Earth Day Climate Change Women United Nations Cop 21

words by Annie Agle, speaker at the December 2015 United Nations’ COP 21 talks in Paris.

Women stand to suffer more acutely from climate change.

In 2012, various gangs saw Hurricane Sandy, a climate disaster event, as an opportunity to increase trafficking of young girls in and out of New York City ports as law enforcement agencies were overwhelmed with disaster relief. Further, New York and New Jersey domestic violence shelters were forced to operate at over-capacity; reported cases of rape increased; and, an estimated 10,000 women and children were displaced by the storm.

Earth Day Climate Change Women United Nations Cop 21

Hurricane Sandy took place in one of the most asset-rich cities in the world. Had women been engaged as leaders by city officials and planners earlier on, these occurrences could have potentially been avoided.   

The implications of climate change for women are daunting and global in scale. According to the Women’s Environmental Development Organization, women represent about 20 million of the 26 million people displaced by climate change since 2010.

In addition to the staggering example of displacement, in much of the world, women are the primary food providers. When drought and extreme weather events disrupt agricultural supply chains, women are the first to face consequences. In certain countries like the Philippines, The International Relations and Security Network estimates that the number of families suffering from food insecurity as a result of climate change will double by 2050, further limiting women’s access to education and workforce opportunities as they will have to expend more effort as providers.

Earth Day Climate Change Women United Nations Cop 21

Photo: CC Francis Hannaway; with changes.

When given the opportunity, female entrepreneurs, activists, and organization heads have shown tremendous success in addressing the disruptions and threats posed by climate change to women. At the COP21 UN climate change conference in Paris, the largest global conference on the issue to date, women’s interest groups banded together to advocate for effective gender-specific solutions.

Though 195 countries signed the COP21 agreement, a legally binding accord that establishes benchmarks to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and provide financial assistance for renewable energy programs in developing countries, the final draft did not include strong language specific to women’s rights.

The exclusion of any acknowledgment of the disproportionate threat climate change poses to women should be viewed as a challenge. It is crucial that each of us engage fully as activists and do our best to ensure that climate solutions take into account the needs of girls and women.

Earth Day Climate Change Women United Nations Cop 21

These issues may seem far afield to women whose environmental activism originates largely from a passion for outdoor recreation, but the issue goes beyond preserving the snow we ski on and the ecosystems we explore.

As women, it is vital that we understand the importance of this issue globally for other women.

When we address climate change by advocating for energy efficiency or land conservation on the local level, we are fighting for something bigger than our own backyards. When we as women band together, we become more impactful.

Climate change is one of the biggest problems women will ever face. We cannot afford to sit passively as our sisters suffer. There are numerous ways to get involved; join the fight.   

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