Women Are Leading the Way to a Green Future

Women Are Leading the Way to a Green Future

Last week on Gender Day at COP27, the US government hosted programming designed to address the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and girls and announced several initiatives designed to empower them to be effective climate leaders. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that it would put $21 million dollars towards gender-related climate initiatives that would seek to create green jobs and promote women’s land rights around the world. Additionally, the US Bureau of Energy Resources (ENR) launched a new Woman in Energy Strategy, which will promote women’s access and participation in the energy sector.

France 24: Gender Day at COP27 | Women from rural communities worst hit by climate change, November 15, 2022.

UN: From CSW66 to COP27 | Ensuring accountability for gender-transformative climate action, November 12, 2022.

World Bank: COP27 | Women and Girls Are Key to Effective Climate Action, November 14, 2022.

Center on Global Energy Policy: Centering Gender at COP27, November 9, 2022.

Why This Matters

80% of people displaced by climate change are women; the face of the climate refugee crisis is decidedly female. These disruptions often land women in refugee camps and shelters, where they face a greater risk of experiencing sexual and physical violence.

"While they sleep, wash, bathe or dress in emergency shelters, tents or camps, the risk of sexual violence is a tragic reality of their lives as migrants or refugees,” explained Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. "Compounding this is the increased danger of human trafficking, and child, early and forced marriage which women and girls on the move endure.”

In many cases, the financial stress that climate change inflicts upon rural communities can force women into unwanted marriages for the sake of their own survival. Often, it can force them to sacrifice their education, too -- for women across the global south, completing school remains one of the few ways to financial independence, and, consequently, personal liberty. Climate change puts this opportunity in jeopardy.

But despite the disproportionate threat that women face, they remained underrepresented at COP27. SPEC Kerry appointed Susan Biniaz, the State Department’s top climate lawyer for three decades, as the US head of negotiations in 2021. Yet Biniaz is a rare exception in the male-dominated world of climate leadership. At COP26 fewer than 30% of the conference’s lead negotiators were women and men used 74% of available speaking time during key plenary sessions involving all parties, despite comprising just 51% of the government delegates. This discrepancy prompted UN High-Level Expert Group on the Net-Zero Emissions Commitments of Non-State Entities Chair Catherine McKenna and climate researcher Amy Myers Jaffe to call on men to cede their speaking time to women, in order to prevent women’s issues from being overlooked during negotiations.

MaRS Discovery District: Why the Climate Revolution Will Be Led by Women | Fireside Chat with Catherine McKenna, January 18, 2022.

New York Times Events: How Can Educating Girls Be an Accelerator of Climate Action?, November 5, 2021.

Technovation: 4 ways Girls’ Education is linked to Climate Change and Resilience, November 4, 2021.

TED: How empowering women and girls can help stop global warming | Katharine Wilkinson, February 15, 2019.

The Women Leading Us to a Green Future

Across the world, extreme weather is highlighting the urgency of the climate crisis. In Europe, the Rhine River is running so low that it is threatening to disrupt trade. The Nile, too, is shrinking, rendering hydropower unreliable and jeopardizing electricity access.

To combat increasing instability, women-led climate organizations in Africa are fighting back, forming a coalition and a list of 27 demands that, if met, will protect women across the continent. The demands call for women’s representation in climate negotiations, financial assistance from wealthy countries, and a green transition that creates new economic opportunities for women.

TED: How to Find Joy in Climate Action | Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, June 21, 2022.

Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace & Security: Women are Leading Climate Change Solutions, April 21, 2021.

Now This: 3 Women Leading Climate Solutions & Gender Equality, December 10, 2021.