Disabled Israeli minister excluded from COP26 due to wheelchair inaccessibility

2 November 2021, 06:12 | Updated: 2 November 2021, 06:32

Israel's energy minister Karine Elharrar said she was unable to attend the opening day of COP26 due to the event not being wheelchair accessible.
Israel's energy minister Karine Elharrar said she was unable to attend the opening day of COP26 due to the event not being wheelchair accessible. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Israel's energy minister has said she was "sad" to be excluded from the opening day of COP26 because the summit was not wheelchair accessible.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Karine Elharrar, who is a wheelchair user, said she hopes lessons are learnt from her experience at the climate summit on Monday.

She told Israel's Channel 12 she could not reach the conference grounds because the only options to get there from the gathering area were to walk or board a shuttle that was not suited for a wheelchair.

The Minister of National Infrastructures, Energy and Water Resources, wrote on Twitter: "To COP26 I came to meet with my counterparts around the world and promote a joint fight against the climate crisis. It is sad that the UN, which promotes accessibility for people with disabilities, in 2021, does not take care of accessibility at its events.

"I hope that the lessons required to be learned tomorrow to promote green energies, remove barriers and energy efficiency will be the things I deal with."

Read more: Queen tells COP26 leaders 'we're doing this not for us but for our children'

Read more: PM lists three cities that could be lost if no climate action is taken

Neil Wigan, the UK's ambassador to Israel, said he was "disturbed" to hear of the minister's struggles.

"I apologise deeply and sincerely to the minister," he tweeted.

"We want a COP summit that is welcoming and inclusive to everyone."

Ms Elharrar told an Israeli broadcaster that she could not reach the conference grounds because the only options to get there from the gathering area were to walk or board a shuttle that was not suited for a wheelchair.

Read more: Humanity is already in trouble, Sir David Attenborough warns world leaders at COP26

Read more: Joe Biden caught 'taking micro nap' as he listens to COP26 speeches

She said she hoped a solution could be found by Tuesday so she can attend the crucial summit.

Foreign Office minister James Cleverly also responded to her plight in a tweet.

He said he was "deeply disappointed and frustrated" that the minister could not access COP on its opening day, which saw speeches from Boris Johnson, Prince Charles and Sir David Attenborough.

"The COP venue is designed to be accessible for all," he said.

"I have spoken to the Minister about this and I look forward to meeting her tomorrow [Tuesday]."