Fascinating and disturbing evening at the launch of WEN’s Gender and Climate Change report, which you can download here (PDF).
Full marks to Lib Dem MP Sandra Gidley, who did a very firm and fair job of chairing a large panel, allowing time for an interesting range of questions from the packed Grand Committee room (even if she did cut me off in my prime!)
And was also very interested to hear from the hugely impressive Maria Adebowale, founder and director of Capacity Global, who said that grassroots individuals and organisations were not hard to reach. “We are the ones who are hard for them to reach.”
But the real star of the evening was the report itself. I can’t possibly do it justice here in the space available – I’d strong recommend a read — but to pull out just a few points. First the positive…
“Of the 16 countries ranked by the UNDP as having high human development and that had reduced their overall carbon dioxide emissions between 1990 and 2004, 13 had a higher proportion of female elected representatives than average.”
After that the good news is pretty hard to find…
“One study has found that women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die in natural disasters… in the 1991 cyclone in Bangladesh, the mortality rate for women aged 20-44 was 71/1,000, compared to 15/1,000 for men of the same age… Reasons for the disaprity include women not having been taught to swim, clothing restricting mobility and cultural norms regarding the preservation of female honour causing many women to leave their homes too late because they waited for a male escort. In addition, men were able to warn each other of the danger as they met in public spaces, but only conveyed the information back to their families sporadically.”
“In the European heat wave in 2003, the excessive mortality for women was 75% higher than that for men of all ages. Similarly, the excess mortality in the 1995 heat wave in Greater London was also most pronounced for women, in ways that cannot be entirely accounted for by age… suggested factors are likely to include poverty, deprivation, living alone, vulnerability to associated air pollution, and the increased difficulty that women above the age of 60 have in regulating their internal temperature.”
“An analysis of disasters in 141 countries found that where women had equal rights, there was little or no difference in the number of women or men that died, but where women’s rights were compromised, female mortality was higher than that for males.”
One particularly concerning aspect of the report is its focus on how many schemes in the third world designed to save forests and offset rich-world carbon emissions are harming women, particularly those involving forestry. “Because of their lower monetary wealth, women are more dependant on the natural resources that forestry projects tend to enclose or privatise. …their stewardship role is rarely recognised or rewarded.”
There’s particular concern about the much-trumpeted REDD agreement (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). The report explains that it is expected to generate $30bn in one year, but that its gender weaknesses were so manifest that lobbying in Copenhagen produced at least in-principle support for Redd-plus, which aims to “bring about holistic sustainability, requiring equitable access to the funds, increasing involvement by women in forest management policies and the integration of knowledge and experience of women. It acknowledges that women lack de jure right over land in the majority of developing fountirs… but play a significant stakeholder role in forestry as de facto users.”
Also there are some interesting figures on climate change sceptics – at the largest gathering of them in New York City in March 2009, 97.5% of the speakers were male. At a smaller similar meeting in Australia in 2004, the figure was 98%. Of the initial 100 signatories of a letter to the UN in 2007, 99% were male. By contrast, of the 1,269 listed authors in the 2007 IPCC report, 19% were female.