When it comes to Climate Change, we are all concerned. However, differences in the actors and victims of Climate Change are visible across the world, with the Southern part of the globe and women being the most likely to be impacted, and the most severely. What dimension does this impact on gender have? Is it a South-centred issue? What about the northern countries? What can be done to balance this trend? In a will to answer these questions, the Greens/EFA group organised a conference on the matter on the 19th of October at the European Parliament, to analyse the situation and develop solutions with several experts working on Climate Justice and the engendering of the energy transition.
Despite the fact that the most visible disparities between genders are in the poorest countries - with women in charge of finding the fuels or the water, being dependent to agriculture or stifled by patriarchal laws or traditions - rich countries are not always so far. “If we look back at the hurricane Katrina: 83% of the single mothers in New Orleans have not managed to get their home in 2 years, 2/3 of the jobs lost were jobs lost to women” says Fiona Harvey, Environmental Journalist at The Guardian. In total, 15,000 people died during the 2003 heat waves in Europe, 65% of them being women, recalls the Green’ MEP Florent Marcellesi. Nerea Ramirez, Coordinator of Ecologists in Action, adds that a study from the Town Hall of Madrid shows that in 26% of the Spanish households most affected by energy poverty, women are breadwinners, doing part-time jobs or precarious ones, having lower pensions than men do with some of them being migrants.
However, while women might be more vulnerable to the effects of Climate Change, they also happen to be “very powerful agents of change”, according to the Greens/EFA MEP Linnéa Engström, and more eager to act to apply solutions. Also, companies with women on their boards are more likely to pro-actively invest in renewable power generation, and the number of women serving in the country’s parliament can affect the reduction of green gashouse emissions.
Citizens, governments, businesses and banks all have the capacity to play their part and help reach the goal of the Paris Agreement, which is to limit global warming well below 1.5 °C. However, this will only be possible with gender equality, especially in science and decision-making jobs. Involving women when it comes to discussing and building our future is key. They tend to be more sensitive on health issues and more dependent on public transports, as reported by Gotelind Alber, Co-founder of GenderCC - Women for Climate Justice. And, although our societies face a change in gender roles, the majority of women are still in charge of their households, especially when it comes to purchases, as stressed by Megan Richards, Director of Energy Policy at the European Commission. This is why including them in the decision process will only be beneficial when rethinking urban spaces, developing urban transport and looking at our energy resources more carefully.Energy is another crucial sector where actions need to be taken. Clean energy sectors have been poor when it comes to employing women, with only 20-25% of technology and decision making jobs going to women, says Linnéa Engström. Even though things are changing, we need to ensure that women are fully part of the energy transition and of the decision-making process. They need to have access to finance and be able to make their own choices. The future of our planet is in their hands as well as men. Solutions to both the climate crisis and gender inequality do exist and some positive moves have been made. Take for example the citizens’ based company in Schönau, EWS, which produce and supply across Germany their own renewable energy and this, ensuring parity inside the organisation; or an international enterprise such as IKEA trying to develop a science-based business (with renewable energies and philanthropy work aiming to help the most impacted by Climate Change). There are also the investments made by some banks on Climate Change, such as the European Investment Bank (which has allocated 100 billion euros of budget for this issue and which is currently designing a gender action plan to be implemented by the end of this year).
The energy transition offers us a perfect opportunity to not only limit global warming to safe levels but also address major inequality between genders - and not only in the least developed countries. Because gender inequality, although much harder to perceive, does exist in Europe.
· Women, climate justice and climate change will be one of the key issues at the next UN International negotiations. Follow our twitter account during COP23 (6 to 17 November) as well as the one of Florent Marcellesi, one of the MEPs of our Green Delegation who will particularly focus on this matter.
· The Greens view on Women, climate justice and climate change