Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Women turn up gender-equity heat at climate talks

WOMENS-E-NEWS: Women's perspectives and experiences must be included in international negotiations over climate change if efforts to curb global warming are to succeed, participants said at a roundtable last week on the effects of climate change on women.

Sixty government, United Nations and civil society representatives attended the meeting on Sept. 21, which aimed to influence discussions during Monday's gathering on climate change at the U.N. headquarters as part of the annual meeting of the general assembly.

"Climate change will increase existing inequalities," said Irene Dankelman, vice-chair of the Women's Environment and Development Organization, in her opening remarks at the roundtable. "Not only are women adversely impacted by climate change, they also contribute differently from men to its causes and its solutions."

The group highlighted women's disproportionate vulnerability to the types of natural disasters that climate change is expected to cause as well as women's often overlooked capacity to join mitigation efforts.

In the Indonesian villages that were worst hit by the 2004 tsunami, up to 80 percent of the victims were female, according to Oxfam International, based in Oxford, England. And during the 2003 heat wave in Europe women accounted for 70 percent of the deaths in France, which totaled almost 15,000, according to official statistics from the French government.

"During emergencies women are less likely to have access to information about assistance than men," said Lorena Aguilar, a senior gender advisor for the World Conservation Union, based in Gland, Switzerland.

But neither the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012 and aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by that date through legally binding measures, nor the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change--the first international treaty to address global warming, which entered into force in 1994--mention women or gender.

In order to reduce the high levels of female mortality during natural disasters the roundtable organizers urged governments to analyze and identify the specific risks such events pose to women, as well as gender-specific protection measures. "Climate change policy-making has failed to adopt a gender-sensitive strategy," said Aguilar.

The U.N. meeting is meant to build momentum for the annual U.N. climate change conference, taking place this year in Bali, Indonesia, from Dec. 3 to 14. During that conference, governments are expected to begin negotiating for a new international climate change agreement that will replace the Kyoto agreement….

The policy recommendations also propose that governments tap women's specific knowledge and skills when developing mitigation and adaptation strategies. Some climate change experts, for example, have argued that women's experience with domesticating plant seeds and breeding food crops can help communities find new food sources and adapt to changes in climate. The group also wants carbon-curbing technologies made more accessible to women…

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