Press release: Raising ambition for climate action, women lead the way

Focus will be on women’s participation and partnerships that can catalyse climate justice.


New York — On the eve of the UN Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, more than 130 women leaders will gather in New York to demonstrate their commitment to ambitious and gender-sensitive climate action.

As world leaders gather in New York to focus on climate change, the particular needs and responses of women, in terms of climate policy, will be highlighted at an event hosted by UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and Mary Robinson, founder of the Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice, titled “Leaders’ Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action”.

Travelling from 54 nations, and urging concrete action, women leaders representing grass-roots and indigenous, young women and academics will sit down with former Heads of State and Government, policymakers, heads of civil society, international and private sector organizations to discuss robust climate action that is good for people and good for the planet.

President of Chile and founding Executive Director of UN Women Michelle Bachelet will deliver the keynote address at the event which will be attended by Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Nadine Heredia de Humala, First Lady of Peru; Graça Machel, member of The Elders; and seven former Heads of State or Government:

  • Julia Gillard, former Prime Minister of Australia
  • Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland
  • Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland  and member of The Elders
  • Joyce Banda, former President of Malawi
  • Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, member of The Elders
  • Helen Clark, former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Administrator of the UN Development Programme
  • Aminata Touré, former Prime Minister of Senegal

“Women and girls are on the front lines of climate change. Around the world, day-by-day, women and girls are finding climate change and sustainable development solutions. This event is a chance for their voices to be heard, and UN Women will carry their perspectives forward to the Climate Summit,” said UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka.
Echoing traditional learning circles, the participants will discuss ambition, participation and partnerships that can catalyse climate justice in a roundtable format.

Commenting on the diversity of the gathering, Ms. Robinson, said, “In climate change, we are facing the biggest challenge to human rights of the 21st century; this warrants an urgent transformation in leadership that is supported by all peoples in all nations. But we must ensure that when we design climate change policies they are fair and therefore consider the needs of the most vulnerable people. To do this, we have to engage those people who are most impacted by climate change; we must respect the right to participate in decision-making processes.”

Climate change impacts everyone, but the poor and the marginalized, many of them women and girls, are the most impacted. For instance, women are often constrained in their response to sudden onset of hazards such as floods, cyclones, mudslides when they are not authorized to leave the house without a male companion and are expected to care for children and the elderly and ensure their safety first before their own. Similarly, women farmers are disproportionately affected by climate change because of their limited access to natural resources and to information and services about climate resilient and adaptive agricultural strategies and technologies.

Women leaders, however, are stepping up to the challenge. From all walks of life they are leading the way to a carbon-neutral and sustainable future for all. They are showing leadership on climate change action through leading global grass-roots movements to find common solutions to the climate crisis, promoting green investments, developing energy-efficient technology, managing small-scale irrigation projects, engaging in recycling and efficient waste management systems, and boosting efforts to increase awareness and mobilize mass action.

The women leaders at the event will carry the voices and concerns of the diverse participants to the official UN Climate Summit taking place the next day.

Watch our series of video messages from women leaders who attended the "Raising Ambition for Climate Action" Leaders' Forum on 22 September:

For further information contact:
Celine Clarke, Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice,
Email: celine.clarke[at], mobile +1 917 251-1987

Oisika Chakrabarti, UN Women,
Email: oisika.chakrabarti[at],  +1 646 781-4522

UN Women:

Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice:


Event title: Leaders’ Forum on Women Leading the Way: Raising Ambition for Climate Action

Event date & time: 22 September 2014; 6-8.30 p.m.

Accreditation of Media Representatives: 5.15- 5.45 p.m.

Venue: Grand Hyatt Hotel, East 42 Street, New York (beside Grand Central Station)

Interviews with a few of the panellists can be facilitated, on request.

Panellists at the event

  • Helen Clark, Administrator, UNDP
  • Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, Climate Change Secretariat, UNFCCC
  • Rachel Kyte, Vice President and Special Envoy for Climate Change, World Bank Group
  • Noelene Nabulivou, Programme Advisor, Pacific Partnerships to Strengthen Gender, Climate Change Response and Sustainable Development, Fiji
  • Lindiwe Sibanda, CEO, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, Zimbabwe
  • Leena Srivastava, Vice Chancellor, The Energy and Resource Institute University , India
  • Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples , The Human Rights Council, The Philippines
  • Riddhima Yadav, The Global Education and Leadership Foundation (tGELF), CliMates, India





Registration opens – all guests arrive (Foyer of Manhattan Ballroom – lobby level)


Welcome Remarks by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, UN Women, and Mary Robinson, Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice


Keynote Speech on Transformative Leadership, Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile


Panel on Partnerships and Initiatives Towards Equitable and Sustainable Climate Action


Learning Circles


Reflections by Mary Robinson and Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka


Light refreshments  and informal networking


Event ends