“Women and girls are essential climate actors” —Lakshmi Puri in Paris

Remarks by UN Women Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri at GLOBE International’s annual legislators’ summit dubbed “Towards Coherence and Impact” at the Assemblé Nationale of Paris, 4 December 2015. 

Date: Friday, December 4, 2015

Honourable members of Parliament 
Excellencies,
President of Globe International 

It is a pleasure to be here to speak to you about how women and girls are essential climate actors for effective climate change action, a means and an end in themselves, and a key enablers and beneficiaries of it. And how you as legislators can play an important part in making gender justice and climate justice nexus a reality. 

Women, especially in developing countries are differentially and disproportionately affected by climate change—by extreme and erratic weather events for example with impact on their access to and use of water, energy including renewable sources, food security and sustainable agriculture, livelihood, education, decent work opportunities and to a healthy life—all these well documented by the IPCC.

These challenges compound existing inequalities, discrimination as well as gendered roles and division of labour—which means their unpaid care burden is increased manifold. Women have to walk millions of miles and spend billions of hours fetching firewood for their cooking and carry water over longer and longer distances in many developing countries.

On the other hand they are on the front lines of combatting climate change and finding solutions—whether in mitigation, adaptation, resilience building or in more sustainable production and consumption patterns and waste disposal.

Hence if this climate agreement being negotiated right now in Le Bourget is to have any impact it must acknowledge this essentialism and resolve to provide the required ecosystem of law, policy, institutions and investment to involve women including young women in the design and execution of climate action and decision-making.

You parliamentarians have a critical role to play in ensuring that the historic and hopefully ambitious Climate Change Agreement that will be finalized here with France's leadership will indeed reflect that essentialism of gender equality and women’s empowerment, and make sure that climate action not only does not exacerbate gender inequality and discrimination but that it does enable women and girls to exercise their agency and enjoy their human rights while also ensuring more effective and durable development for all.

In this context I would also like to recognize the leadership of the French Government who organized on 16 October a conference entitled, “Climate Change: Women Take the Lead”. This meeting culminated in an important Declaration, “Women, key actors in the fight against climate change”, which highlighted gender equality as a key consideration in the Paris Accord during COP 21—as a positive contribution to fighting climate change. 

Building on this momentum, Morocco, the host for COP 22, with UN Women will organize COP 21’s Gender Day on 8 December entitled, “Women: Active and Engaged in the Fight against Climate Change”. We, as UN Women and UNEP, will be launching key flagship programmes on renewable energy and women’s economic empowerment on Gender Day, 8 December, and we welcome you all to attend.

This historic year has seen a seismic shift in both the gender equality and women’s empowerment agenda and the Sustainable Development Agenda. Beijing+20 review and commemoration resulted in an unprecedented recommitment to BPA full, effective and accelerated implementation and determination to achieve gender equality and women’s empowerment by 2030. 

The indispensability of Gender equality and women’s empowerment for the realization of sustainable development was recognized in the outcomes of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. It strongly committed to SDG 5 —to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, including through significantly increased investments to close the gender gap and provided for gender-sensitive targets in 11 other goals, including Goal 13. 

Goal 13 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on climate change includes target 13.b, which provides for the promotion of mechanisms for raising capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management … “including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalized communities.”

Since the Climate Change Agreement has an umbilical cord to Agenda 2030 it is inconceivable that the former does not prioritize and mainstream gender equality and women’s empowerment in all aspects, as the latter has done.

It's a continuum.

In the context of UNFCCC, Parties to the Framework Convention have adopted more than 50 gender-related mandates including the Decision which affirmed that “gender equality and the effective participation of women are important for effective action on all aspects of climate change.” Gender equality and climate change is now a standing agenda item in the annual COPs as mandated by the decision on ‘Promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiation’. In 2014, Parties adopted the Lima Work Programme on Gender, which contains a set of mandates for Parties to “promote gender sensitivity in developing and implementing climate policy and achieve gender-responsive climate policy in all relevant activities under the Convention.” 

