What’s cooking in the COP24 kitchen?

IMG_2287The Polish Presidency addressed observers this evening about what remains to be negotiated on the Paris Agreement Implementation Guidelines before their impending deadline.  As the second week of COP24 comes to a close, tensions are high as the remaining items to be hashed out by high level Ministers run late into the evenings. This comes as no surprise, given the existential crises certain Parties are facing as a result of our changing climate.  In the words of the Presidency, “discussions continue to happen in silos, as they try to ‘cook’ a balanced text” that is fair in the eyes of all Parties.

The remaining items to be negotiated include: Financial matters; Modalities, procedures and guidelines under the Paris Agreement (PA); Adaptation; Cooperative instruments under Article 6; Matters relating to technology; Response measures; NDC registries; and the Talanoa Dialogue and IPCC Special Report on 1.5°C.  This is no small feat, given the mounting social, environmental, and economic pressures. A few prominent observer groups felt strongly about these items, and when invited by the Chair of the session did not hesitate to voice their opinions and confront the Presidency about their concerns.

IMG_2281The Environmental Non-Governmental Organization (ENGO) felt that responses in NDCs to the IPCC report remained inadequate, and feared that trading and compromise would not end favorably for “non-PAWP” related items.  The Women and Gender group echoed these concerns, stressing most about the preamble of the pending 1/CP.24, because anything that does not reflect these principles “would be a fraught to humanity.”  The Indigenous Peoples Organization responded to the Presidency by admiring the fact that while the COP is trying to “cook a balanced package,” they are concerned about human rights issues, and the IPCC 1.5 Report.  YOUNGO called attention to the lacking mandate around enhancement of NDCs, and fears that the Talanoa Dialogue will not be preserved in the final process.  Trade Union-NGO (TUNGO) group wanted clear recognition of the IPCC report as well, because “this is why we are here.” The IPCC report is the “why” and the “how” to address our climatic conundrum.

The Presidency responded to everyone’s concerns by reiterating what was said in the plenary earlier that day, and what he outlined in his introduction to this session.  He directed observers to the Talanoa Call for Action that called for a rapid mobilization of a variety of social actors to respond to the climate goals agreed upon in the PA, and expects most of these issues to be preserved in the final text as well.  While the Presidency hoped to console observer’s concerns, we all still wait in anticipation to see what the head chefs in the Convention kitchen have cooked up for the finale of COP24.


Feminist Electrification is about Health Care!

The United Nations Climate Action Awards were announced on December 11Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 10.58.13 PM at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24). One of the 15 Momentum for Change awards went to EarthSpark International for their work on energy poverty. Globally energy poverty is understood as a lack of access to modern energy services.  As I discuss in my October 14 blog, over three billion people rely on wood, charcoal, or dung for cooking resulting in more than 4 million deaths per year from household air pollution. Electrification IS about health.

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 10.48.11 PMEarthSpark recognizes this crisis and also the disproportionate affect on women in rural areas. Women tend to be the ones that travel hours and hours per day collecting fuel. They also tend to be the ones tending and breathing these smoky fires for cooking. The EarthSpark winning project has a gender lens they refer to as “feminist electrification.” The projects range from small-scale clean energy projects such as solar lanterns and efficient cooktops to their current project creating 80 community scale microgrids in Haiti to bring electrification to these rural communities. These types of projects help address many of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals.

There are still 1.2 billion people without access to electricity. 1.2 billion people Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 10.58.27 PMthat can’t refrigerate food, cook on a stove, run a light to read by, or charge a phone to communicate (yes most rural communication is by cell phone). We have an opportunity to leverage today’s technology to bring smart infrastructure to these communities while we equalize gender opportunity.  Let’s build it right the first time!


Looking Inside an Informal Informal Negotiation: Protecting Vulnerable Groups in COP Decisions

The tim47086760_495482350942639_1883073697342816256_ne is 10:00 am. The crowd of negotiators briskly walk into the meeting room while the observers patiently wait outside the hall, hoping for a place to sit in the negotiation. It is the third informal informal meeting of the Subsidiary Bodies (SB). On the table is drafting the decision to the COP about the 2018 report of the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism (Excom). This arm of the UNFCCC is responsible for providing recommendations to the COP regarding the issue of loss and damage due to the adverse effects of climate change. As I take a seat on the floor, I can see the negotiators carefully reading the updated draft decision. Immediately, the negotiators are addressing their concerns about the updated text. However, Honduras, on behalf of the Independent Alliance of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), raised a novel concern. AILAC intervened that the issue of gender has not been brought up as a recommendation by the Excom report. Under a new section of paragraph 5 of the draft decision, AILAC proposed that a sentence addressing the issue of gender equality be included.

