The International Women’s Day 2018 was celebrated on Thursday, March 8, 2018 with the theme: “Time is Now: Rural and urban activists transforming women’s lives”. It is regarded as an important opportunity to look at women’s and girls’ rights in the context of climate change, as well as equality and justice with an intention to turn momentum on climate into action.
Women are said to be powerful agents of change, so integrating their voices into the climate decision making processes is critical to build a low carbon and more climate resilient societies. Including women and men equally in UN climate processes and policy is also imperative at all levels of climate action.
The Paris Climate Change Agreement acknowledges this, saying: “…climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity”.
Governments made important steps towards a “gender-responsive” approach at UN Climate Change Conference COP 23 in Bonn, Germany, in 2017. In Bonn, they adopted the first ever “Gender Action Plan”.
The plan aims to increase the participation of women in all UN Climate Change processes, further strengthening their contribution in all activities to build resilience to climate change, curb greenhouse gas emissions and implement climate-related decisions taken under the UN umbrella.
Women and girls face higher risks and are more vulnerable to the burdens from the impacts of climate change than men. This is particularly true for poor people. Women’s social status in most societies means that they are the predominantly responsible for food production, water supply and energy supply for heating and cooking. As the impacts of climate change increase, these tasks will become more difficult and time-consuming.
The implementation of the gender-responsive climate policy at regional, national and local levels will allow for women to bring their wealth of knowledge to the table, enhancing the ability of societies to deal with the changing climate.
Women’s involvement in climate action is also important in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, which notes: “Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world. Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.”
The head of UN Climate Change, Patricia Espinosa, calls for raised gender and climate ambition: “If we are to make the changes needed, we must have unprecedented cooperation, coordination and confidence. And women must be at the forefront. It’s not opinion. It’s not aspiration. It’s a fact.”