This article was exclusively written for the Sting by Mrs Linnéa Engström, Swedish Green MEP and Vice-chair of the Fisheries committee at the European Parliament.
Climate change is the single most present global injustice, facing our and future generations, and one of the greatest human rights challenges of our time. In the last six years, two percent of the world population has been displaced by climate related disasters alone. By 2050, 200 million people are expected to be displaced by climate change, according to figures from the UN. This will create a tremendous pressure on less affected countries. Business as usual is simply not an option. Climate change is not just a scientific or environmental issue, it is also about human rights, gender equality and development.
Developed countries have grown wealthy due to the exploitation of fossile fuels and natural resources worldwide. Therefore we in the western world have a responsibility to help developing countries to adapt to climate change and to make the transition towards zero carbon development models. To date, this responsibility has not been met, which has eroded trust and quashed ambition in the negotiations.
Climate change is not gender neutral. Women are disproportionally and more severely affected by climate change. Today women make up 20 of the 26 million estimated refugees displaced by climate change. Women, thus comprise 80 percent of the world’s climate refugees. Yet, less than one percent of climate funding is allocated specifically towards the need of women in the most affected countries. Empower women and we can change the world, that is the message from diverse actors such as UN special climate envoyé Mary Robinson and the World Bank.
Raising awareness on climate justice, the need for gender mainstreaming and the consequences of climate change, such as the challenge caused by 200 million climate-refugees by 2050, is a prerequisite to tackle the challenges we are facing. This stems from the fact that the balance between adaptation and mitigation is unjust, those who need the most, get the least. Climate funding has become ”big business” and the most affected, and the most vulnerable, are not part of the deal.
A human rights based approach is needed to ensure that climate mitigation and adaptation policies do not endanger the full enjoyment of human rights. Against the opposition of a group of countries led by Saudi-Arabia, and despite the shameful quietness of the EU on this topic, clear language on a human rights based approach has been included in the draft 2015 climate agreement, thanks to the so-called ”Geneva Pledge”. We now need to ensure this language is kept in the final deal. A fair deal, is a deal that ensures human rights for all, gender equality and the right to development.
Women need to be represented at all levels in the UN climate regime and in the Green Climate Fund. At present, women are largely under-represented in decision-making processes regarding climate change, greenhouse gas-emissions and the resource allocation for adaptation/mitigation. A fair resource allocation between mitigation and adaptation must be ensured. Women are affected differently and more severely by climate change and its impact on agriculture, natural disasters and migration, due to social roles, discrimination and poverty.
No country alone can protect their citizens from the impacts of dangerous climate change. All countries and citizens must act together motivated by enlightened self-interest and human solidarity for a better future for all. It is in our collective self-interest to support this transition and this new model of development, without it we will exceed the carbon budget and be forced to accept the consequences of a 4°C world. And that world will be far more unfair and unjust than the one we live in now.
A fair transition is one where no one is left behind, neither the workers dependent on the fossil-fuel industry, nor the people who are poor, and live in situations where they are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. A fair transition looks at means and opportunities for industrial transformation and new quality jobs in the green economy, as well as greater equality.
The actions we need to take to achieve sustainable development are the same actions we need to take to adapt to climate change, and implement an economy based on 100 percent renewable energy sources. We need a green, bio-based circular economy, which is defined by a value-based rationality, human rights and gender equality.
The New Climate Economy Report produced by the Calderon Commission of which Nicholas Stern is a member, finds that over the next 15 years, about US $90 trillion will be invested in infrastructure in the world’s cities, agriculture and energy. This gives the world an unprecedented opportunity to drive investment in growth with low CO2-emissions, bringing multiple benefits to jobs, health, business productivity and quality of life. The report finds that climate action and high quality growth are not just compatible, but that climate action is necessary for short and long term prosperity. Above all, the commission stresses that countries of all levels of income can seize these opportunities, particularly if the 2015 processes send clear signals that we are leaving the ”business as usual“ approach behind.
About the author
Green MEP from Sweden. First vice chair of the fisheries committee, substitute member in committees ENVI and FEMM. Political scientist with a great interest in Russia, development, gender and security policy. Before becoming a member of the European parliament, mrs Engström worked as a gender coordinator and with development support directed towards Russia, Belarus, Georgia and Eastern Europe. Her great interest and knowledge in development issues brought her close to African green partners mainly in Western Africa. Mrs Engström is now working on an initiative report on the EU external dimension of the Common fisheries reform, addressing issues of great importance to the long-term sustainability and fairness of EU-fisheries agreements, joint ventures and charter agreements with third countries. Mrs Engström is also the gender coordinator in the committee ENVI, where her main focus is the issues on climate justice and gender mainstreaming of environmental and health legislation.