There was an awkward silence in the room. A majority of people’s heads nodded, including mine. I immediately thought, “Wow.” But it was not just me who thought so. Placards were flipped up and eager faces were glowing. In succession, other negotiators were agreeing: United States, European Union (EU), Canada, Australia, St. Lucia on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS), and Timor Leste on behalf of the Least Developed Countries (LDC). However, other negotiators did not agree. Kuwait, who arrived slightly late, missed the comment and heard of it after the co-facilitator announced that the language would be included under paragraph 5(e). Afterward, Kuwait declined to include gender quality in the decision because climate change impacts everyone equally. Therefore, it argued, the language was unnecessary.

In response, Australia, Norway, and EU cited data that support differentiated impacts of the adverse effects of climate on different groups, especially women. Women are affected more because of their traditional roles as caretakers and vulnerability to violence in stressful environments. However, China also proposed that the gender text should not be included because of the short notice of time. China believes that the issue of gender equality deserves more dedicated time to thoughtfully implement the language as well as including other vulnerable groups such as children. As a result of these contentions, the co-facilitator called for a huddle to propose new language for the issue. What came out was, “To give greater consideration to gender and vulnerable populations, including youth, in the implementation of its 5-year rolling workplan.” Tension again rose over the use of the word gender and vulnerable populations and whether it was necessary to address both at the same time. Eventually, a compromise was reached when Australia proposed the text to read, “To increase its consideration of groups vulnerable to the adverse impacts of climate change when implementing its five-year rolling workplan.”GAP

Despite the effort, the gender equality was swept under an umbrella term. However, are negotiators responsible for promoting gender equality or the protection of vulnerable populations? Canada made an excellent point when stating that the gender inclusion proposal aligned with decision 3/CP.23—the establishment of a gender action plan (GAP). Under paragraph 3 of the Annex, “GAP recognizes the need for women to be represented in all aspects of the UNFCCC process and the need for gender mainstreaming through all relevant targets and goals in activities under the Convention as an important contribution to increasing their effectiveness.” Furthermore, under paragraph 10 of the Annex, “GAP aims to ensure the respect, promotion and consideration of gender equality and the empowerment of women in the implementation of the Convention and the Paris Agreement.” As GAP is part of COP, it can be said that negotiators do have a duty to promote gender equality and not other vulnerable groups. If COP wanted to protect other vulnerable groups, it could have included those groups in the GAP decision or in another decision. On the other hand, the GAP decision text does not mandate the negotiators to take gender equality, but is more of a suggestion. Under this interpretation, protecting all vulnerable groups may be the balanced choice because then the text will incorporate women and other groups who are disparately affected by climate chance, like youth, elderly, minority, indigenous, and disabled. In the end, the acknowledgment that there is a need to protect vulnerable groups is an immense feat in moving forward on UNFCCC decisions. The fact that the negotiators agreed that more can be done to ensure these groups are protected is the future of what COP decisions will ensure – equality.


Indigenous Women May Just Be the Key to Successful Latin American NDCs

 

Perempuan_Adat_Harus_Dilibatkan_dalam_Negosiasi_Perubahan_IklimDelfina Katip, a preeminent Peruvian advocate for indigenous women’s rights, gave an incredible presentation on the power of indigenous women in climate change adaptation for a side event called Minga NDC and Talanoa Dialogue: Indigenous strategies for climate ambition. The panel began with opening remarks on the importance of including the interests of indigenous people in the Peruvian NDC. International climate change negotiations have been somewhat isolated in the past, not acknowledging other groups’ interests–especially native populations. Achieving the ambitions outlined in NDCs will be a collective job, and the Peruvian presenters made it clear that the country cannot move forward without the national government acknowledging indigenous people’s needs.

Katip’s message was very clear: indigenous women need to participate in climate change actions and projects in Peru.

These women know how to utilize native biodiversity, and how to adapt to changes in the environment. In Peru, climate change has affected both the forestry and clean water availability, thus changing the biodiversity in those areas. Yet these women have learned to keep producing food in their regions. They possess amazing skills to analyze the consequences of climate change,
positive and negative, and develop successful solutions. She described multiple government projects that have failed because officials never thought to ask the local women important factors (like the effects on agriculture, the youth, or biological factors that would negate there projects) they should consider. The role of the woman has always been under appreciated, but NOT today.

The overarching theme here is that NDCs cannot stay as just a document with fancy words. It is time to apply the experiences that women, and men, have with climate change consequences to adaptation strategies. If we can start analyzing conservation through the eyes of adaptation, that will lead to success.


How to Improve the Role of Women for Climate Change Solutions

ZAN-EH-2011-005Every year at the COP, the number of actors and stakeholders that want to fight climate change increases. Women are developing an important leadership on this matter, but it is necessary to keep improving their participation.

The United Nations developed a fact sheet called Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change, which concludes that “the consultation and participation of women in climate change initiatives must be ensured, and the role of women’s groups and networks strengthened.”

