Women’s vital role in the climate fight
Chiara Corazza | Managing Director of the Women’s Forum for the Economy and Society | September 2019
Two main issues were highlighted during the G7 Summit in Biarritz: the need for urgent action on the climate emergency and the imperative necessity to reduce inequalities, including in gender.
The Women’s Forum has already demonstrated the link between climate change and women’s leadership. And last June in Kyoto we launched a charter to fully include women in creating a positive impact and to better protect the planet.
We are convinced that we cannot continue to fight the climate emergency with one hand tied behind our back.
We are convinced that more must be done to harness the talent, drive, and perspectives of over half of the global population: women.
We are convinced that women can accelerate positive impact on all the issues on which the G7 has called for progress.
We are convinced that the climate emergency, a challenge which affects the planet itself, is also an unprecedented chance to address gender inequality.
It is time to recognise the transformative role that women and girls can play. Considering women’s perspective, ingenuity, entrepreneurship and sheer number, not making full use of what women can achieve would be to waste half of humanity’s potential to rise to this epochal challenge.
Globally, women are more climate-conscious than men. Women see the climate emergency as more of a threat than men do, according to polls from various parts of the world. Women are more likely to be the heads of households, and so decide what they buy. That means they can alter their patterns of demand which influences companies.
In short, to quote Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for all, many solutions to the climate emergency are silent because they have a female face. (1) That needs to change.
After all, women are affected more severely than men by the climate emergency. Around 80% of climate refugees are women. (2) Women are fourteen times more likely to die than men in natural disasters like droughts, floods, and storms. (3) Four times as many women as men were killed in tsunami-affected areas of Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and India, likely partly because they had less access to information or early warning systems, and partly because they were more likely than men to stay behind and look for their children and relatives. (4) Girls are often the first to be taken out of school in times of drought so they can help with household responsibilities. Climate gentrification – where wealthy people buy land in areas less vulnerable to flooding – also likely disproportionately affects women because of the climate poverty trap. (5)
All this means that public, private, individual, and NGO action on climate must take gender into account. If it does not, it will be less effective.
Moreover, the ingenuity and drive of women is critical to making sure that the planet rises to the climate challenge effectively.
The way we are trying to tackle it at the moment misses the opportunities which would arise from including women equally. For example, as climate change affects our food systems, we need to increase yields. If women farmers had the same access to agricultural resources and rights as men, on-farm yields would increase by up to 30%, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation. (6) Tackling the climate emergency means we need more businesses committed to recycling, rewilding, offsetting their carbon use, and other objectives aside from profit. Women are more likely to start those kinds of businesses, if only they have adequate access to capital. Above all, ensuring that women are educated equally to men would reduce emissions by tens of gigatons by 2050 by influencing family size, global population, and equipping girls and women to face the impacts of a changing climate. Taken together, Project Drawdown lists educating girls and family planning as the number one most effective policy response to mitigate the effects of climate change in the world. (7)
The good news is that many corporate partners of the Women’s Forum are already making significant efforts in this direction. BNP Paribas helps small-scale women farmers borrow to finance seeds and education to grow their farms. L’Oréal gives women fair income and training efforts to address deforestation and improve their long-term health and security. KPMG and EcoAct are supporting the work of the Women’s Forum Daring Circle on Women and Climate by identifying these initiatives and their potential for scale. ENGIE’s initiative PowerCorner is bringing business to remote parts of Africa.
Ultimately, the solutions to the climate emergency must involve harnessing the creativity, drive and resilience of women. The Women’s Forum is calling for coordinated action by public authorities, corporations and individuals, focusing on:
- Equality on climate decision-making bodies by 2030.
- Raising awareness of the connection between gender and climate, women’s education and green jobs.
- Enabling women’s full access to means to engage in climate action
- Using gender data and analysis to inform climate policies, and
- Financing and developing gender-responsive and scalable social, economic and technological climate solutions.
This climate emergency will affect women more than men so women must be at the forefront of global efforts to solve it. I am optimistic that in the end, the G7 and other world leaders will understand the need to empower women to become climate leaders and change makers worldwide.
You can make a start by signing, tweeting, promoting and acting accordingly on our Charter for Engagement on Women Leading Climate Action.
Let’s engage for impact.
We only have one planet and one chance to preserve it. Let’s use the drive and talents of women and men alike.
2) Aguilar, L. (2004) ‘Climate change and disaster mitigation. Gender makes the difference.’
4) MacDonald, R. (2005) ‘How women were affected by the Tsunami: A Perspective from Oxfam.’
5) J. M Keenan et al (2018) ‘Climate gentrification: from theory to empiricism in Miami-Dade County, Florida’