Climate change endangers small Jewish communities, warn campaigners

Commonwealth Jewish Council raises awareness of the threat to small islands


The Commonwealth Jewish Council is launching a campaign to raise awareness of the dangers climate change poses to small islands.

Its ‘Small Islands: Big Challenges’ campaign will be inaugurated on Monday at a Westminster event to be addressed by the government’s former special adviser on climate change, Sir David King.

Members of the CJC’s 37 communities will be asked to press their governments to take action in line with the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.

CJC president Lord Mendelsohn - who this week hosted a dinner in the Lords for High Commissioners from small islands - said the organisation backed efforts to persuade countries to implement the Paris Agreement.

“But we hope for more,” he said in an introduction to the CJC’s campaign pack. “We hope to help develop durable partnerships that can deal with the challenges of weather extremes and climate change and their terrible impacts.

“We want to help across the range of need, from finding ways to build early warning systems and adaptation measures to mechanisms to build resilient communities.”

The campaign has been timed to follow this week’s celebration of Tu Bishvat, the New Year for Trees.

In a video message of support which cited the commandment given to Adam to take care of the world, Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis said: “We have a Jewish foreign policy for the 21st century. It is our responsibility within our Jewish psyche to recognise what we should be doing for the world around us.”

Recalling a holiday he and his Valerie had spent in the Cayman Islands, he said residents had told him of the “horrific experience” they had endured when a hurricane submerged Grand Cayman under water.

“That brought home to me the extent to which small island states are living in a very fragile situation,” he said. “And we have a responsibility towards them.”

There are more than 20 small island developing states in the Commonwealth, including Caribbean islands such as Barbados and Antigua, and the Solomon Islands in the Pacific.

Rabbi Jeffrey Newman, a longstanding environmental activist, said: “Small islands are threatened by rises in sea level, brought about both by expanding oceans, which have absorbed much of the rise in global temperatures caused by the burning of fossil fuels and by the widespread glacial and increasing Arctic melt.”

Environmental damage was also being caused by plastic waste deposited in the sea, he warned.

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