The number of women leading the climate fight is increasing. They play an important role and are making a difference at every decision-making level. “In the US studies show that more women believe in the science of climate change than men and are likely to act upon it.

Women have been constantly fighting for their basic rights at a global scale and although they have such experience demanding respect for their rights, it is necessary to improve their participation in climate change issues. So, how can we improve the role of women for climate change solutions?

We need to continue working with study cases, background and training to keep empowering women to challenge climate change decisions taken by corrupted governments.

Women´s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN) “is a solutions-based, multi-faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions.”wecan_fb_default2

WECAN is committed to educate and empower women through stories and case studies to advocate for climate justice, gender equality, and rights of nature among others. To accomplish this purpose, WECAN created the “U.S WOMEN´S CLIMATE JUSTICE INITIATIVE”. This initiative calls for immediate action on climate justice and protection of natural resources.

It includes a series of online education and advocacy trainings. These free trainings seek to empower women to reclaim democracy, and make a difference in decisions made by the government while understanding issues relating climate change.

Today at COP23, WECAN reiterated the importance of women for climate change solutions. It highlighted that women are no longer only victims of climate change, but a solution to it.

Education is definitely the key to improve women participation in issues regarding climate change. Helping women understand what are community rights and rights of nature, and ecological economics and the price on carbon, would empower them to claim their rights.

Their knowledge and experience on issues related to the management of natural resources is the perfect combination to make substantive contributions in the decision-making process on environmental governance. More education means more women participation, which hopefully means more progress in the fights against climate change.


Closing the UNFCCC Gender GAP?

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.47.14 PMThe Gender Action Plan, with its apt acronym – GAP – was on the agenda earlier this month at the UNFCCC intersessional meetings in Bonn, Germany. And, rightly so. Women’s equal and meaningful participation in the development and implementation of effective climate policy is an agreed goal of the Parties to the Convention. Since COP7 in 2001, when Parties endorsed an increase in women’s participation, this goal has been increasingly articulated and characterized through a total of 75 decisions and mandates within decisions across the UNFCCC programs. (The secretariat’s compilation of these, organized by 9 thematic areas, is an excellent reference.)

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 4.24.07 PMYet, despite all these, Parties have faltered (see secretariat’s annual reports, 2013-2016). As we reported at COP22, in Marrakech (Nov-Dec 2016), Parties again acknowledged women’s under-representation throughout the Convention process and the inadequate progress toward gender-responsive climate policy. This recognition generated the Gender and climate change decision (21/CP.22), which directed the SBI to enhance the Lima work programme on gender (LWPG) and develop a Gender Action Plan (GAP). The GAP’s function is to “support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates.”

At SB46, an in-session workshop provided the primary substance for the GAP. Some of it came from twenty submissions with proposed GAP elements and advice on the workshop’s structure received from Parties (9), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) (8), and NGOs (3). Additional and rich input came from two pre-workshop events: 1) a 2-day informal consultation in March among 45 representatives of Parties, NGOs, and IGOs held at The Hague, Netherlands, and 2) a May 9 Listening and Learning Climate Justice Dialogue among negotiators and grassroots women focused on bringing forth key messages/principles.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.42.46 PMAn open update session on the LWPG ahead of the GAP workshop also introduced the proposed framework that had emerged from the Hague consultation. This comprehensive framework, containing 5 clusters with associated priority/key results areas, and activities for each, was subsequently moved forward as the starting point for the Day 2 breakouts.

The first half-day covered the GAP mandate, the secretariat’s compilation of decisions and mandates, an overview of the submissions, outputs from the 2 pre-workshop events, and lessons learned from other action plans. This was followed by a facilitated dialogue addressing the Plan’s overall objectives and what success would look like in 2019 (when the LWPG is reviewed). Day 2’s breakouts explored and refined the 5 proposed clusters, priority/key results areas, and draft activities. (On-demand webcasts are available here: 5/10 and 5/11)

SBI47 will consider the outputs of these breakouts in establishing the GAP, when it returns to Bonn in November. To what extent the SBI makes modifications is a big question. One ambitious key result under the Gender balance, participation and women’s leadership cluster calls for reaching 50% representation of women in all Party delegations and constituted bodies under the UNFCCC by 2019.

As pressure grows for more than baby steps, so does the hope for an effective new tool to actually make women’s equal and meaningful participation in the development and implementation of effective climate policy a reality.


