By Eleanor Blomstrom, Senior Manager for Policy and Advocacy at Women Deliver
Climate change is not a distant threat; it’s a global crisis that requires immediate and united action. This is the sentiment that emerged from the Women Deliver 2023 Conference (WD2023), where activists called for a more gender-responsive, holistic, and urgent approach to tackle the impacts of the climate crisis. Climate change affects girls and women more, largely due to existing inequalities and gender roles, placing higher burdens on them despite having smaller carbon footprints and less responsibility for carbon emissions. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance that we change the systems that perpetuate climate change.
The need for urgency was palpable as we kicked off Climate Week NYC on Sunday with the March to End Fossil Fuels, where tens of thousands of activists demanded action. Climate Week — happening during the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) — brings together change-makers, civil society, scientists, decision-makers, and activists, all working to address climate change and bridge the gap between generations, genders, abilities, ethnicities, and more. Climate change affects us all, but it does not affect us all equally. By involving diverse voices and centering climate justice, we can create more comprehensive solutions that address the unique challenges faced by different communities.
Key themes emerged at WD2023 that Women Deliver, along with our partners and allies, will continue to stress during Climate Week and beyond. This includes:
- Health, particularly sexual reproductive health (SRH), is highly impacted by climate change. Extreme heat has maternal health implications. Climate-related disasters and extreme weather events damage health facilities and cause major disruptions to transportation of medicines and supplies, and to people’s access to SRH services like contraception, safe abortion, pregnancy and childbirth care, sexually transmitted infection prevention and treatment, infertility care, treatment for reproductive cancers, and comprehensive sexuality education, all of which are crucial to their wellbeing.
- Women make up for 43% of world’s agricultural force, and yet lack access and control over land, and are the most displaced due to climate-related disasters and access to land. When women have land rights, they have increased decision-making power regarding climate.
- Youth-led climate movements are at the forefront of climate activism today, yet they often lack the support that they need. Effective intergenerational cooperation requires overcoming barriers such as mistrust, miscommunication, and differing priorities. To address these challenges, we need platforms for open dialogue, mentorship programs, and educational initiatives to facilitate understanding and collaboration. And it is important that our advocacy efforts focus on promoting intergovernmental cooperation and encourage established environmental organizations to provide resources, mentorship, and platforms to amplify youth voices to be part of solution.
- Indigenous communities, children, and people with disabilities around the world are disproportionately affected by climate change and land degradation. Therefore, their rights, access to resources for sustainable land practices, and acknowledgement of their traditional knowledge must be prioritized and considered when crafting climate action policies. Actively engaging their unique perspectives and experiences will lead to more effective and equitable solutions.
- Preparedness is essential to lessen the impacts of conflicts and disasters linked to climate change. Communities must have the resources they need to develop resilience strategies, early warning systems, and disaster response plans to protect the mental and physical well-being of their members.
- Ending extraction and use of fossil fuels is imperative. It is time to end fossil fuel subsidies that perpetuate climate change and redirect these funds toward a just transition to renewable energy that centers the needs of communities. The fossil fuel lobby’s influence, backed by billions of dollars, hinders climate progress. To counter this, we need transparency in political financing, stricter regulations on lobbying, accountable climate finance, and a systemic shift towards renewable energy sources.
To achieve these goals, we must continue to create safe spaces in which people, in all their diversities, are listened to and made part of the solution. The path to climate justice is complex, but it is navigable through inclusive dialogues, a human rights-based approach, support for marginalized communities, and a commitment to sustainable practices to ensure that no one is left behind.