Women are on the front lines of natural disasters around the globe, and young activists from Greta Thunberg to Vanessa Nakate are leading the world’s growing climate movements, yet women and girls continue to be left out of the equation when it comes to climate response.
Just 26.8% of government ministers responsible for policies on environment and climate change are women.
At the 27th annual United Nations Climate Change Conferences, COP27, which started on Nov. 6 and runs through Nov. 18 in Sharm El Sheik, Egypt, world leaders are gathering to discuss climate change consequences and solutions. The event provides an opportunity for countries to hold each other to account and set targets to protect the planet. Nov. 14 will mark the conference’s Gender Day, which aims to facilitate important conversations about the need to further integrate a gender lens to achieve climate solutions.
Here are four reasons women’s experiences and perspectives can help usher us out of the climate crisis.
1. With adequate funding and resources, women can propel climate action.
COP27 offers a chance to urge wealthy countries to follow through on their promise to deliver $100 billion annually to climate-vulnerable countries immediately until 2025. Funds allocated toward supporting women’s initiatives can help drive the climate agenda forward.
Several barriers and inequalities stymie women’s full participation in climate action. Unequal access to resources, credit, technology, jobs and economic opportunities, dedicated resources, and funding all limit women’s roles in helping protect the planet.
Climate finance plans that consider gender have proven to better address the need for different strategies and resources to address women’s unique needs through plans that benefit and include women. Financial inclusion and the promotion of access to finance and credit facilities would help women take part in climate action.
2. Women already have experience responding to climate change.
COP27 is a platform that can be used to encourage countries to find ways to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change. Women can play a fundamental role in developing and implementing response strategies. Factoring in gender when developing climate responses ensures different adaptation needs are accounted for and that no one is left behind.
Burdened with gathering energy, food, and water for their households, and often the first to respond to disasters within their communities, women hold centuries of knowledge and skills that can be utilized to create adaptive and sustainable climate solutions. Women also make up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries and can push sustainable farming forward, while also helping reduce poverty.
3. Women are the first to experience “loss and damage.”
Some of the destructive impacts of climate change can’t be remedied, and COP27 is an opportunity to address physical and cultural losses and damages, particularly in communities on the front lines of the crisis in the Global South.
Women are disproportionately represented in poor communities that rely on natural resources for their livelihoods. When droughts and floods hit, women have to work harder to provide for their households and they are more likely to be displaced.
Budgets that acknowledge women’s roles in preserving knowledge and communities can ensure the needs of the most vulnerable people are protected in the fight to end climate change.
4. Women leaders push renewable energy.
Countries can commit to phasing out fossil fuels by 2025 or sooner and invest in renewable energy at COP27. Women are often left out of important climate decisions — but when they do have a seat at the table, they tend to advocate for greener policies.
Evidence shows that stronger women’s leadership in environmental governance reduces greenhouse gas emissions. Women leaders are also more likely to wield their power to start renewable energy companies, choose sustainable options, and minimize household fossil fuel use. What’s more, research shows that countries with high representation of women in parliament are more likely to ratify international environment treaties.