Just Peace through Climate Action

Display at India's COP Pavilion

Display at India’s COP Pavilion

This year, the COP demonstrated the priority of climate justice by recognizing the first official Climate Justice Day on the UNFCCC Programme. The celebration of Climate Justice Day explored the social dimensions of climate action while elevating the spirit of cooperation and solidarity that led to the Paris Agreement. In fact, COP 22 highlights the unusual global alliance between governments, corporations, universities, NGO’s and faith inspired communities, all fighting against the effects of climate change. Along side the delegate pavilions and green technology entrepreneurs, stand a wide array of associations such as Mediators Without Borders, the Planetary Security Initiative, the Indigenous People’s Pavilion, and Green Faith. Yesterday’s reflective side event sponsored by the  Quaker United Nations Office underscored the importance of such a broad alliance: multi-level problems require multi-level solutions.

Entitled, “Trust and Peacebuilding Approaches for Ambitious Climate Action,” Friday’s QUNO panel focused on climate change as a humanitarian and spiritual crisis, as well as an environmental one, emphasizing the complex nature of the climate change problem. The discussion centered around fighting climate change as a personal moral imperative, the importance of personal equilibrium as well as environmental equilibrium, empowering climate change solutions on a personal level, unity through prayer, climate justice, and above all, love. Panelists included Sonja Klinsky, Assistant Professor, Arizona State University, Lindsey Fielder Cook, Representative for Climate Change, Quaker United Nations Office Ambassador, Jayanti Kirpalani, Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University, Henrik Grape, Church of Sweden and Joy Kennedy, World Council of Churches.  Emphasizing individual impact, the presentation was empowering because it reminded listeners that they could make a difference by taking small personal steps while waiting for larger national policies to take shape. Their message was one of unity, courage and hope.

Entrance to COP 22 Pavilions

Entrance to COP 22 Pavilions

Later that evening, the closing COP 22/CMA 1 meeting managed to maintain this momentum of unity, courage and hope to successfully adopt their meeting Decision FCCC/PA/CMA/2016/1. In doing so, the COP of Action moved ahead and sent a clear message to the world. To quote U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, Jonathan Pershing, in his closing remarks at this final COP 22 meeting, “Momentum for the Paris Agreement cannot be stopped.” In the continued spirit of unity, and showing their personal appreciation for each other, the entire plenary of hundreds of COP 22 delegates paused during a break in the negotiations to sing happy birthday to the delegate from Mali. Hopefully, this spirit of unity carries through to next year when COP 23 is held in Bonn, Germany.

On a personal reflective note, I continue to draw inspiration from the wide range of groups here at the COP, all fighting the effects of climate change.  This COP 22 experience has been particularly meaningful due to the opportunity our Vermont Law School class had to work with a Service Learning Partner Country.  Being able to serve a purpose at COP 22, to provide direct delegation support to a Least Developed Country, became my small way of making a difference in the fight against climate change.  The remarkable people I have met here continue to inspire me with their dedication to Just Peace, through Climate Action.


Next steps for UNFCCC head Christiana Figueres?

c_figueres_v3_400x400This news just arrived in my inbox:

Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC since 2010, will step down when her term ends on July 6, 2016.

In a message to “non-party stakeholders” issued today in Bonn and distributed to NGOs (nongovernmental organizations) and IGOs (intergovernmental organizations) accredited to the UNFCCC, she wrote:

“Friends, I write to confirm that I will serve out my term as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change which finishes on July 6, 2016, and not accept an extension of my appointment.  As you well know, the Paris Agreement is a historical achievement, built on years of increasing willingness to construct bridges of collaboration and solidarity across all boundaries.  Governments deserve much credit for the remarkable outcomes of Paris, but so do you, the wider participants in the UNFCCC process.  During many years you held the torch of the imperative high for all of us to see. Your support and your determination were unswerving.  Your patience and your urgency were compelling. Much remains to be done, especially in the next five years, to ensure we turn good intentions into the reality we all want.  I know you will continue to inject energy, passion and perseverance into this process.  You can count on me to do the same.”

What’s next for the person that the New Yorker dubbed as the woman who could stop climate change? Leaping tall LEED platinum buildings in C40 cities around the world? Outpacing electric high-speed trains fed by solar and wind?  Or maybe, more humbly, moving to New York and becoming the first female UN Secretary General?


Linking SDGs and COP21

Taylor picTaylor Smith ’14, member of the VLS COP19 delegation, now works for the U.N. and contributed this post connecting the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) with the COP21 negotiations.

“Any true sustainable development must address the scourge of climate change,” UN DESA’s Under-Secretary-General Mr. Wu Hongbo said just weeks before the UN Climate Change Conference (COP21) opened in Paris on 30 November. The relationship between climate change and development are clear, with climate change aggravating already existing threats to people and the planet. This is also why so many of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have targets linked to climate.

I was a member of the VLS COP19 observer delegation in Warsaw, Poland and also a Master of Environmental Law and Policy student 2014. I now work as a Sustainable Energy Consultant at United Nations Headquarters in New York. I am located in the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Sustainable Development- Water, Energy, and Capacity Development Branch (yeah, it’s a mouthful).

