Why Women Are Central to Climate Justice and Solutions
Women comprise roughly 20 million of the 26 million people estimated to have been displaced by climate change since 2010. When extreme weather events hit, when rivers run dry or flood over, when droughts destroy crops, when forests are cleared, when contaminated water leaks from fossil fuel extraction sites—women are the most critically impacted.
Women stand for climate justice. Photo credit: Emily Arasim
There are many unique circumstances and place-based conditions that account for the disproportionate hardships that women experience, but the bottom line is that women are more affected by environmental devastation and climate change because, at a global scale, their basic rights continue to be denied. Tangentially, there is a clear link between poverty and who climate change impacts first and worst—and women make up the greatest percentage of the worlds poor.
Gender discrimination reduces women’s physical mobility, economic independence, freedom of expression and opportunity in many regions of the world. The effects of this inequality are plainly reflected in disaster mortality statistics. As an example, Sri Lanka’s 2004 tsunami killed nearly one in five displaced women, more than two times the mortality of displaced men.
While there is no denying the systemic links between the climate crisis, our extractive economic model and the ongoing exploitation and disempowerment of women—one of the most inspiring and untold stories of the ongoing crisis is in fact not about women’s vulnerability, but about the dynamic power and diversity of the women’s movement for climate justice.
Women around the world are saying loud and clear: "We are not victims! We are the solution!" And they are absolutely right.
Women stand on the frontlines of global efforts to revision and heal our world. Their experiences and leadership must be recognized and engaged as central to climate justice and forward momentum towards a livable future.
Women farmers cultivate 60 to 80 percent of household food in developing countries and continually show themselves to be the most effective stewards and guardians of the biodiversity, water, soil, seeds and plants that sustain all life on Earth. UN studies have repeatedly shown that water conservation and protection projects simply don’t work if women are not engaged.
Women farmers feed the world. They are central guardians of water, soil and seeds. Photo credit: Emily Arasim
Women’s involvement in decision-making has important implications for climate change—a study of 130 countries found that countries with higher female parliamentary representation are more prone to ratify international environmental treaties.
In the U.S. and Canada, women hold 80 percent of all purchasing power. Just take a moment to image the kind of rapid and transformative changes that could happen if North American women started advocating for 100 percent renewable energy, local agriculture, circular economies and action to address unsustainable consumption.
In diverse ways and in many different places, women are modeling small-scale solutions with potentially huge impacts, from the Solar Sister organization providing solar light and local businesses for women in rural regions of Africa, to women constructing wind-resistant housing in Bangladesh. Women are reminding us that we cannot address climate change using the same frameworks and mindsets that got us into this crisis. Rather, we must move from top-down, solely market-based solutions to holistic, community based and decentralized processes.
Women of the Democratic Republic of Congo organizing to stop deforestation and protect the rainforests of their region as part of a WECAN International regional climate solutions initiative. Photo credit: Neema Namadamu
For an in-depth analysis about why women are central to climate solutions and a comprehensive plan-of-action moving forward, please see the Women’s Climate Action Agenda.
To be clear, the focus on women is not about putting men down but rather about lifting women up. We need to challenge patriarchy and colonial mindsets and we need to have the courage to change everything about how we are living with each other and the planet.
This December, world governments will meet for pivotal United Nations (UN) COP21 climate negotiations in Paris, where they will work to finalize a climate agreement with serious implications for the present and future of all life on Earth. Women’s leadership and the implementation of gender-responsive climate policy has never been more vital.
Aware of the critical nature of this moment, the Women’s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN International) has called for a Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action on Sept. 29.
The Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action is a call for women and allies around the world to take action and tell stories about the climate impacts their communities are facing and the alternative visions that they offer. It is an opportunity to demonstrate why uplifting women’s struggles, insights and solutions around climate change is so vital.
Photos and statements are being collected on a central Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action gallery, from where they will be amplified worldwide via social media, print and digital news.
Indigenous women leaders at a Women's Earth and Climate Action Network event in Lima, Peru. Photo credit: WECAN International
While allies hold decentralized actions around the world, WECAN International will present "Women Speak" hub event right across the street from the UN, adding an extra sense of urgency and power to day of action.
