Climate Talks, Mexico: Women Key to Combating Global Warming

UN Women was one of a number of UN agencies and civil society representatives advocating for gender mainstreaming during talks at the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancún, Mexico (COP16), where Governments convened to negotiate how the international community should combat global warming after the Kyoto Protocol meets its end date in 2012. They succeeded in adopting a package of decisions, also known as the Cancun Agreements, on 11 December to combat climate change, which included gender and social dimensions.

The move to include gender dimensions in the Agreements has implications for women worldwide, and lays a critical foundation for the next round of climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, from 28 November to 11 December 2011. It is also a significant shift from the Kyoto Protocol and earlier drafts of the Long-Term Cooperative Action (LCA) — a legal reference still under negotiation for how the international community should address global warming before the Protocol expires — which lacked gender references.

“We owe it to our daughters and granddaughters,” said Patricia Espinoza, the President of COP16, o­n directly including women in the fight to reduce global warming.

Women in many parts of the world continue to face barriers — ranging from food security to lack of access to land and decision-making processes — that place them at higher risk and simultaneously hinder their potential contributions to mitigate or adapt to impacts of climate change. For instance, shortages of firewood and biomass due to floods or drought, expected to increase with higher temperatures, add to women’s workload where they are responsible for their collection.

Currently, 2.4 billion people rely o­n biomass for cooking and heating, negatively impacting health and simultaneously exacerbating global warming.

A comprehensive multilateral agreement that includes gender mainstreaming is essential to protecting and empowering women.

The Cancun Agreements include eight references to gender equality issues. They focus o­n issues that affect people’s daily lives, including adaptation, climate finance, technology transfer, capacity-building and policy approaches. Some key aspects of the decisions include initiatives and institutional arrangements to deliver finance and facilitate technology transfer to countries in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The Agreements also map out actions and decisions needed to reach the next landmark decision.

UN Women has been Official Observer to the United Nations Framework Convention o­n Climate Change (UNFCCC) since 2008. It provides technical support to Parties and works closely with UN agencies, civil society, the Global Gender Climate Alliance (GGCA) and the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)to advocate and raise awareness o­n gender equality and the social dimensions of climate change.

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