2030 agendaA good portion of my daily work focuses on follow-up tasks related to the post-2015 development agenda, also known as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Here is a little background information for you dedicated readers:

In September 2015, Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as a direct follow-up to the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference in 2012 when Member States committed to reinvigorating the global partnership for sustainable development and to working together with major groups and other stakeholders in addressing implementation gaps. The 2030 Agenda includes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and 169 accompanying targets. Among other thematic areas, Member States identified energy as one of the priorities.

Sustainable energy is a key enabler of sustainable development for all countries and all people. Countries will not be able to achieve their development goals without access to reliable and affordable sustainable energy services. Energy is critical to tackling poverty eradication, while decarbonizing energy is central to mitigating climate change. Energy powers opportunities. It transforms lives, economies and countries.

As a result of the key role that energy plays in sustainable development, a stand-alone goal for energy now exists: Energy SDG 7 is to “Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all”. Goal 7 contains five targets, two of which are means of implementation. SG7

Target 7.1

By 2030, ensure universal access to affordable, reliable and modern energy services

Target 7.2

By 2030, increase substantially the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix

Target 7.3

By 2030, double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency

Target 7.a (Means of Implementation)

By 2030, enhance international cooperation to facilitate access to clean energy research and technology, including renewable energy, energy efficiency and advanced and cleaner fossil-fuel technology, and promote investment in energy infrastructure and clean energy technology

Target 7.b (Means of Implementation)

By 2030, expand infrastructure and upgrade technology for supplying modern and sustainable energy services for all in developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small-island developing States and landlocked developing countries, in accordance with their respective programmes of support.

As you can see, it’s fairly straightforward how the targets of the Energy SDG 7 align with the UNFCCC in many ways. In fact, there are so many parallels that Resolution 70/1 (Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) of the General Assembly explicitly acknowledges that the United Nations Convention on Climate Change is the primary international, intergovernmental forum for negotiating the global response to climate change.

What I notice as the primary difference between UNFCCC objectives and Energy SDG 7 is that the first is primarily concerned with carbon reductions while the latter has an emphasis on energy for sustainable development. 1.2 billion people worldwide still lack access to modern energy services. Think about that while our world leaders negotiate a low-carbon pathway to the future! *mind blown*

all SDGsEven though climate change is often portrayed as an environmental problem, it is also an economic and political issue. In my field of work, sustainable energy development is about reconciling the basic human right of access to energy services (for hospitals, schools, and clean cooking technologies etc.) with the need for rapid increase in renewable energy production and consumption to combat anthropogenic climate change.

For the first time in over 20 years of UN negotiations, the conference aims to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate. The goal is to keep global warming well below 2°C. I hope that implementation of the COP21 outcome is ambitious enough to provide greater motivation for clean energy development and distributed renewable energy in my field of energy for sustainable development in low-income countries.


Caught on the Front Lines of Climate Change

In an event hosted today by WOCAN (Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management), six inspiring women shared their stories of community, loss, and leadership. The panel was comprised of women from diverse and remote regions of the world, including a Native American of the Ponca Nation, a representative from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a Quechua-speaking native of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and several leaders of global non-profit organizations. All of these women came to COP21 with the same message: the voices of women and indigenous peoples are essential to effectively addressing climate change.

IMG_2261-1

Panelists at today’s event, Global Women & Indigenous Peoples on the Frontline of Climate Solutions: Forests & Renewable Energy

Each of the panelists shared shockingly similar stories of their lives and their communities, highlighting their plight against the effects of climate change. Most indigenous communities contribute very little to climate change, yet feel the effects far more profoundly than the rest of the world. Women also face disproportionate impacts from climate change, indicating that this group had tremendous insight to offer from both perspectives. They had faced the direct impacts of climate change and had established innovative methods of addressing the associated problems. In the case of the Ponca Nation and the Amazonian natives, both groups are actively opposing resource extraction in their sacred ancestral lands. Women in Colombia are reclaiming land for traditional agricultural practices after years of protests allowed them to begin saving seeds again. Women in the DRC are creating carbon negative local economies by planting trees. By organizing their communities and utilizing traditional and institutional knowledge, they are developing robust, local solutions to climate change.

Nevertheless, a Paris agreement may not address these groups’ needs or their suggestions. There are currently four binding sections of the agreement that reference gender equality or the rights of indigenous people, and two of those references are bracketed. This means that the rights of indigenous people and women may not be adequately addressed in two important parts of the agreement (purpose and finance). Hopefully, this panel discussion, along with the other events associated with Gender Day, will encourage the negotiators to avoid this absurd result.


Celebrating Gender Day at COP21

Today is Gender Day at COP21. In celebration, the Women and Gender Constituency of the UNFCCC recognized the winners of the Gender Just Climate Solutions competition. These winners were celebrated for their great work combating climate change in a “gender-just” manner.

