“Climate change is not gender-neutral” —legal expert and negotiator

Date: Friday, November 20, 2015

Andrea A. Jacobs
Photo courtesy of Andrea A. Jacobs

Andrea A. Jacobs is an Attorney-at-law specializing in environment, urban planning and development, and energy law. She is Chair of the Development Control Authority Tribunal in Antigua and Barbuda. She is also a Climate Change Negotiator for the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) and a women’s empowerment lecturer. She speaks to UN Women about the challenges she has faced in her advocacy and her hopes for the upcoming climate agreement, to be forged in Paris at the 21st Conference of the Parties.

Why should we look at climate change from a gender perspective?

We should look at climate change from a gender perspective because climate change is not gender-neutral. There are social and cultural differences between men and women, both of whom are affected differently by the negative impacts of climate change. Women in developing countries in particular are vulnerable to these changes and as such there is a need to differentiate and examine the roles in depth. For example, a single mother may not be able to adapt to the needs of a natural disaster as quickly as a male counterpart, so from a gender perspective this can create a social imbalance, wreak havoc on a woman’s earning capacity and affect the way she takes care of her family.

What challenges have you faced in your advocacy around women’s role in confronting climate change?

The challenges that I have faced in advocating around women’s role in confronting climate change are many. Women have long become head of the household and in the decision-making matrix, climate change is never at the top of priorities. It is only when a natural disaster occurs that the impacts of that disaster are taken seriously. So for example, if a woman has to move her household from a low-lying area because of flooding, this becomes an issue because no plans were in place for relocation. Secondly, women still lack knowledge about the negative impacts of climate change and how it affects the socioeconomics within the communities. There is a need for more public awareness, which I will be championing.

What gender-related outcomes to you hope to see in the universal agreement to be reached in Paris?

It is established that climate change presents a clear and present threat to the lives of many persons and communities around the world. It is evident with the erratic weather behaviour which threatens livestock and food supply that trickles down, with far-reaching stretched tentacles, and does not discriminate. We also understand from the many stories that we have heard, and which some of us have witnessed, that gender and climate change are related. Therefore, based on the above, the Paris Agreement should reflect and consider gender equality and human rights, to protect these vulnerable groups.