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Gender and Climate Change

Climate change is a scientifically proven phenomenon that includes any change in the climate, whether due to its natural variability or as a result of human activity; Climate change threatens to erode human freedoms and limit choice, and gender inequality intersects with climate risks and vulnerabilities. Women in developing countries have limited access to resources; restricted rights, limited mobility and a muted voice in shaping decisions make them highly vulnerable to climate change. The nature of that vulnerability varies widely, but climate change will magnify existing patterns of inequality, including gender inequality. Women play an important role in supporting households and communities to mitigate and adapt to climate change. Across the developing world, women's leadership in natural resource management is well recognized. For centuries, women have passed on their skills in water management, forest management and the management of biodiversity, among others. Through these experiences, women have acquired valuable knowledge that will allow them to contribute positively to the identification of appropriate adaptation and mitigation techniques, if only they are given the opportunity. 60 % of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people are women who are dependent on their natural environment to earn a living and feed their families. These women and girls also shoulder the burden of tilling land, grinding grain, carrying water and cooking over smoky stone fires. Women thus have important knowledge and experience of their environments that should be harnessed as a vital source of information to shape inclusive national environmental policies. UN Women was one of a number of UN agencies and civil society representatives advocating for gender mainstreaming during talks at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancn, Mexico where Governments convened to negotiate how the international community should combat global warming after the Kyoto Protocol meets its end date in 2012. They succeeded in adopting a package of decisions, also known as the Cancun Agreements, on 11 December to combat climate change, which included gender and social dimensions. The move to include gender dimensions in the Agreements has implications for women worldwide, and lays a critical foundation for the next round of climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 11 December 2011. It is also a significant shift from the Kyoto Protocol and earlier drafts of the Long-Term Cooperative Action (LCA) a legal reference still under negotiation for how the international community should address global warming before the Protocol expires which lacked gender references. We owe it to our daughters and granddaughters, said Patricia Espinoza, the President of COP16, on directly including women in the fight to reduce global warming. Women in many parts of the world continue to face barriers ranging from food security to lack of access to land and decision-making processes that place them at higher risk and simultaneously hinder their potential contributions to mitigate or adapt to impacts of climate change. For instance, shortages of firewood and biomass due to floods or drought, expected to increase with higher

temperatures, add to womens workload where they are responsible for their collection. Currently, 2.4 billion people rely on biomass for cooking and heating, negatively impacting health and simultaneously exacerbating global warming. Facts & Figures on Gender & Climate Change Impacts of climate change are expected to exacerbate poverty and inequalities. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), social impacts will vary, depending on factors like age, socio-economic class, occupation and gender. The worlds poorest inhabitants will be worst affected. For example, the loss of life is expected to be 500 times greater in Africa than in developed countries, even though the carbon footprint of the poorest billion people is approximately three percent of the world's total Agriculture & Food Insecurity

Women, primarily on small farms, provide up to 80 percent of agricultural labour and produce 45 to 90 percent of domestically consumed food, depending on the region. Erratic rainfall and unseasonal temperatures already challenge some farmers, especially small land-holders who have less capacity to adapt. In Africa, the proportion of women affected by climate-related crop changes could range from 73 percent in the Congo to 48 percent in Burkina Faso For women growers, this insecurity is compounded by a comparative lack of assets and arable land, and in some cases lack of the right to own the very land they till. Worldwide, women own less than two percent of all property. In many countries, less than 10 percent of women hold title to their land, which limits their access to resources and credit during crises. Deforestation compounds these conditions, because many rural women depend on nontimber forest products (NTFPs) for income, traditional medicinal use, nutritional supplements in times of food shortages and as a seed bank for plant varieties needed to source alternative crops under changing growing conditions. Thus, loss of biodiversity challenges the nutrition, health, and livelihoods of women and their communities.

Heavier Household Burdens

Currently, it is estimated that 1.2 billion people lack access to safe water. Only 58 percent of sub-Saharan Africans live within 30 minutes walking-distance of safe water and only 16 percent have a household connection. Gathering and transporting water typically falls on women and children in developing countries a task that can take many hours each day in drought prone areas. In Africa, a half hour is spent on average to collect water including walking to the source, sometimes waiting to gather water, and return. Collecting water is expected to become increasingly burdensome with global warming. More regions will experience water shortages as rainfall becomes erratic, glaciers melt and seas rise. People living within 60 miles of a shoreline a full third of the worlds population will be hit especially hard, as they are most susceptible to increased salinity of coastal potable water sources.