Photo Source: Island Eco

Photo Source: Island Eco

Island Eco from the Marshall Islands won the Technical Climate Solution Award for its work in training young women how to install solar photovoltaic DC refrigeration. Under this project, young rural women learn the electrical and mechanical skills needed to assemble, deliver, and install solar powered lights, refrigerators, and freezers in the Marshall Islands.

Next, the Non-Technical Climate Solution Award was presented to Gender CC – Women for Climate Justice for its efforts to raise awareness on gender integration in climate change adaptation and resiliency building activities in Southern Africa. Gender CC’s project connects women leaders, government officials, and NGOs to local women farmers in order to provide awareness training and capacity building skills concerning the installation of biogas digesters, PVC solar units, and water harvesting tanks.

csm_GenderCC_South_Africa_Workshop_solar_651ba88acb

Photo Source: GenderCC

The final award was presented to Tulele Peisa of Papua New Guinea for its local relocation efforts, that are being led by the Carteret Islanders who face imminent extinction due to climate change impacts and increased numbers of extreme weather events on their home island. This project prepares and provides support to three communities on Bougainville in order to ensure there is adequate land, infrastructure, and economic opportunities for the Carteret Islanders when they choose to voluntarily relocate. The purpose of this project is to ensure that the Carteret culture and society continues to exist even after their home island becomes unlivable.

Ursula 2

Ursula Rakova was called upon by the Carteret Elders to lead Tulle Peisa. She accepted the award on behalf of Tulle Peisa. Photo Source: THOMSON REUTERS FOUNDATION/Thin Lei Win

Overall, the Gender Just Climate Solution awards highlighted amazing groups led by inspiring women who are all working to ensure that climate change decision making provides equal access for both women and men to effectively participate and address local concerns caused by the effects of a changing climate.


The Secret Weapon Against Climate Change? Family Planning

2_evidencebased_programming_2Family Planning may be the most cost-effective weapon against climate change. At least according to a new report from the University of California, San Francisco’s Bixby Center for Global Reproductive Health. According to the report, family planning could provide between 16 and 29 percent of the needed greenhouse gas emission reductions.

Additionally, last year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recognized for the first time the benefits of family planning for impacting climate change. The IPCC report recognized the importance of family planning in areas with a high vulnerability to climate change, including the Sahel region of Africa, as well as in rich countries like the United States. Increasing access to family planning not only helps reduce human suffering, especially in extremely vulnerable areas, but also decreases overall consumption and greenhouse gas emissions.

PopulationToday the world population is over 7 billion, a number that is relatively recent in the history of human civilization. Between 1900 and 2000 the world population increased from 1.5 to 6.1 billion. That is, in just 100 years the population increased three times more than it had during the entire history of human kind. The effects of this astounding increase in human beings on the environment is staggering. Increasing populations threaten the survival of plant and animal species around the world, reduce air quality, increase energy demands, effect groundwater and soil health, reduce forests, expand deserts, and increase waste. And these effects will only get worse, as the United Nations predicts that the world population will reach 9.6 billion people by 2050.

According to the report from the Bixby Center, family planning programs are dollar-for-dollar the most effective way to avoid some of the worst impacts from climate change. There are currently 222 million women in the world with an unmet need for modern family planning methods. To meet this demand for family planning it will take $9.4 billion a year, an increase from current family planning spending by about $5.3 billion a year. Despite this high dollar value, family planning spending is still a relatively cheap option. According to the report, “For every $7 spent of family planning, carbon emissions would be reduced more than [one metric ton]… the same emissions reductions from low-carbon energy production technologies would cost at least $32.”

MTI5NTI2Mzc5NzgyOTE2MTA2Despite the cost-effectiveness, family planning still remains a contentious issue. But things may be looking up. As part of their Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) countries must consider their population size and its potential growth in order to envision how per capita emissions may change in the future. The new UNFCCC synthesis report of INDCs takes into account different population growth scenarios for the next fifteen years, and suggests that some governments may not be using the best population data for calculating business as usual emissions scenarios. Additionally, in the report some governments state that population density and growth within their countries remains a constraint on their ability to adapt to climate change.

What this means is that family planning is necessary. Not only is it necessary on a human level (family planning is one of the best ways to improve education and quality of life for women around the globe), it remains one of the most effective tools at our disposal for combatting climate change.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Empowering Women in the Fight for Global Food Security

SDG special 245x355

Women and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

“The new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have gender equality and women’s empowerment at their core, and include a target to ‘double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women.’ Indeed, rural women are critical to the success of almost all of the 17 SDGs.” UN SG Ban Ki-moon

There is no doubt that climate change affects less developed countries more dramatically. It also affects women more significantly, since they represent the majority of the poor  and vulnerable. On 15 October, the world recently celebrated the 6th anniversary of the International Day of Rural Women, “the majority of whom depend on natural resources and agriculture for their livelihoods.” Climate change’s effects on food security are well-known and well-established; therefore, in order to fully address food security, women’s issues must be at the forefront. The UN FAO released a report on 13 October indicating that expanding social protection will offer a faster track to ending hunger.

