By Rev. Susan Hendershot, Interfaith Power & Light
Monday was Gender Equality Day here at COP28, one of the many thematic days that occurs throughout the UN Climate Conference.
The highlight of the day by far was a panel discussion moderated by Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton entitled “Women Building a Climate Resilient World.” The panel was made up of women leaders from the State Department, the White House Gender Policy Council, UN Women, and women business leaders. These powerhouse women demonstrated the vision and ambition of women who are leading on climate solutions.
Secretary Clinton, in her remarks, said, “Gender equality cannot be an afterthought. It is central to meeting our climate goals.” Yet, according to Sima Bahous, Executive Director of UN Women, a mere .01 percent of climate funding worldwide goes to women-led climate efforts. And Jennifer Klein, president and director of the White House Gender Policy Council, stated that of $600 billion in climate investments in 2019 and 2020, less than 2% have a strict gender focus.
One need only look at the photo of world leaders gathered for COP28 to get an understanding of the problem. Of the approximately 170 world leaders who were gathered earlier in the week, only about 13 were women. How can we solve an intractable problem like climate change when the worldview that created the problem continues to dominate the climate talks?
Data demonstrates that women are even more vulnerable to climate impacts than men globally. Because of the type of work that they do, they are particularly vulnerable to extreme heat. In situations where there is drought and shortages of water, women and girls are going farther from their homes in search of water for their families, putting them at risk of sexual violence and human trafficking. Girls are unable to attend school because they need help at home in order to gather food, water, and wood or other cooking fuel.
Yet women are also leading on climate solutions at all levels. Women form networks of support to share and discuss what is needed in their communities and work together to implement those ideas. They are more likely to make innovative decisions and try new things, which could then be taken to scale with the right investments (see above…)
Christina Chan, Senior Adaptation Advisor for the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry’s office at the U.S. State Department, said it well when she stated about women, “We have to take our power, and sometimes to re-take our power.”
May it be so.