One Way to Mitigate Climate Change? Gender Equality

“One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world!” Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, primatologist

Hong Kong is predicted to see our hottest summer on record. The city has just experienced the hottest day in May, after two of the warmest years on record. Greenpeace Hong Kong warns that super typhoons will increase and Hong Kong is in real danger from rising sea levels.

At all levels, women and girls are making an impact as climate activists. Greta Thunburg continues to make headlines for her determined action on this issue, but she is not alone with climate activists Howey Ou in China, Ridhima Pandey in India and Hong Kong’s own Green Queen, Sonalie Figueiras, among other women and girls advocating on this increasingly critical issue. Climate change and gender equality are linked and empowering women can help societies become more resilient to climate change.

While the intensifying climate crisis impacts everyone, women are more at risk during severe weather events and more vulnerable to the impact of climate change. Typhoons, floods, droughts and forest/bush fires aggravate inequalities, with lower income groups having the fewest resources to protect themselves or rebuild their lives afterwards. Women, who tend to be poorer, are usually the primary caregivers and most often providers of food, water and fuel leading to greater vulnerabilities in these disasters. After these events, women and girls are more likely to experience food insecurity, mental health issues and domestic violence than their male counterparts.

Actualising gender equality will empower women and girls to make decisions and take action that supports the environment and helps communities respond to climate disasters with resilience. Ensuring women and girls have access to education, food and water, jobs and healthcare all support this. Indeed, looking at indices for gender equality alongside indices for climate sustainability show that they go hand in hand and improvements in one can drive progress in the other.

While women fare worse in climate change, female leaders are adept at mitigating the impact. They tend to make more sustainable decisions and so countries with greater female political representation have more environmentally friendly policies and lower carbon dioxide emissions. UNESCO and the Paris Agreement both highlight the importance of the gendered dimension of climate change and including women as decision-makers and agents of change in taking forward action plans.

At TWF, while our focus is on improving the lives of women and girls here in Hong Kong, we recognise the deleterious effects climate change has on all of us, particularly the most marginalised populations – which includes women and girls. Understanding this linkage only increases our urgency to actualise gender equality.

The evidence is clear: progressing gender equality is not only good for families, business and society - it’s good for the planet. With this in mind, let’s continue our efforts to advance gender equality and create a sustainable way forward for all of us.

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Written by

The Women's Foundation