How can food security via women’s empowerment be achieved through the UN’s SDGs? Specifically, 1 (4) , 2 (3)  5(7)  relate to women’s rights to land. Current land use practices coupled with the exacerbating effects of climate change like droughts and other extreme events have led to soil degradation and desertification.  Women are often responsible for supplying the food and fuel for the household and finding ways of making up for the shortfall when these catastrophic events occur. However, they are not in a position to make decisions about how the land is used – either for their benefit or the environment’s – because they do not have the authority or ownership of it. For example, in most African countries, approximately 75% – 90% of land is held under traditional rules, customs and practices, which mean that women are not able to assert control over it or its use even though they are primarily responsible for its cultivation.

Solar Market Garden in Benin

Solar Market Garden in Benin

The outlook is not dim, however. As the world looks to COP21’s negotiations in Paris, the Momentum for Change Lighthouse Activities – an initiative spearheaded by the UNFCCC Secretariat – is shining light on models that “mov[e] the world toward a highly resilient, low-carbon future.” Projects profiled are “innovative and transformative solutions that address both climate change and wider economic, social and environmental challenges.”  One Lighthouse winner is the Solar Electric Light Fund (SELF ) Solar Market Garden. In Benin, women are now able to grow food year-round despite a six-month dry season. By using solar-powered pumps with drip irrigation systems, women farmers are able to pump water for irrigation from nearby rivers and underground aquifers instead of hauling it long distances. This is both an environmental and socio-economic benefit as the girls of the village are now able to attend school and the women can allocate their time to other economic pursuits.  “It also empowers them to become entrepreneurs and leaders in their communities. By embracing solar power and micro-irrigation technologies, these female leaders are trailblazing solutions for both climate change mitigation and adaptation that can be replicated throughout the world, especially sub-Saharan Africa.”

A Group of women attend a workshop in the oasis of Serkla, Guelmima.

A Group of women attend a workshop in the oasis of Serkla, Guelmima.

This is just one example. Looking forward to COP22 in Marrakesh, perhaps the world can witness firsthand the success that women living in the Moroccan province of Errachidia have realized by cultivating medicinal and aromatic plants using renewable energy and selling them in the markets. This UN Women  project is supported by the UNDP Tafilalet Oasis Programme and the Swiss Cooperation.

Clearly, the support of women’s rights to land, mobilizing their agricultural knowledge, and providing social support will provide food security and opportunities for climate change mitigation and adaptation.

 


The Role of Gender in Climate Politics

Climate change is proven – the vast majority of the scientific community, along with many major businesses and nearly every major insurance provider, all agree that climate change is having real impacts on the world today. Most also believe that those impacts are the result of anthropogenic activity. However, the facts about climate change are not being translated into political action. This is in large part because the facts are not driving the discussion.

Despite the fact that the latest IPCC report states that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia,” and that “human influence on the climate system is clear,” somehow 18% of the US population still does not believe global warming is occurring, and 35% does not believe that it is caused by human activity. Even worse, the 114th Congress includes 162 climate deniers (approximately 30% of Congress) with only eight states represented exclusively by individuals who believe that addressing climate change is a priority.

Sen. James Inhofe

Sen. James Inhofe

Who are all of these climate deniers? Many Americans, if asked to picture a climate denier, would likely picture a figure like Rush Limbaugh or Senator James Inhofe. It turns out that there is more to this assumption than mere stereotyping. Several studies have been published over the past five years, building on existing bodies of research, which all indicate that climate skeptics are most likely to be white, conservative men. I took a closer look at three psychology and sociology studies from three different continents, all of which came to this same conclusion.

A study out of Cardiff University indicated that men are more skeptical of climate change than women, and that “political affiliation is a strong determinant of skepticism, with Conservative voters amongst the most skeptical.” An American study out of Michigan State University was one of the first to explicitly categorize “conservative white males” as the most skeptical of climate change. This study went a step further to analyze conservative white men who self-reported an above average understanding of global warming (considered “confident conservative white men”). By isolating these individuals, the study found that 48.4% of confident conservative white men believe the effects of global warming will never happen, compared to only 8.6% of all other respondents. Additionally, it found that while 71.6% of confident conservative white men believed that recent temperature increases are not primarily due to human activities, only 34.2% of all other respondents feel that way. Finally, a 2015 study published in the New Zealand Journal of Psychology supported and extended the “conservative white male” effect based on a sample of over 6,000 New Zealanders. This study confirmed that conservative white males (along with older individuals with high levels of socioeconomic status and less education) are disproportionately more likely to be skeptical of the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic cause.

