The climate crisis is the biggest global challenge of a generation. Probably multiple generations. You don’t need another blog to tell you that our planet and the people on it are facing an emergency like no other. But the problem with hyperbolic language like that is it fails to acknowledge the nuances in how different parts of the population feel the effects of this global crisis.
Across the world, women – and in particular women of colour – are facing the worst impacts of the climate emergency. The Paris Agreement’s 2050 deadline for a climate-neutral world creeps closer, but many argue that this milestone isn’t urgent enough to protect the lives it needs to.
Despite the global north being climate change’s biggest contributor, many of its affects aren’t yet felt keenly here. In much of the global south, however it’s a different story, with communities facing life and livelihood-threatening issues on a much more regular basis. The disparity is set to worsen. We might struggle to see the tangible links now, but it won’t be long before we do – and that means we should be paying attention now. With 80 percent of the people displaced by climate change female, and a review by the Global Gender Alliance finding that women are more likely to suffer food insecurity as a result of the crisis, the problem will worsen if we don’t take notice and action.
Freak storms, flooding and forest fires are often the most obvious manifestations of the climate emergency. We see them on our screens, we lament their growing frequency, and all too often they seem distant and hard to actualise in our lives. But these kinds of events are becoming more common, and their effects more widely felt. Women are more likely to suffer mental illness and partner violence in their wake. Females often end up taking on multiple jobs to cope – and all with the added roles of domestic work and childcare that we know fall disproportionately to women all over the world. And all of this? It’s a familiar story. It leads to fewer women being educated, fewer girls able to live the life they want, and will ultimately widen the global gender imbalance for years to come.
In the UK, the coronavirus pandemic has deepened the inequality already rife across the country. With 113,000 more women than men furloughed and women twice as likely to have lost their jobs in the first wave, the foundations of entrenched gender imbalance are already firmly laid. And while women in the UK might not yet feel the economic and social effects of the climate crisis, the experts tell us it won’t be long. Just as Covid-19 made things harder for women than men, a rise in climate related issues and incidents rise in frequency will see gender inequalities exacerbated.
WE believe women are at the heart of avoiding a climate catastrophe. Two thirds of the world’s poorest adults are female, and multilateral solutions are needed to set and meet emissions targets that work. We need to get this on the curriculum, teach it in schools, drive stronger partnerships and hold each other accountable. We must forge understanding to make this intricate web of inequalities clearer, and we must make sure that conversations about climate change go hand in hand with discussions of race, class and gender.
Leeds City Council has pledged to make our city carbon neutral by 2030, and Louise Jennings, our candidate in Alwoodley, will hold them to this. She will fight for safe, inclusive public transport and give a voice to the communities disproportionately impacted by the dual effects of Covid-19 and the global climate emergency.
#VoteLouise in the local elections on May 6th!