Blog series: Putting justice at the heart of climate action
*Scroll down for links to the blogs.
When climate-related disasters like hurricanes, floods or droughts strike, those who are most impacted are often the communities who are least responsible for climate change. The climate emergency is a symptom of a much larger and older crisis of social, gender and racial inequality that dates back to colonialism. It was during this time that colonial powers and corporations started to amass wealth by extracting natural resources and burning fossil fuels at the heavy cost of exploiting, dispossessing and using violence against communities across the Global South.
Addressing the climate crisis in a meaningful way is only possible if we tackle these root causes and change the structures that brought us to where we are today, particularly the dominant model of economic growth based on limitless extraction and overconsumption. This is what we mean when we talk about “climate justice.” The climate crisis is proving that, much like the COVID-19 pandemic, a global emergency not only reinforces the inequalities that already exist but it also further exacerbates them.
The climate crisis affects women and girls more than men. Among other factors, restrictive cultural norms and gender roles that assign women as primary caregivers and providers of food, water and fuel mean they are usually first to be affected by the impacts of climate change. Women and their communities have also been proposing and leading just climate actions for a long time — from applying ancestral knowledge and achieving food sovereignty to resisting fossil fuel extraction and contributing to local and national environmental policy.
However, their needs, demands and proposals are being overlooked. As the most important climate talks since the Paris agreement start this week, the average representation of women in national and global climate negotiating bodies is below 30%. At the last COP U.N. climate summit, governments adopted a Gender Action Plan that ensures “equal and meaningful participation of women” in climate talks, particularly women from grassroots organizations, as well as local and Indigenous peoples. A few years later, we see the pattern of inequalities continue at COP, leading to a still inadequate representation of women, girls and communities from the Global South — partly caused by COVID-19 and travel restrictions.
The decisions made at COP26 and subsequent climate talks will shape how governments respond to the climate emergency; excluding people most impacted by the crisis will only lead to solutions that further entrench inequalities. All voices, and particularly those of women and girls from Africa, Asia, the Pacific and Latin America, must be heard so they play their rightful role in building our collective future.
Cutting carbon emissions to limit global temperature rise to 1.5C and the relevant technology to do so are critical, but our approach to the climate crisis also needs to prioritize building a society that centers social justice, human rights and care for all people and the planet.
In the coming weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of blog posts from our partners and allies who are working towards such a society and who represent a diversity of voices from across the world: campesinas feministas, youth climate activists, Indigenous collectives, Black and migrant women, groups with disabilities, members of the LBTQI+ community and organizations working on climate and gender justice. They will share their experiences describing why climate justice is also gender and social justice, and highlight their demands and proposals for a gender-just approach to the climate crisis. We hope these stories show that when we work together we can push for the transformational change needed to get to a future that is more inclusive, sustainable and gender-just.
We want to restore the lungs of the earth: Putting women at the helm of ecological restoration by Luz Marina Valle, with contributions from Lubi Bogantes, Isabel MacDonald, Carolina Sorzano Lopez and Enma Revilla from the International Analog Forestry Network
Toward a COP that advances climate and gender justice by Liliana Ávila from the Interamerican Association for Environmental Defense (AIDA)
Confronting the climate emergency: A crisis we did not cause by Sofía Gutiérrez from Fridays for Future MAPA
The struggle to keep our good living by Márcia Mura from the Indigenous Mura collective
Global South feminists to COP decision-makers: Radical change for climate justice by Hilary Clauson from the Equality Fund
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