“We are here not as victims, but as survivors.”
These words and so many other impactful ones echoed through the halls of the COP23 conference this month in Bonn, Germany.
While climate change action was the topic up for debate, women’s rights organizations like WEDO and the Women and Gender Constituency showed that not only are women’s rights worthy of being on an international stage too but are also inextricably linked to the issue of climate change and the subsequent action needed.
With my first video, I hoped to introduce the overall feminist narrative woven through the COP23 conference this past month. While negotiations unfolded, it became clear that women’s rights were making their way to the main stage, ultimately resulting in a concrete gender action plan established under the Presidency of Fiji.
Imagine a world with zero net emissions, a world not run on fossil fuels and the silent work hours of women.
Low-carbon energy technologies have been shown to free up women’s time, expand their access to information, and provide new business and employment opportunities. When policies are enacted to cut emissions and fund green technology, women indirectly benefit globally, as well as the rest of the population.
But that isn’t always enough.
A key phrase at the COP conference this year was “Gender Neutral Climate Action”– that is, developing technologies and implementing policies that do not express or result in bias towards any gender.
In addition to women being disproportionately affected by climate change, advocates for women are also disproportionate in negotiations. In COP18, only 29.4% of delegates were women, increasing to 36% for COP19. It is crucial to recognize that in order to successfully empower women, women need to be at the forefront of the movement. While the COP conferences are beginning to have a more fair representation of genders, gender just climate action cannot be completely successful until women have their proportional say.
Beyond women’s empowerment, the whole world benefits when women are included in climate solutions. One UNFCCC study reported that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on farms by 20-30%. As well, Climate Technology Centre and Network showed that when women are included, technology becomes much more sustainable.
As one feminist speaker at COP23 put it, “This is about giving women the say, recognizing their knowledge and competencies, building up their capacities to participate fully, and contribute to the solution for climate change.”
The many women and feminist organizations speaking at Bonn this past November proved that women’s rights cannot be an afterthought when negotiating climate action. As future blogs will show, women’s rights and climate change have a long, intertwined history that becomes increasingly more emphasized as we look to the future.
After hearing hours of discussion between women of all academic, social, and cultural backgrounds, it was almost impossible to not feel inspired. The gender action plan of COP23 is just the beginning for a global movement of women’s rights and climate action.
Women are survivors of climate change. Women are the solution to climate change.