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In Search of Gender-Balanced Climate Policy

By: 
Executive Director

Mary Robinson, first woman President of Ireland (1990-1997) speaking on the role of women leaders in climate action 

There is a growing body of evidence that women suffer particularly from adverse impacts of climate change. As the COP process turns to non-state actors to implement the provisions of the Paris Agreement, the focus is sharpening on women as community leaders; heads of household; educators; and preservers of culture. In this context, the COP has been featuring events highlighting the roles of women globally, and emphasizing the need for female leadership in climate action.

As part of the Marrakech Partnership for Global Climate Action, today’s program featured a series of panel discussions with women political leaders from communities large and small around the world. The panel was led by Laurence Toubiana, one of the Climate Champions, who commented that, after years working on the issue of climate change with largely male colleagues, it was “such a relief to be in a session with only women presenters.” Panelist Kate Brown, Governor of Oregon, remarked that it was her first time to be on a climate panel with other women.

Brown and other speakers described a “top-down problem” in climate policy that fails to engage at the nexus of climate, sustainability, and equity. Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammah, Mayor of Malmö, Sweden, said global and local climate and sustainability policy should be intertwined, and that all workers should understand how their work contributes to implementation of global climate policy, giving the example of pre-school teachers in Malmö.

Several presenters were the first woman to hold the office they currently hold, including Sternfeldt Jammah; H.E. Hilda Heine, first woman president of the Marshall Islands; and Mary Robinson, first woman president of Ireland (1990-1997).

Heine called for “a new kind of collaborative economy that leaves no one behind.” She also called for more women to hold elected office, and demanded an end to climate deniers in office.

Key themes emerged that are resonating all over the COP:

1.           2018’s Talanoa Dialogue must lead to significantly more ambitious emissions reductions targets for nations, and more courageous action from non-state actors.

2.          It’s not acceptable to focus exclusively on mitigation while failing to fund robust adaptation strategies.

3.          Nations that are already experiencing climate change impacts need funding to address “loss and damage.”

Former President of Ireland Mary Robinson said that sustainable development should not just “leave no one behind,” but instead “reach the furthest-behind first.” Robinson said women leaders respect human dignity, which is a necessary precursor to meaningful enjoyment of human rights. She also said it was disheartening to see so few men in the audience, despite the COP’s focus on the intersection of women’s issues and climate. 

For more about women's issues, climate change, and the COP, check out Nora Leccese's posts for the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s Office of Public Witness

See all Climate and Sustainability post.