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This article is part of our ongoing series The Gender Imperative: Re-imagining Climate Action, in which the Women4ClimateAction Daring Circle calls upon expert members of our global Women’s Forum community to provide their perspectives on the urgent need to promote women’s leadership on climate change, particularly in the present moment.


Not all heroes wear capes. Our recent heroes are the nurses and doctors fighting on the front line of COVID-19. Yet the kryptonite in this pandemic reveals several ugly man-made truths about our society, and these particularly impact women as they represent 70% of workers in the health and social sector.[1]

COVID-19 reveals how underfunded and ill-prepared health care systems across the globe are to deal with such a serious crisis. We can neither fully care for our sick nor protect those serving on the front line with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE).[2]

While no one in the West really saw this pandemic coming, the truth of the matter is that many nations simply do not invest enough in services for society. Countries across the world now ‘clap for carers’ – here’s a novel idea: how about we fund them instead? People are now reliant on the poorly paid workers, with inadequate facilities, that they didn’t want to fund in the first place. This has to change.

And change is going to cost us, but we have to invest more into our society. Hospitals and schools are expensive to build and require maintenance. Clean water and clean air are costly too, but like healthcare or education, these are investments for the benefit of all of society.

While the coronavirus continues to spread and the death toll rises, climate change kills more gradually – it is slowly squeezing the lives and lungs out of not only our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, but also our flora and fauna. The climate science is clear – action is required but governments aren’t investing enough to curb green-house gases that cause pollution and impact the health of our citizens, pollute our waters and denigrate our fragile ecosystems and wildlife.

COVID-19 doesn’t care how much money you make, what car you drive or  whether you now slovenly wear sweatpants all day and can’t get your highlights done. Coronavirus doesn’t seem to discriminate but some new evidence shows that it has a disproportional impact on ethnic minorities in the UK[3] and statistics in some other countries are indicating a higher death rate among men than women.[4] Unfortunately, not all countries are monitoring the gender breakdown of the data –  this consideration is of utmost importance as COVID-19 affects men and women differently  just as the research has shown that other deadly viruses, such as SARS and Ebola, affect men and women differently.[5]

Climate change is different. We have the data that shows that where you live and how you live matters. Furthermore, there is much research and data that shows that women are disproportionately impacted by climate change.[6] For example, the inequities of dealing with extreme weather events are stark between rich and poor nations, and more brutal for women and girls.[7]  

No one really saw the pandemic coming. Nations are scrambling to deal with this crisis. However, scientists, environmentalists, economists and some forward-thinking businesses see what’s on our global climate horizon and it’s scary. Unlike coronavirus, there is no vaccine countries are racing to make in order to ‘fix’ climate change. Yet stimulus packages, like the historic $2 trillion bill that was passed in the U.S. at the end of March, show that countries do know how to mobilise resources in the face of a pandemic causing massive economic damage.

Climate change is also a global crisis that, in a like manner to COVID-19, is causing economic and societal damage. We cannot be reactive with climate as we have with COVID-19, we must act now. As Executive Director of the Climate Markets & Investment Association (CMIA), I work with business and governments to stimulate a shift into low carbon investments along with financial products and services. We represent the voice of the private sector in climate finance and provide a ‘safe space’ for dialogue, and subsequent action, with governments, policy makers and other organisations. Our association consists of leading private sector companies working to achieve profit for purpose. We recognise that the private sector has a role to play in reallocating capital into more climate-resilient investments and we want to ensure that coronavirus stimulus recovery packages are to be linked to climate action. We believe that how the money distributed out is invested is a perfect opportunity to tie results to green investment and climate targets that could determine the success of decarbonisation efforts long after the pandemic has been overcome.

Now is the time to build better systems that care for our people and protect the climate, not after we find a vaccine for COVID-19. We need more innovative solutions to design a world fit for the future of our children. Innovation is not just technology; Innovation covers ideas, systems and processes and best of all, it doesn’t have a gender preference. Which means that we women need to take the lead and put on our hero capes; bringing our own ideas and innovations that recognise and address the gendered aspects of climate action. Leadership means getting out of your comfort zone and fighting like it was for your own kids or a member of your family, because you are. You don’t have to be a healthcare worker to make a difference – we all live on planet earth.

Call to action: Sign and support the Women’s Forum Charter for Engagement

Awareness is the first step. We need men and women together creating better processes and systems. Take this time while the world is on pause to learn more and support the Women’s Forum Charter for Engagement. One way to show your leadership is by signing the Charter – be part of a bigger community that fights for a better, more inclusive economy and society. Put on your cape.

The Women4ClimateAction Daring Circle is led by BNP Paribas, in collaboration with L’Oréal and Microsoft and in association with Engie. The Daring Circle draws on contributors and experts from the UNFCCC, C40, R20, We Mean Business, and the OECD. KPMG is supporting this Daring Circle as knowledge partners and HEC as academic partner.