Helen Clark: Speech at High Level Event: Empowering Women in Climate Action

29 Sep 2015

Welcome to the high-level event, Empowering Women in Climate Action hosted jointly by UNDP, UN Women, and the Government of France.

We are fortunate to be joined by:

• Former President of Finland Tarja Halonen;

• His Excellency Manuel Pulgar Vidal, Minister for Environment of the Government of Peru, current President of COP 20;

• Her Excellency Mrs. Pascale Boistard, Minister of State for Women Rights, Government of France, President of COP 21 in December;

• Her Excellency Ms. Hakima El Haite, Minister for Environment of the Government of Morocco, President of COP 22 in 2016;

• Mr. Yannick Glemarec, Deputy Executive Director, UN Women.

Ms. Hela Cheikhrouhou, Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund, will also join with a video message.

The presence on this panel of the people who have led and are leading development of the new global climate agreement reflects the importance they and their countries attach to gender-responsive climate actions and women’s empowerment. The needs and perspectives of women need to be front and centre in the agenda. Without the full participation of women, tackling environmental degradation and climate change our planet needs is not possible because:

• Women largely choose where the energy, food and water their families and communities use comes from;

• In some countries women constitute sixty per cent of the agricultural labour force – and even more in some rural communities where men have left to work in cities or as migrant labourers;

• Women are disproportionately impacted by climate change. When environmental disasters strike, often more women die than men;

• Women are the first to face the impacts of disasters, and are then left disproportionately vulnerable in the aftermath. The incidence of gender-based violence increases sharply during and after major shocks. In these circumstances, women can be very vulnerable even in the shelters set up to protect them;

Business as usual with women left out of the decisions which affect them, and with their particular needs and circumstances overlooked in the outcomes, must not continue.

The battle against climate change must be fought for, and with, women.

This approach already drives UNDP’s work on supporting partner countries to meet the challenges of climate change and build resilience to it.

• In Cambodia, UNDP helped improve women’s access to information about climate and events and trends, water resources, and climate-resilient farming practices. Some of the women included in the programme took on leadership roles in Water User Groups, which drive the design and implementation of new irrigation practices. Some participants lifted their incomes by applying the knowledge gained from the programme. All become champions of climate change adaptation in their communities.

• Another UNDP partner is the Barefoot College for Solar Electrification, which has worked in eighteen countries in Africa and Asia to train poor and often illiterate women to create off-grid electrification for poor communities, using clean, low-cost solar energy. Their projects have been replicated by other partners. The Government of Burkina Faso, for example, has announced the creation of a centre to train women from Africa as solar engineers.

COP21 can drive action on women empowerment and gender equality in tackling climate change. For example:

• It is important that when investments are made in climate change adaptation or mitigation, the needs of both women and men are considered. Women and men need equal access to productive resources and opportunities – whether that be to land and livestock, education, financial services, or technology. Investments which ignore the knowledge, experiences, and capacity of half of the population are not going to be effective.

• Women and men need equal access to decision-making. Women – along with people with disabilities, the elderly, children, and other groups made vulnerable by their position in society – say that they are rarely consulted or included during planning processes or project design. Women need to be at decision-making tables; supported to become leaders in climate change adaptation; trained in the use and production of renewable energy; and of course given the same opportunities as men to take up green jobs and start green businesses.

• COP21, like the SDGs, should promote gender disaggregated data. Progress must be measured for good policymaking and for effective monitoring by parliaments, citizens, and media.

Putting women at the centre of all actions for people and for planet in the SDGs, and in the agreement due to be reached at COP21, is the best way to meet the challenges ahead.