press conference at the end of the World Economic Forum gathering in Davos in 2020, in which the young climate activist from Uganda, Ms.  Vanessa Nakate, that was excluded from the photo. But yes, her four White colleagues were performed. This image has become a visual icon of the historical loaded debate on climate policy, the political acknowledgement of the ‘right to recognition’, the politics of identities and the importance not only of including the voice of indigenous populations in the climate discourse, but of the place of their traditional knowledge in formulating solutions to the climate crisis.

Therefore, it should be said, ahead of the climate COP28 in the Emirates, climate change issues involving poor countries remain largely underrepresented in both research and global governance, even if they receive a special day on the annual UN COP meeting.

Where to take the things?                                                                                                              In brief, in my opinion should harness the various stakeholders in two contradicted directions that act simultaneously in the public and political sphere. The first is ‘for’, the second is ‘against’.

“For” – as it has been proven in many studies, among others of that of the environmental justice group in Israel for last decade, that GHG emissions not only reflect climate inequality, but act as a multiplier of socio-economic inequality, and that the climate crisis intensifies the vulnerability of countries with a high component of disadvantaged populations. Considering the scale and nature of climate change affect, it is necessitated to adopt a new climate strategy, based on regional prism and poses objectives of mitigation of socio-economic inequality, and not only of net emissions.  That is, adopting a climate justice approach for adaptation to climate security is the ‘order of hour’. We should face that Climate justice is not an uncontested concept, especially in polarized world, but more than any of the other diverse approaches, mostly tech oriented, it opens up professional and political discourse of climate to an ocean set of considerations including of economic and employment, part of human rights, as raised already 60 years ago.

The multi disciplinarily concept of Climate justice, not only addressing the traditional redistribution economy of climate change’ causes and effects, but enable to respond to climate risks in broad way of preparation and response to threat, access to safe, nutritional food, access to energy justice and traditional management of natural resources to mitigate risks, as repeated wildfire occurrences in recent summers in the Mediterranean countries.  

‘Against’ – Although the industry of “climate denial” has never silenced its engines, it seems that its rise recently in popularity is returning under the auspices of the global processes briefly reviewed above. An industry that tries to create uncertainty about the anthropogenic sources of climate change, with the aim of undermining the call for policy change and reducing emissions, and specifically the transition to energy from renewable sources. The main means they use are philanthropic funds that fund think tanks, usually with political motivated way, and publish disinformation about climate change. Sound Familiar?

Just last week, in the first round of candidates of the Republican Party for next year’s national elections, all the candidates without exception presented a position that supports ignoring climate change. Also in Israel, it was reported last February that one of the first meetings held by the Minister for Environmental Protection, was with climate deniers. This criticism was leveled against the organizers of COP28, as the elected president of the conference is the head of one of the largest oil companies in the Emirates. The challenge is standing open at the step door of the international community, ahead of coming November.

Martin Luther King in his speech “I have a dream” bound together the civil rights of blacks in the USA, along with economic and labor rights. This is also the opportunity that the international community faces 60 years later, with opening the coming UN climate conference – while dealing with climate inequality, the forced displacement of hundreds of millions of people, the recognition of the rights of the climate victims. An opportunity to promote not only a low-carbon climate economy, but also determined Green Jobs goals, especially in the disadvantaged regions, which are prone to the calamities of climate change.

Carmit Lubanov is Co-Founder of Tahadhari Center for Climate and Migration in Euro-Med, think-tank and platform for collaborations in the Mediterranean region.


About the Author
Co-Founder of Tahadhari Center for Climate and Migration in Euro-Med (TCCMEM, 2022) focusing on regional perspective of global processes. Founder and been executive director of Association of Environmental Justice in Israel (AEJI). Carmit has expertise on climate governance, climate and environmental justice , as well as long engaged on economically oriented field projects among weak links of the society, including cross-border Israel-Palestine. Among focuses of her work are policy advocacy, mobilizing processes for long term change in multi-threat space, politicaly, socially and economically.