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women on the front line

Women on the front line of climate change

need to be at the forefront of the climate response

Published on 9 November 2021

Written by Nadia Saracini

In spite of the fact that Christian Aid has been an enormous support for all women’s groups….I think it can do more to tell rich countries that they could provide support to communities….because it is these communities that from the inside could generate the changes we need.

- Yadira Lemus, Climate activist, coffee producer and member of women-led sustainable energy enterprise, IXIK Organic.

These wise words were spoken by Yadira Lemus, climate activist, coffee producer and member of women-led sustainable energy enterprise, IXIK Organic, about support Christian Aid has provided to women’s organisations and enterprises in Lepaera Municipality, Honduras.

The 26th Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow is critical. We need it to seal the deal to keep global warming within the 1.5 degree Celsius threshold and ensure adequate follow-up so that commitments and plans are actioned, to prevent even more catastrophic climate change impacts.

But even as the world’s negotiators are locked in talks and governments are setting (often far too distant) targets, many people are already facing losses and damage to their health, homes, lives and livelihoods.

The international community, in solidarity with governments of climate vulnerable countries around the world, has a duty to act now to secure their rights. This is an imperative that has received very little attention. Progress towards the ‘loss and damage’ strand of the Paris Agreement, which requires a new financing stream, continues to be painfully slow and side-lined in the international negotiations, while the majority of climate finance for mitigation and adaptation is still directed to large-scale infrastructure and energy projects, with as little as ten percent flowing to local level action where it could make the greatest difference to people living in poverty[i]. 

Much more financing needs to be directed to adaptation to help prevent further loss and damage, but funding is not keeping pace with rapidly increasing needs [ii]. The most climate vulnerable countries are calling for accelerated action on adaptation as well as loss and damage, and for at least 70 percent of total climate finance to support local-level action to secure a climate resilient future.[iii]

Christian Aid’s experience of building resilience to climate change has taught us that the challenge is often more political rather than technical.

Countries which have contributed least to climate change are facing some of the worst impacts already – and it is those with less money and power who are most vulnerable. Our partnerships with organisations that work within and alongside marginalised communities and are regularly among the first responders in the event of emergencies has also shown us the multiple ways climate hazards (both extreme weather events and the ‘slow onset’ kind) are more disastrous for people who have already been made vulnerable by various forms of deprivation and powerlessness that multiply the impacts on their lives and restrict their voice and agency.

Gender and other forms of discrimination are often among the most important factors in exacerbating the risks posed by climate change. These entrench  poverty, and lack of access to resources and marginalise people from decision making which, ultimately, often means benefits of new investment, for example in renewable energy, fails to meet their needs.

Marlen Lourdes Salguero Hernández

Marlen Lourdes Salguero Hernández, who leads the women and energy project in Belen, Honduras. - Figure 1:

Despite the many barriers they face, women in the front line of climate change can also be at the forefront of the most effective response.

They often know best what’s needed to adapt to changing conditions, ensure the most vulnerable in their communities are cared for and safe, and address loss and damage in their specific contexts, yet they are rarely consulted about their needs or how climate finance should be spent, are least able to influence government actions and international negotiations, and their own efforts often go unrecognised and unsupported.

Christian Aid’s new report, Women on the Front Line: Healing the Earth, seeking justice documents learning from our work among communities in Kenya, Honduras, Bangladesh, the Brazilian Amazon and the Philippines. Countries that have in common a history of colonial occupation which has, in various ways, made people more vulnerable to climate change. It tells the stories of women in some of the most marginalised communities who are taking collective action and building their power together to innovate, access knowledge and resources and influence positive changes even in the face of some of the most devastating impacts.   

Women on the Front Line: Healing the Earth, Seeking Justice

Our new report documents learning from our work among communities in Kenya, Honduras, Bangladesh, the Brazilian Amazon and the Philippines.

We think a feminist and decolonial response to climate change is needed – one that shifts power and resources to women and to the Global South and changes the systems and structures that keep people (and countries) poor and vulnerable to climate change impacts.

Many changes are needed. A good start would be for this COP to ensure rich countries and especially historic emitters who bear the greatest responsibility keep (and step-up) their climate finance commitments, progress action on loss and damage and, crucially, ensure resources are channelled in ways that benefit women and people living in poverty directly. Including by supporting locally-led solutions for adaptation, a gender-just transition to renewable energy, and measures to reduce risks, such as ecosystem restoration and social protection. 

What we have learned from the women’s groups we work among support the calls of many feminist climate change activists around the world[i]. We need gender transformative approaches, and significantly increased investment in the leadership of grassroots and indigenous women and their climate solutions. 

 

[i] https://pubs.iied.org/sites/default/files/pdfs/migrate/10178IIED.pdf

[ii] https://www.climatepolicyinitiative.org/publication/global-landscape-of-climate-finance-2021/

[iii] https://www.iied.org/ldc-2050-vision-for-climate-resilient-future#:~:text=The%20LDC%202050%20Vision%2C%20launched,their%20societies%20and%20ecosystems%20thrive

[i][i] See for example https://gaggaalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/GAGGA-COP26-Call-to-Action_FINAL-1.pdf?blm_aid=400111617

Read our new report

report launch event

Women on the Front Line

Read our new report which recognises that women are disproportionately affected by climate change.
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