Through the "Women Speak: Climate Justice on the Road to Paris and Beyond" event and Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action, we will expose false climate solutions (including carbon trading schemes, input-dependent agriculture, geo-engineering, shale gas and nuclear power), while drawing attention to solutions that are just, effective and honor frontline communities. We are calling for action to leave 80 percent of remaining fossil fuels in the ground and just transition to 100 percent renewable energy by 2050.
Sept. 29th is also being used as a rallying point for signing and collecting signatures on the Women’s Climate Declaration, a powerful climate justice manifesto presented in five languages and signed by leaders such as Jane Goodall, Vandana Shiva, Mary Robinson, Jody Williams, Casey Camp Horenik and Sylvia Earle. The declaration will be delivered to world governments at COP21 this December.
You can participate with allies around the world in adding a voice to the Global Women’s Climate Justice Day of Action by submitting a photo and statement to the Day of Action portal. No action is too small and every voice is critical.
We are all a part of the immune system of the Earth and at this critical time we are rising up to protect, heal and defend her. Please join us.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.
We Need More Than Listening<p>By now we have all become sadly accustomed to the current administration sidelining scientists, most prominently Dr. Anthony Fauci, because the facts they provide do not fit with the political rhetoric of the moment.</p><p>I have <a href="https://www.csldf.org/2019/08/22/csldf-helps-climate-scientist-maria-caffrey-fight-for-scientific-integrity/" target="_blank">my own history</a> of filing a scientific integrity complaint with the National Park Service (which falls under the Department of the Interior) after senior ranking employees attempted to censor one of my scientific reports. I know all too well the damage and pain that these actions cause, not just for the individual scientist, but also because these <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/resources/attacks-on-science" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">attacks on science</a> over the last few years have undermined sound, evidence-based decision making.</p><p>President-elect Biden has repeatedly said that he will <a href="https://thehill.com/homenews/521638-trump-biden-will-listen-to-the-scientists-if-elected" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">listen to the scientists</a>. While this is certainly a welcome change, listening can only take us so far. This past week Lauren Kurtz from the <a href="https://www.csldf.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Climate Science Legal Defense Fund</a> and my colleague <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/about/people/gretchen-goldman" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Gretchen Goldman</a> published <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ten-steps-that-can-restore-scientific-integrity-in-government/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an article</a> listing 10 actions the new administration should implement to show their commitment to strengthening government science:</p><ol><li>Clearly prohibit political interference and censorship.</li><li>Protect scientists' communication rights.</li><li>Acknowledge that attempts to violate scientific integrity, even if ultimately not fruitful, are still violations.</li><li>Protect federal scientists' right to provide information to Congress and other lawmakers.</li><li>Commit to incorporating the best science as part of agency decisions.</li><li>Elevate agency scientific integrity policies to have the full force of law.</li><li>Publicly release anonymized information about scientific integrity complaints and their resolutions at every agency.</li><li>Institute an intra-agency workforce, potentially under the White House <a href="https://www.ucsusa.org/sites/default/files/2020-09/strengthening-science-and-si-at-ostp.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Office of Science and Technology Policy</a>, to coordinate scientific integrity efforts across agencies, foster discussion of policy improvements, and standardize criteria for policies across agencies.</li><li>Strengthen whistleblower protections.</li><li>Ensure that policies cover all actors who will be dealing with science.</li></ol>
Time for Action<p>I have spoken to many scientists, particularly federal scientists, who are eager to turn the page so they can hurry back to the work they had been doing before this administration, but I urge caution in assuming that things can be "normal" again.</p><p>Before Trump, I naively thought the scientific integrity policies established during the <a href="https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2016/12/19/scientific-integrity-policies-update" target="_blank">Obama administration</a> would be sufficient. I never imagined that any administration could so willfully ignore and attack expert advice and evidence that is intended to protect us and our public lands.</p><p>I have personally witnessed how hard our federal scientists work. They put in long hours with minimal pay (far less that what they could get if they worked in private industry) to pursue one simple goal: to make things better for the nation.</p><p>We need stronger scientific integrity policies to protect these people and their work. But more than that, we need stronger scientific integrity laws because they also benefit society.</p>
By Andrea Germanos
Environmental campaigners stressed the need for the incoming Biden White House to put in place permanent protections for Alaska's Bristol Bay after the Trump administration on Wednesday denied a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine that threatened "lasting harm to this phenomenally productive ecosystem" and death to the area's Indigenous culture.
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