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November 1, 2021 4:51 pm
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Israel’s Energy Minister Unable to Attend Glasgow Climate Summit Due to Wheelchair Inaccessibility

avatar by Sharon Wrobel

Karine Elharrar, Orna Barbivai and Meir Cohen from the Yesh Atid party arrive for consultations on the formation of a coalition government, at the President’s residence in Jerusalem April 5, 2021. REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israeli Energy Minister Karine Elharrar was not able to attend the UN climate change conference in Glasgow on Monday because it is not fully accessible by wheelchair.

“It is sad that the UN, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not provide accessibility to its events,” tweeted Elharrar.

Elharrar, who has a muscular dystrophy and uses a wheelchair, was appointed in June 2021 as Israel’s Minister of Energy, responsible for the development of the country’s energy and water economy and its use of natural resources.

“I came to the conference to meet with my counterparts around the world and promote our common struggle in facing the climate crisis. Hopefully the lessons will be learned so that tomorrow green energy promotion, removal of barriers and energy efficiency will be the things I will deal with,” said Elharrar.

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Elharrar told Israel’s Ynet news site that the organizers could not accommodate her needs. “This is outrageous conduct and it shouldn’t have happened,” she lamented.

“The UN calls on everyone to adhere to the international charter and make places accessible — so it is appropriate that its events have accessibility.”

Commenting on the incident, Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid addressed the organizers of the UN climate change conference in a tweet: “It is impossible to safeguard our future and address the climate crisis, without first and foremost caring for people, including ensuring accessibility for people with disabilities.”

Lapid also expressed his support from Israel for the Minister of Energy and thanked her for her work protecting the environment and promoting renewable energy.

UK Ambassador to Israel Neil Wigan later apologized to Elharrar on Twitter, saying, “I am disturbed to hear that Elharrar was unable to attend meetings at the climate change conference. I apologize deeply and sincerely to the Minister. We want a COP Summit that is welcoming and inclusive to everyone.”

Elharrar later thanked Israeli Israeli Ambassador to the United Kingdom Tzipi Hotovely for her attempts to resolve the issue and making sure “there was someone to apologize in retrospect.”

World leaders at the summit, which continues through Nov. 12, heard Monday from Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who boasted of Israel’s recent commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050 and phase out of the use of coal by 2025.

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