UN conference highlights women's role in tacking climate change

Updated: 2012-11-28 21:19

By Wu Wencong in Doha (chinadaily.com.cn)

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The important role women can play in tackling climate change has been highlighted at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference in the Qatari capital, Doha.

For the first time, the conference launched a Gender Day that includes events to address gender equality in the political decision-making process to solve climate change.

Christiana Figueres, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change executive secretary, said:"Women are disproportionately disadvantaged by the negative effect of climate change. The only way to deal with it is to help policy decisions at all levels, both international and national, become gender-smart."

Figueres also said she expects a "Doha miracle" highlighting the need to address gender equality in tackling climate change.

She said gender-smart policies mean decisions that create the structures for both sexes to maximize their potential to address climate change.

"We need to ensure that support for developing countries doesn't stay in theoretical papers. It needs to go down to the ground, be available to both men and women."

Mary Robinson, from the Mary Robinson Foundation — Climate Justice, who served as the first female president of Ireland, said the world needs a strong climate agreement by 2015, taking effect by 2020. To attain the urgency and ambitions to reach that goal, climate change should be made more people-centered, which means more women-centered, she said.

Research shows that climate change affects women and men differently. Women, especially those in developing countries who form the majority of the world's 1.4 billion poorest people, are more vulnerable to its effects.

Research conducted by Julie Broussard, China country program manager at the United Nations Development Fund for Women, shows that in the Ningxia Hui autonomous region in 2010, about 80 percent of men were migrating to cities, leaving mainly women, the elderly and children back at home. Women were doing most of the agricultural work, and were the main fetchers and users of local water supplies, which at the time were polluted by pesticides, fertilizers, household waste and animal manure.

Recent findings released by Renmin University of China also reveal that compared with men, fewer women are willing to use low-carbon products, which usually cost much more.

Another report released by the European Institute for Gender Equality in May said the proportion of women in delegations to the UN climate change talks has increased since 1996.

But it was not until agreements reached at the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun, Mexico, that the importance of gender equality and the effective participation of women in all aspects of climate change were acknowledged.

Ulrike Rohr, founder of a non-governmental organisation that works on education, environmental and equal opportunity issues, said there is growing recognition of gender and women's issues. "But a huge change is needed to really implement it."