About Us Contact Us Privacy Policy
© GOOD Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved.

UN Climate Summit was inaccessible for Israeli minister in wheelchair

She was eventually forced to return to her hotel in Edinburgh 50 miles away after waiting outside the venue in Glasgow for two hours.

UN Climate Summit was inaccessible for Israeli minister in wheelchair
Cover Image Source: Israel's Energy Minister Karine Elharrar waits for the start of a meeting on day three of COP26 at SECC on November 2, 2021, in Glasgow, United Kingdom. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali - Pool / Getty Images)

Israel's energy minister was unable to enter the United Nations climate summit known as COP26 in Glasgow on Monday because she could not access the venue in her wheelchair, she said in a TV interview. According to BBC, Israeli Energy and Water Resources Minister Karine Elharrar told Israel's Channel 12 that she couldn't reach the conference grounds because the only options to get there from the gathering area were to either walk or take a shuttle that was not suitable for a wheelchair. Her office told the Times of Israel that Elharrar — who has muscular dystrophy — was eventually forced to return to her hotel in the Scottish capital Edinburgh 80km (50 miles) away after waiting outside the venue in Glasgow for two hours.


"The only way they said I could come in was to walk on foot for almost a kilometer, or to board a shuttle which was not wheelchair accessible," Elharrar reportedly told Channel 12 news. Speaking to Ynet news site, she is said to have added: "This is scandalous conduct and it shouldn’t have happened. I came with certain goals, and I couldn't achieve them today. The UN calls on everyone to adhere to the international treaty. So it is appropriate for there to be accessibility at its events."


Elharrar later tweeted her thoughts on what happened, which when translated reads: "I came to COP26 to meet my counterparts in the world and advance our joint struggle against the climate crisis. It is sad that the UN, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not provide accessibility to its events. Hopefully, the lessons learned will be learned so that tomorrow green energy promotion, removal of barriers, and energy efficiency will be the things I will deal with."


Following the incident, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett reportedly got in touch with the energy minister and arranged for her vehicle to arrive at the venue the following day as part of his official motorcade. UK prime minister Boris Johnson personally apologized to Elharrar for the "confusion" when she joined a meeting with him and Bennett. His apology coincided with Purple Tuesday - an awareness day set up to urge organizations to improve the service experience for their disabled customers. Disability charity Scope said the incident involving Elharrar was "inexcusable" and that the organizers "should have seen this coming."


"It is inexcusable that the organizers of COP26 haven't made all of their venue accessible for disabled people," said Alison Kerry, Head Of Communications at Scope. "No one should be excluded from participating in an event that is addressing one of the biggest issues of our time. The organizers should have seen this coming. With one in five of us being disabled, it should come as no surprise that a venue hosting tens of thousands of delegates will need to make a significant number of reasonable adjustments. It's high time accessibility is built in from the start and not an afterthought."


Meanwhile, UK's Environment Secretary George Eustice came under fire after he appeared to blame the Israeli delegation for Elharrar not being able to access the venue. "What would normally happen in this situation is that Israel would have communicated that they had that particular need for their minister," he told BBC Radio 4's Today program. "There was obviously something that went wrong in this instance and they weren't aware of that so they hadn't made the right provisions at that particular entrance she was coming to. I know that at most of the other entrances there [is] wheelchair access there. It was because she obviously came to an entrance that didn't have that provision."


However, a spokesman from the Israeli Embassy in London stated that the country's delegation to the summit had "communicated over the past several weeks all the details about the minister's requirements." Eustice faced criticism for the remarks from many, including Liberal Democrat peer Lady Ludford who tweeted: "Not the most gracious of responses for the COP26 host to blame the guest."

More Stories on Scoop