Climate change is accelerating and is affecting an increasing number of communities around the world, with the most vulnerable and marginalised being impacted the most. Women are increasingly being seen as more vulnerable than men to the effects of climate change, due to several cultural, economic, and social factors. This International Women’s Day, Planet Mark is recognising the integral role of gender equality and women’s inclusion in the successful development and implementation of climate policies.
Women’s vulnerability to climate change
Women’s vulnerability to climate change exists because it exacerbates existing gender inequality.
Seventy per cent of the world’s population living in poverty are women, with 40 per cent of the poorest households headed by women, according to the United Nations. These poor communities are more likely to be dependent on local natural resources which are being threatened by climate change. For example, it is often women and girls that are responsible for walking great distances to secure water when local sources dry up.
During extreme weather events women are more likely to work to secure livelihoods, leaving less time to access training or develop skills. Women also face a heightened risk of violence during and following disasters. In addition to this, factors such as childcare responsibilities and socio-cultural norms prevent women from migrating or seeking refuge following a disaster. In many situations, extreme weather events can lead to girls being taken out of school early to help manage the household.
Supporting women’s climate resilience
Research shows that women are powerful and effective agents of change in climate change adaption and mitigation. For one, women often have existing knowledge and expertise, particularly at local levels, around resource management, water harvesting and storage and food preservation, for example.
More needs to be done to amplify women’s voices and advance gender equality to ensure successful climate change adaption and mitigation policies. When women are empowered to participate in decision-making, at national and local levels, entire communities benefit.
Gender equality needs to be at the heart of climate action, and this means diverse gender perspectives involved in the design and implementation of climate response actions.
Climate solutions must also reflect women’s priorities and needs, particularly when it comes to development planning and funding. It is important to ensure gender-sensitive investments in programmes for adaptation, mitigation, technology transfer and capacity building. New technologies, for example ones that enhance renewable energy sources, and support women’s participation in their development and use should be invested in. Climate finance should also be accessible to men and women equally and be designed to generate mutual benefits and not exacerbate entrenched inequity.
“Environmental justice requires that all deserve the right to a healthy environment, and so we must have equity in our solutions.”Intersectional climate justice activist Dominique Palmer
Individuals’ actions can affect real change when it comes to climate action. One of the main ways to do this is by using your voice and vote to press for commitments to gender equality. In addition to this, supporting female-led organisations and enterprises is a way to support gender-equal climate action. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner references these tangible actions that can be taken to build gender equality.
- Take more ambitious, right-based climate change mitigation and adaptation action
- Ensure the meaningful participation of women
- Take measures under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change
- Empower women as economic and climate actors
- Ensure that climate funds benefit most affected countries and people
- Promote an improved understanding of the differentiated human rights impacts of climate change on women
- Take effective measures to address sexual and gender-based violence in the context of climate change
For businesses, studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between women on corporate boards and the disclosure of an organisation’s carbon footprint. At Planet Mark, our entire team is 66% female, with a 50/50 male and female split on our executive board. The management team is 59% female. We are also lucky to be surrounded by inspirational women throughout our membership who are advancing gender equality. Visit our archive to read more about sustainable organisational practices, the importance of inclusivity and hopes for a brighter future.