Op-ed: We can’t leave tackling the climate crisis to men
Make women and gender equality a priority in climate policy, wrote Rebecca Heuvelmans (Women Engage for a Common Future), Marjon Melissen (ActionAid), Esin Erdogan (Simavi), Annelieke Douma (Both Ends) and Eva Lia Colombo (Wo=men Dutch Gender Platform) in Dutch newspaper Trouw. Sunday March 5, they'll join the Feminist March in Amsterdam.
This op-ed was published in Trouw on Saturday March 4. Read the English translation below.
From furious feminists to clamorous climate activists. The image that tends to come into people's minds when they think of protestors is one of anger. And although there is enough to be angry about, this view of feminists and climate activists overlooks the most important thing they have in common: hope.
In essence, feminists and climate activists believe the same thing: that a fair and liveable world is possible with structural change. That's why, at protests by both, the same slogan is often heard: "another world is possible".
At the climate march, we took part as feminists, and this weekend at the Feminist March we will make our voices heard for the climate. Together with ActionAid, Both ENDS, Simavi, WO=MEN and Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF) we are taking to the streets for gender equality and climate justice, because the two are irrevocably linked together. And this is why:
The climate crisis increases existing inequalities
Women in all their diversity – and especially women from the Global South – are disproportionately affected by climate change. Prevailing norms, power relations, laws and discrimination make women more vulnerable.
Figures from the United Nations show that 80% of all climate refugees are women. If women are displaced, they run a greater risk of falling victim to violence, including sexual violence. Moreover, the majority of people living in poverty worldwide are women, meaning that they feel the effects of climate change more severely. We can see that in the Netherlands, too. Women more often suffer from energy poverty, so that here too they are less able to invest in sustainable energy or home insulation.
There is too little investment in women's climate initiatives
Women have long been aware of the immediate dangers of climate change in their local contexts, because they are often responsible for managing water and food supplies. They are therefore often the first to take action and employ practical solutions. Women in Nigeria, for example, plant mangrove forests to make the Niger delta, which has been polluted by oil, liveable again and to store CO2. Or the women across South America who are taking the lead in setting up food forests so that they can continue to produce food in a changing climate.
Unfortunately, these gender-just and sustainable climate solutions do not receive the necessary financial and political support. A recent analysis by the EU Court of Auditors was damning about the lack of attention to the situation of women in the European climate fund. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs also gave itself a 'fail' for its efforts in this area.
The current approach leaves women to their fate, while they must be actively involved if the successes are to be achieved that are essential in the fight against climate change.
Involving women in climate policy is simply a smart move
At the Climate Change Conference in Egypt, only 37% of the negotiators from countries around the world were women. Even more alarming, women spoke for only 29% of the total speaking time. This a proven recipe for less ambitious climate policy: research from 2019 showed that female representation in national parliaments led to stricter climate policies in the countries concerned, resulting in lower CO2 emissions.
Unfortunately, women's potential in this area continues to be underestimated at local, national and international level. That is not only unfair, but also unwise. All around the world, women are the driving force behind climate protests and in finding and employing solutions for the climate crisis. It is time that we acknowledge, support and make use of that leadership.
Effective climate action is feminist
Let us join together to tackle this problem in a radically different way. By putting women at the centre of climate policy, investing in their solutions and giving them an equal place at the negotiating tables.
Until that is achieved, furious feminists and clamorous climate activists will continue to take to the streets. And, if we have anything to do with it, at the same time. To paraphrase the words of former minister Els Borst: "the climate is too important to leave only to men".
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