Climate emergency from the perspective of gender

Emergencia climática en clave de género

Our planet is undeniably going through a climate crisis, but its impact is unevenly distributed. People in vulnerable situations suffer the negative impacts first-hand, and more acutely. All around the world, women are often in the majority amongst the most disadvantaged, and therefore most vulnerable. In fact, women account for 70% of people living in poverty worldwide.

Catalina Balseiro Río, Chief Innovation and Knowledge Officer, Aigües de Barcelona

Humanitarian institutions warn that women will be in the majority amongst the 50-200 million climate refugees (80% women and children) who will try to escape the impacts of climate change on their environment between now and 2050.

According to a United Nations report on the impact of COVID-19 on women and girls, the pandemic has exacerbated existing gender inequalities in all spheres, from health to the economy, from security to social protection.

Women have traditionally been exposed to gender discrimination in different ways, and the reality of climate change is not unrelated to such discrimination. Women are among those most affected by climate change, but they are in a minority in the bodies that make policy decisions to address the planetary emergency, and in the most polluting sectors or companies, which are now called on to transform their activities to make them more eco-friendly and sustainable. For this reason, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change has drawn up a gender action plan that seeks real equality in terms of both participation and leadership in the response to this global crisis.

Now that the health crisis has highlighted the great fragility of the world in which we live, public policies associated with adaptation to and mitigation of the effects of climate change cannot ignore this reality, which also leads to gender inequalities and discrimination. But, in this context, what can the gender perspective contribute to sustainability, the environment and climate change policies?

Gender equality is a right and represents the best opportunity to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time, from the economic crisis to climate change and the water emergency. Women have ideas and leadership. Their contribution to climate change adaptation and mitigation is essential.

A clear example is set by Aigües de Barcelona. Innovation in Aigües de Barcelona is led by women committed to ecological and socially just transformation, in order to promote sustainable development and ensure the health of the planet. Some of my fellow scientists and technologists reminded us on the International Day of Women and Girls in Science of the importance of promoting the interest of girls and adolescents in innovation and research, and of highlighting leading female researchers with whom they can identify. Be it as drivers of the circular economy or as entrepreneurs who embark on actions to mitigate climate change, women are agents of change, and we must participate on equal terms in the solution that gives rise to a sustainable future.

Therefore, an important part of the fight against climate change involves the empowerment of women, the leadership capacity of women and their decision-making capacity in the development of strategic policies in a scenario of climate emergency. These challenges are reflected in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and must be addressed by men and women, united by a common goal.

Published in: Nº 89 FuturENVIRO – April – May 2022