Thursday, February 29, 2024
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“The climate crisis is not “gender neutral”. Women and girls experience the greatest impacts of climate change, which amplifies existing gender inequalities and poses unique threats to their livelihoods, health, and safety.” UN Women. Already, 80% of people displaced by the climate crisis globally are women. Women and children are 14 times more likely to die during a disaster, according to at least one study

As the European Parliament Resolution of 20 April 2012 reports (Dankelman 2010), the impact of climate change on human beings has different consequences on people depending on their gender identity. Thus, the consequences for women are not the same as for men.

Poverty, along with social, economic, and political barriers, makes women increasingly unable to face the negative impacts of climate change. Thus, environmental crises, which often lead to humanitarian crises, pose a serious question of gender justice.

Nevertheless, many governments and investors still ignore the impact of gender inequality and women’s socio-economic disadvantages. Hence, the underlying issue of gender inequality remains a critical challenge for ecofeminists to address.

The climate crisis is not “gender neutral”

As gender inequalities persist around the world, women continually experience greater burdens from the impacts of climate change, as they are more likely to be primary caregivers while also being in charge of food, water, and firewood procurement.

Statistically ‘climate refugees’ and the victims of natural disasters are more likely to be women and children than men or adults (Alston and Whittenbury 2013). Women – especially heads of households in rural, less-developed countries – are among those whom ‘climate injustice’ affects most severely (Masika 2002; Tuana and Cuomo 2014).

Based on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), it is clear that those who are already among the most vulnerable and marginalized will experience the greatest impacts of climate change. 

There is a substantial need to bring marginalized voices into our climate change responses and rebuild “eco-feminism”, a movement first seen at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). This call to consider women’s and environmental rights as part of the same spectrum will impact not only our society but also the planet. 

Policies

Unfortunately, women face significant challenges in influencing any level of policy or decision-making within their communities. Women are often underrepresented or completely absent from the institutions that make or negotiate decisions regarding how their society might tackle climate change.

The economic deprivation not only causes income inequality for women but also renders them less capable of contributing towards the policies and programs that could impact their lives.

In the realm of gender equality, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), which is often known as the first “international bill of rights for women”, and the 1995 UN Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing resulted in the most comprehensive global agreement adopted by the UN. 

Networks and groups such as ENERGIA and the Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) have underscored the importance of “boosting women’s participation in decision-making forums, women’s right to own and inherit land, education, and capacity-building.”

In climate policy, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) conference in 1992 was, and remains, “the blueprint for international action on the environment.” One of the results of this major event was Agenda 21 and the Rio Declaration which demonstrated the importance of gender equality for climate change adaptation and mitigation. Chapter 24 of Agenda 21, ‘Global Action for Women towards Sustainable and Equitable Development’, recognizes areas in which gender parity is needed for the effective implementation of sustainable development goals. 

All future policies for preventing natural disasters must guarantee that women have fair participation in planning and implementing decision-making projects (Cuomo 2011; Posner and Weisbach 2010; UNDP 2009; Vanderheiden 2008). Hence, there is a need to consider the matter of gender when devising policies for climate change.

Investment

According to the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing’s latest Sustainable Signals report, more than 80% of asset owners surveyed invest to combat climate change or plan to do so, while only around half are investing, or planning to, in gender diversity.

Many investors may not realize how highly connected the issues of climate change and gender equity are. Investors looking to address climate issues holistically, including funding a “just transition” to a low-carbon economy that is fair, inclusive, and has decent work opportunities for everyone, should assess and consider solutions at the intersection of climate-related issues and gender equity.

The OECD estimates that if women participated in the economy identically to men, it would add up to $28 trillion, or 26%, to annual global GDP in 2025. Gender equality would be catalytic in creating more resilient, sustainable, and inclusive economies going forward. 

The untapped potential is greatest in developing countries by assessing how investments in climate-related issues might disproportionately affect at-risk female populations, investors have the potential to expand their influence of their impact.

Conclusion:

As climate change continues to be one of the greatest threats to our world, stronger efforts need to be made to bring more marginalized voices into our climate change responses. Rebuilding an eco-feminist approach will impact not only our society but also the planet. 

As the UNDP has put it, women are more “structurally vulnerable” due to “gender-differentiated relative powers, roles, and responsibilities”. For example, women are more likely to be poor and work in informal, temporary, and part-time jobs with lower pay and less social protection. 

Gender parity in institutional representation and gender-smart investing are powerful tools for women’s social and economic empowerment as well as for tackling the climate crisis. On the contrary, overlooking the inequality issue will lead to more climate contingency, which will consequently intensify underdevelopment.

Research on gender-inclusivity and representation in the dialogue surrounding climate change has increased substantially, however, according to the World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap, at the current rate of progress, it will take 132 years to reach full gender parity.

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