Evidence is growing that it is women who are bearing the biggest brunt of climate change.
As politicians and policymakers agree to cut back on fossil fuels for the first time at the COP28 global climate summit, data from the UN reveals around 80% of people displaced by climate change are women.
Across the globe, women are the primary homemakers and caregivers – responsible for keeping families fed and warm. Women are also more likely than men to face financial insecurity. They have been referred to throughout the current cost-of-living crisis as the ‘shock-absorbers of poverty’.
Given the disruptive and potentially catastrophic effect of climate change on food supply chains, and the repercussions on societal dynamics, it’s difficult to argue that climate change does not directly and disproportionately impact women.
Here, we take a closer look at some of the main reasons women will feel the impact of climate change more than men.
On average, women are more likely to assume the role of feeding and nourishing entire families. They rely on having access to a sustainable food supply. But the worsening impact of climate change is jeopardising this.
A 2021 parliamentary report identified several risks to long-term food security, even here in the UK, and concluded climate change and biodiversity loss presented significant threats to UK domestic food production.
The report noted that the knock-on effect of climate change is already being felt. In 2020, UK wheat yields dropped by 40% as a result of heavy rainfall and droughts. The report warned that more frequent weather extremes would cause damage to crops, livestock and fisheries both in the UK and around the world.
Violence against women and girls
We cannot ignore the socioeconomic impact of climate change on communities. When women are displaced, whether through war, famine, or drought, they are made more vulnerable to violence.
In an article published in June by the United Nations, independent consultant on human rights and climate change, Astrid Puentes Riaño, cited ‘migration and forced displacement among the most serious impacts of the climate crisis that are already impacting millions of people around the world’.
The article also highlights the dangers facing women defending the environment and suggests that those brave women are ‘putting their lives at risk’.
In June, the UK delivered a statement following an annual discussion on women’s rights, acknowledging the adverse effect of climate change on their personal safety and security.
It read: “The UK recognises that climate change can… have a particularly devastating impact on women and girls, who are more likely to die or be displaced, or suffer from intimate partner violence during climate change-induced crises and disasters.”
COP27 shows women are largely absent from decision or policy making
Last year, on the first day of COP27, a viral photograph of assembled world leaders and decision makers shone a stark light on the absence of female faces. It’s more obvious than ever that women do not have a seat at the table when to tackle climate change.
Given the overwhelming evidence to demonstrate that women bear the brunt of the burden of climate change, it is absurd that they still do not have equal participation in climate-related planning and policy making.
Women’s lived experiences and meaningful participation is critical to developing strategies to respond to climate change on a human level. They offer the opportunity to deliver sustainable solutions directly into the communities that stand to be among the hardest hit.
A recent report from Arup and The University of Liverpool highlighted that greater participation of women in urban planning could be key to creating more sustainable cities and lead to a better urban experience for everyone.
The report states: “Women are known to plan and design with diversity in mind. They are more likely to create places that serve the needs of all people and of the planet.”
Who are The Women’s Organisation?
We are a women’s charity based in Liverpool, England who campaign for women’s health, development, and equality.
For more information visit www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk or call our friendly team today on 0151 706 0113