Gender & Climate Change
Event summary by Laura Watson
Professor Joni Seager:
Links between gender and climate change can most easily be seen in the differential impacts of climate change. However, the impacts of climate change ripple through society along lines of vulnerability not limited to gender. The impacts of natural disasters are particularly notable, often exacerbating existing social issues; and the recovery from natural disasters also tends to be biased against women.
In recent years, increasing attention has been paid to the connections between the drivers of—and solutions to—climate change and gender. For example, overconsumption, considered a key contributor to climate change, is a gendered behaviour, due to masculine and feminine identities and the consumer habits these identities encourage. Further, around the world, studies have shown that women are more perceptive of climate and environmental issues and potential solutions to climate change, and thus their role in building a sustainable future cannot be overlooked.
Lorena Aguilar Revelo:
As the impacts of climate change become more significant, and more people become vulnerable to these impacts, women are often portrayed as passive victims. But, in reality, they are often agents of change.
There are some links between climate change and gender that we are only just starting to research. For example, sea level rise and its associated rise in water salinity has been linked to an increase in complications during pregnancy for women in affected areas. There may be many more links between climate change and gender that we do not yet know about: this area requires more research.
Gender has now become a guiding principle at climate change Conferences Of Parties (COPs), but much more can done to address this constantly evolving issue.
Q: Women are often seen as passive victims of environmental degradation, but key figures in environmental movements are often women – why do you think this trend exists?
Joni: Joni favours a structural explanation: that crises cause fractures along pre-existing social lines, and those more vulnerable are more likely to perceive these threats to their wellbeing
Lorena: Women often see issues more readily, and pay attention to them. It should however be recognised that not all women act in the same way and come into discussions for different reasons.
Q: Have you seen governments become more likely to take equality implementation more seriously now its so clearly linked with climate change?
Lorena: Gender has to be addressed in any project addressing climate change in order for funding to be given, so it is now an addressed part of climate action.
Joni: There has been progress in equality over the decades, but it is fragile and halting. Gender requirements can be seen as a box people have to tick, and gender is often done for the purposes of ticking this box rather than as an issue which needs to be tackled for its own value.
Joni: Gender is part of the toolkit for action on climate change, and in the face of crisis, it is a part of the toolkit which cannot afford to be left behind.
Lorena: No amount of planning can mitigate the impacts of climate change, and there are uncertainties surrounding humanity's capacity to act.
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About the speakers:
Joni Seager is a feminist geographer and Professor of Global Studies at Bentley University in Boston. She is the author of author of many books on gender equity and global environmental policy, including her award-winning feminist classic 'The Women’s Atlas', 'The State of the Environment Atlas', and 'Earth Follies: Coming to Feminist Terms With the Global Environmental Crisis'. She has been an active consultant with the United Nations on several gender and environmental policy projects, including consulting with the UNEP on integrating gender perspectives into their work on disasters and early warming systems, and with UNESCO and the Division on Economic and Social Affairs on gender in water policy.
Lorena Aguilar is the Regional Coordinator of International Cooperation and Research at the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences (FLACSO). She previously served as Costa Rica’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship where she participated in the development of the first Decarbonisation Plan for the country and lead the UNFCCC “unconventional 25 Pre-COP”. Until 2018, Lorena was also Global Senior Gender Advisor and Global Director of the Governance and Rights Program of the International Union for Conversation of Nature (IUCN). She has been a pioneer in the creation of international international gender networks such as the Network of Women Minister and Leaders of the Environment and the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA).
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