Why women are key to resolving the climate crisis
Governments and financial institutions must promote women’s leadership and gender equity to respond to the climate emergency, the Women’s Earth and Climate Action Network, International (WECAN) has said.
In a call to action released during the UN General Assembly and Climate Week as part of the Climate Justice Forum taking place on September 20-22 in New York City, WECAN urges decision makers to ensure women’s full and equal participation in all aspects of climate policy and finance.
Across the world, women have been indispensable in implementing community-based solutions to fight climate change, but lack the sufficient support to implement their work because of institutional patriarchy, gender inequality and racism.
At the same time, women and girls continue to be the most adversely impacted by climate change. Indigenous, Black and Brown women, women from low-income communities, and women from the Global South bear an even heavier burden of climate impacts and other crises due to the historic and continuing impacts of colonialism, racism and inequality.
WECAN’s call to action is the result of the leadership, analysis and frameworks of women’s organisations and climate justice movements from across the world. It explains how gender equality intersects with climate change, and provides concrete steps to advance equitable and just climate policies and programming. Here are some highlights.
End fossil fuel expansion
In the face of an escalating climate crisis, the fossil fuel industry continues unabated and enabled by government tax breaks, and women are the primary leaders of frontline efforts to stop the harmful extractive industries. Earlier this year, Shell’s former safety consultant Caroline Dennett publicly left her job and blew the whistle over the company’s greenwashing practices and continuing extraction projects and use of fossil fuels.
It is imperative that governments align their actions with the Paris Agreement target of keeping global warming at or below 1.5° C, urges WECAN. They must prohibit new permits and leases for fossil fuel companies, divest public funds from coal, oil and gas corporations, and reject “net zero” schemes. Governments must implement a Just Transition to a 100% renewable and regenerative economy, by investing in community-owned solar and wind, public green utilities and nationalised energy industries.
Promote food security
Women are often the primary caretakers of their families and communities, with women spending up to ten times more time on unpaid care work than men. Droughts, floods and extreme weather events are causing global disruptions to food production and increasing the burden on women holding responsibility for their families food, water, and energy needs. At the same time, gender disparities in access to land, water, credit, and technology prevent women’s food security. In India, more than 70% of workers on the farms are women, and yet they own less than 13% of land holdings.
It is essential that women, Indigenous peoples and smallholder farmers lead the necessary deep changes to our agricultural system, states WECAN.
Governments and policy makers must support decentralised and “people-run” economies, natural, non-genetically modified foods, and sustainable agro-ecological farming practices. They also must prohibit the global patenting of seeds and reduce the production and consumption of industrial meat and dairy products
Protect Indigenous rights
Indigenous communities are disproportionately harmed by fossil fuel development, deforestation, extractive industries and climate impacts. In Latin America, women land defenders are being threatened and criminalised for protecting their territories. In May 2022 alone, women defenders in Central America experiencing the most attacks were those who worked for the right to defend land and territory.
It is essential to defend Indigenous peoples’ rights to inhabit traditional lands undisturbed by industrial projects and extractive industries, learn from their ecological knowledge, and invest in their global leadership to protect and promote healthy relationships with life-sustaining ecosystems.
According to the World Bank, Indigenous peoples make up just 5% of the world’s population but protect 80% of the planet’s biodiversity. In Brazil, amid a growing wave of environmental and social problems, and an increase of Indigenous rights violations, young women are collectively organising to fight for environmental justice and influence political changes, as they prepare to take on official climate negotiator roles at COP27.
In this context, it is essential to acknowledge women’s essential roles, solutions, needs and desires in the fight against climate change, and to ensure that their rights and well-being are respected and upheld, WECAN writes in their statement. Studies have proven that when women hold positions of leadership at all levels, entire communities and nature benefit.
“The door is closing, and millions of lives are at risk as governments continue to delay on real climate solutions. Governments and financial institutions have no more excuses and must end their delusions with false solutions and incremental fossil fuel phase out plans. Science is telling us, we must act now.”
Read the full Call to Action here.