What Connects (In)Gender Equality and the Climate Crisis?

The climate crisis affects the lives, health, and rights of people worldwide, but women are among the social groups experiencing greater climate injustices.

by Francesca Roseo

Climate change significantly impacts the lives, health, and rights of millions worldwide. Earth’s climate and ecosystems are undergoing transformations due to anthropogenic emissions and alterations, leading to both rising temperatures and intensification of extreme weather events. However, the impact of the climate crisis is not democratic and disproportionately affects nations and populations in the Global South. But how do issues like gender equality and women’s empowerment fit into COP28? There are no simple answers to complex questions, but we can begin by recognizing the varying levels of impact that climate change has on people based on the country they live in, socio-economic status, and gender (the term “gender” encompasses a more complex spectrum of identities, but in this article, we will focus on inequalities between men and women in certain societies).

In many countries in the Global South, women are responsible not only for childcare and household duties but also for agriculture and livestock farming for food production, as well as research and management of water resources. One example is the case of Lake Chad, now almost dried up, forcing women to walk increasingly longer distances to reach water sources, exposing them to greater health risks and longer working hours. Moreover, in countries where women’s rights are not adequately recognized, education and property rights are denied, effectively denying them any chance of autonomy and emancipation. According to the study “Gendered impacts of climate change: Evidence from Asia,” in rural areas most affected by climate change, there is an increase in child marriages, teenage pregnancy rates, gender-based violence, and limited access to water resources.

The climate crisis is thus exacerbating inequalities between women and men in terms of social, economic, rights, and opportunities. But why? The numbers speak for themselves: despite being on the front lines in the fight against climate change, women involved in climate policies, both in Europe and at the COP level, are still few and therefore less represented in decision-making processes. The direct consequence is that, to date, solutions that take into account the needs and issues of women worldwide are still lacking. To draft international documents aimed at ensuring the commitment of participating countries in the Conference of the Parties (COP) to mitigate climate change and protect people and the environment, it is essential to involve everyone. For this reason, UN Women will ensure that at COP28, the rights, needs, skills, and knowledge of women are adequately included in debates and incorporated into government policies.

Expectations for the “Gender Day” on December 4 are growing, as is the awareness that we can no longer afford to sideline human rights in treaties if we want to ensure climate and social justice.

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