29 Mar 2019

Empowering women and girls can help reduce climate change

Posted in: Sustainable Development Goals

Empowering women and girls can help reduce climate change

In the global effort to reduce carbon emissions and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees, we focus on the obvious: installing renewable energy facilities, increasing electric transport and reconsidering our diets.

These initiatives are important, but another critical factor is often overlooked. The link between gender equality and positive environmental outcomes is well established, as is the potentially transformative role that women play in environmental protection, action and activism.

Women empowerment and climate change

A 2018 study by Project Drawdown listed 80 practical measures we could take globally to start drastically reducing carbon emissions. In the top ten, amongst reducing refrigerants and onshore wind turbines, was educating girls (number 6) and family planning (number 7). Solving these distinct but connected inequalities would have immense impact on our environmental future; Project Drawdown found that universal education and access to contraception could potentially avoid 120 billion tons of emissions by 2050.

It’s a point made equally by the United Nations, who named Gender Equality as the fifth Sustainable Development Goal and “a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world”. The UN provided some hard stats: women currently make up 43% of the agricultural labour force in the developing world, and with the same access to resources as men, could increase farm yields by 20-30 percent, reduce global hunger by 12-17 percent – and avoid 2 billion of global carbon emissions by 2050.

Educated women are more likely to advocate for the environment in their households and at a national level, in part because they are most likely to be negatively impacted by climate change. Eighty percent of people displaced by climate change are women. In contrast, according to the UNFCC, when women do have a seat at the table there are “improved outcomes of climate related projects and policies… if policies or projects are implemented without women’s meaningful participation it can increase existing inequalities and decrease effectiveness”.

It’s not just an issue in the “developing” world; women are still underrepresented in the engineering, technical and scientific fields that will be crucial to finding innovative solutions to climate change. Studies have shown that Boards with a greater female representation can result in positive financial results, yet in 2018 women made up only 18% of senior leadership roles in New Zealand.

It’s another reason why the Sustainable Development Goals are so relevant to business. To tackle the challenge of climate change and maintain a robust low carbon economy we will need to marshal our most effective resources. The SDGs offer a blueprint for how businesses can impact not only on climate change but the myriad of issues that interconnect with them, for better environmental and economic outcomes for all.

To find out more about how organisations can apply the SDGs to their business through Enviro-Mark Solutions’ Sustainable Development programme, get in touch!