As it takes more time to gather water and fuel, the available time for education or other economic and political activities decreases. Already, the majority of children worldwide who do not attend school are girls. Shortages of firewood or other bio-fuels due to floods or drought expected to increase with higher temperatures add to womens workload where they are responsible for its collection. Currently, 2.4 billion people rely on biomass for cooking and heating, negatively impacting health and simultaneously exacerbating global warming. In developing countries and emerging markets, policies and programmes that enhance womens access to technology for renewable energy have proven to decrease deforestation as fuel demands shift away from biomass, and create co-benefits of increased living standards, improved indoor air quality and improved health of entire families. Women often play a central role in determining the neutrality of their households contribution to climate change and can lead the way in low-emission living. In developed countries, women typically eat a lower green-house gas diet (less meat) than men and more often choose public transportation and "green" products when provided the option.

Increased Risk to Health & Lives

During times of shortages and higher food prices circumstances expected to aggravate with climate change the health of women and girls is shown to diminish before that of males, due to various social constraints and inequities. In India, for example, reduced rainfall is more strongly associated with deaths among girls than boys. Some diseases that women and children are especially vulnerable to, such as malaria and diarrhoea, are also expected to increase in prevalence as temperatures rise. In some regions, the estimated risk of diarrhoea will be up to 10 percent higher by 2030, and temperature increases of two to three degrees Celsius may increase the risk of malaria by three to five percent. Water shortages are also linked to increases in diseases, especially among children and the elderly, since hygienic practices are commonly sacrificed to more pressing needs for water, such as drinking and cooking. This includes an increase in diarrhoeal disease a leading cause of death among children in developing states. Almost half of all urban residents in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are already victims of diseases associated with poor water and sanitation facilities. Additionally, there is a strong correlation between gender equality in womens everyday lives and their survival rate in disasters. Women are up to 14 times more likely than men to die from natural disasters. Poverty and poor access to health care exacerbate these risks. Case studies suggest that public shame, social and clothing inhibitions, and lack of survival skills (swimming, climbing trees etc.) contribute to a greater death rate of women compared with men in hurricanes and floods. Moreover, women often care for children, the sick and elderly, and may place themselves at higher risk to do so. Women are more often found in structurally weak buildings at higher risk of collapse due to mud slides and other climate-related hazards, since they are prone to congregate compared with men in places of lower social value such as in market stalls, schools and shanties.

Way forward The third of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals is to promote gender equality and empower women, and in a speech last year General Secretary Ban Ki-Moon highlighted the

importance of an environment where women are the key decision makers on climate change, and play an equally central role in carrying out these decisions." The United Nations Women Watch also highlights the importance of recognising the differential impacts that climate change has got on men and women to ensure long-term sustainability, as well as to promote gender equality and womens empowerment.

References 1. The Lancet and University College of London Institute for Global Health Commission, Managing the Health Effects of Climate Change (2009). 2. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Gender and Climate Change Manual (2009). 3. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rural Women and Food Security: Current Situation and Perspectives (1998).

4. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rural Women and Food Security: Current Situation and Perspectives (1998); R. Dellink and A. Ruijs (editors), Economics of Poverty, Environment and Natural-Resource Use (2008); and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Gender and Non-Timber Forest Products: Promoting Food Security and Economic Empowerment (2008). 5. WHO and UNICEF, Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: A Midterm Assessment of Progress (2004). 6. WHO and UNICEF, Meeting the MDG Drinking Water and Sanitation Target: The Urban and Rural Challenge of the Decade (2006). 7. by disasters, most of which (75 percent) were related to weather extremes, with losses of 890,000 dead and US$570 billion costs. 8. London School of Economics and Political Science with University of Essex and Max-Planck Institute of Economics, E. Neumayer and T. Plumper (authors), The Gendered Nature of Natural Disasters: The Impact of Catastrophic Events on the Gender Gap in Life Expectancy, 1981-2002 (2007).