These studies essentially just prove what most of us already knew or assumed. But the impact of the “conservative white man” syndrome is significant. Not only do the studies provide scientific evidence that conservative white men are the least likely to take action on climate change, it also indicates that “beliefs about climate change are fundamentally linked to existing values and worldviews,” and “are not a result of knowledge deficit or misunderstanding.” In other words, they are also least likely to be swayed by the overwhelming scientific consensus or by the urgency of environmental advocates.

Ms. Usha Nair, representative of the global south and current Co-Focal Point of the Women and Gender Constituency stakeholder group

Ms. Usha Nair, representative of the global south and current Co-Focal Point of the Women and Gender Constituency stakeholder group

None of this would matter so much if it were not for the fact that political decisions related to climate change are predominantly made by men. The UNFCCC Conference of the Parties is actually mandated to “improve the participation of women in bodies established under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.” However, progress is slow, and the involvement of women in recent Conferences of the Parties has been limited. Women only represented 36% of the Party delegates to COP20 last year, and only represented 26% of the heads of Party delegations. This year, women represent only 25% of the members of constituted bodies (which is a ~3% decline from last year) and represent only 23% of the regional groups and other Party groupings.

Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Senate republicans

Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Senate republicans

Even if we give the benefit of the doubt to the Conference of the Parties and assume that the participants in the process are all committed to combating climate change, any international agreement that the Parties sign must still be approved by two thirds of the United States Senate for it to become legally binding on the U.S. (although there are alternative mechanisms for the country to deposit its “instrument of ratification” with the UNFCCC). At least one source indicates that 32% of the current Senators are climate deniers, creating a very narrow margin for the 66% approval of any international climate change agreement. The fact that the whole of the U.S. Senate is currently 54% republican, 94% white, and 80% male does not lend hope to the cause.

Now, none of this is to say that every climate denier is a conservative white male, nor is it to say that all conservative white males are climate deniers. It is my ardent hope that the current United States senators (republican, democrat, Caucasian, minority, male, and female alike) will vote to approve the agreement reached at Paris this year. But if they do not, it might be an additional incentive to diversify our elected officials.


“2 steps ahead”: Malawi Moving the Parties Forward on Gender in Climate Change

Today in the informal consultations on gender and climate change, Malawi, on behalf of the LDCs (Least Developed Counties negotiating group), presented a conference room paper as a draft of a decision to establish a 2-year work programme for gender under the UNFCCC. This paper was seen for the first time by most parties in attendance (as well as us lucky observers in the room), but almost in consensus they decided to use this paper as a basis for further negotiations on gender. Though, the parties of course reserved the right to add and subtract to the draft at their next meeting. Malawi’s proposal draws upon previous decisions and conclusions of the COP, namely decisions 36/CP.7  and 23/CP.18 and conclusions SBI/2013/L.16, to establish a framework for gender in climate change under the UNFCCC. In addition to recalling the previous decisions and conclusions and proposing a 2-year work programme, Malawi recommends the parties also strengthen thematic areas on gender though in-session workshops, create a platform for dialogue on gender in climate change by training both men and women in the issues, build skills for females (especially for the most vulnerable women), provide information relating to gender and equality, appoint a Senior Gender Equality Expert, and provide means for implementation, including making finances available.

Though the co-chair praised Malawi for being “two steps ahead,” it is because the UNFCCC is “two steps behind” that this issue doesn’t have a work programme yet. The UNFCCC was born at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, a conference that included many statements on the importance of women in the path forward on environmental issues. For example Agenda 21, the cornerstone of the Earth Summit contained many references to gender and the importance of including women as key participants, both due to their vulnerability as well as their capacity to be leaders in climate change. Principle 20 of the Rio Principles, also created by the parties in Rio, states: “Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.” In the more than 20 years since Rio, other agreements have reiterated the need to incorporate gender with environmental discussions, including the recently proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals and indicators which include one specific goal on gender with regard to sustainable development, but also synthesize gender issues throughout the Goals.

The same understanding on the importance of gender and women in environmental policies must be fully incorporated into the UNFCCC. Though progress has been made (in part demonstrated by the decisions and conclusions referenced above), not enough has yet been to done for gender balance under the UNFCCC. At COP19 in Warsaw, the parties agreed to this, that not only is gender equity and women’s involvement important to the UNFCCC, but also there is much work left to be done. (To learn more about the gender discussions from Warsaw read last year’s posts by Heather Crowshaw, Tracy Bach , and Taylor Smith).

Photo from UN Women

Photo from UN Women

Tomorrow and again later in the week, the parties will reconvene to discuss Malawi’s conference room paper, and thanks to the parties allowing observers back in the room, I’ll do my best to post on their progress within the week. Maybe the UNFCCC can finally take the 2 steps up to where it should be and agree to a convention on gender equity and the role of women.