These mandates, together with the outcomes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development provide strong and solid bases for seizing the opportunity at COP 21 for decisive action that promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women in the context of climate change. 

UN Women is working in 90 countries across various regions and has found that applying a gender lens to climate change reveals solutions to seemingly intractable problems. Notably, systematically addressing the persistent gender gaps in the response to climate change is one of the most effective mechanisms to build climate resilience.

Whether it is mobilizing and empowering 40 million strong women's organization, the Viet Nam Women's Union, to fight climate change through mitigation and adaptation action; or shifting to alternative agricultural practices to adapt to climate change induced water availability and weather patterns in Bangladesh and thereby enabling their economic empowerment; or getting rural women to become solar engineers to provide decentralized electricity in villages in countries in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America; or through a model adaptation to climate change in the Moroccan oasis of Tafilalet, which aims to enhance the medicinal and aromatic plants sector by engaging women with agricultural organizations to develop a sustainable agro-ecological model strengthening their economic empowerment and leadership skills in the context of adaptation to climate change.

A study of women’s participation in forest management in India found that their intervention brought a corresponding fall in illicit grazing and illicit felling, with significantly increased reforestation and regeneration of forest goods, enhancing forest carbon stocks. Women’s increased participation also resulted in greater involvement in decision-making processes, economic independence and improved household income levels—the co benefits of women's empowerment and climate change mitigation.

The climate agreement as well as the draft decision on Workstream 2, which currently is gender-blind, must reflect that gender equality, women’s empowerment and the full and equal participation of women are crucial and indispensable to transformational climate response and action.

Specifically, this means a climate agreement that would have: gender-specific references in the Preamble, Purpose, Adaption, Finance and Capacity-building, and Technology Development and Transfer. The reference to gender in the latter is currently absent.

We must also pay special attention to ensure that mechanisms of finance whether in the climate finance or in other processes such as ODA, are not just gender-sensitive but are actively supporting women and providing them with the necessary space to be empowered agents of change.

So we have to recognize the power of parity and we have to do it now because we can no longer afford to dismiss and waste the potential of women’s agency and their huge role in devising and leading responses to climate impacts. On the other hand the force multiplier and transformative potential of empowered women and girls should be harnessed to arrest and reverse climate change and adapt sustainably to its impact. 

As to the role of Parliaments and the Globe which brings together all of you on a common platform; you represent a very important part of the puzzle when it comes to the success and implementation of the new global sustainable development agenda and the climate change agreement.

Parliamentarians have unique responsibilities and constitutional mandates to translate international agreements into practical and concrete actions on the ground in your respective spaces and to deliver to your constituencies concrete action through passing legislation, making budget allocations and holding governments accountable and champion SDG 5.

You also not only have the responsibility to make sure that global norm-setting marries climate justice with gender justice but that you yourself set global standards of gender parity in panels and participation in decision-making fora. At the regional and national levels as lawmakers you have an immense responsibility to localize and implement these norms especially SDG 5 and other gender equality and women’s empowerment norms and their mainstreaming, to ensure gender-responsive sectoral policies and significantly increased gendered investments.

Please also support three UN Women campaigns—UNITE, HeForShe, and Planet 50/50 by 2030—and our Youth strategy's LEARs framework. 

Parliaments of the world need to unite to finish the most important human rights project but also sustainable development, peace and security and humanitarian action related project of humanity in this century.

And here I would like to recognize the important role that GLOBE plays in providing this platform, take advantage of it!

As we assemble here in this abode of democracy of France we must make sure that the aspiration of liberté, fraternité and égalité that echo from its hallowed walls apply as much to women and girls as to men and boys. We have a historic opportunity we must seize to ensure that economic growth is both clean and green and that it empowers and draws upon the talent and energy of women and girls as effective climate actors.