International Women’s Day is always something to celebrate and I was really pleased to be asked by Size of Wales to share my thoughts on Women and Climate Change.
We already know that climate change has a greater impact on those who are most vulnerable and exacerbates existing inequalities. Women are usually at the forefront of these impacts and can be affected more severely by climate change and natural disasters with its impacts on land and agriculture, social standing, discrimination and poverty because of their role and responsibilities within communities. This is something that continues to shock me as Minister for Environment, Energy Rural Affairs and so it’s important we continue to raise the issue.
Whilst women may be more exposed to the effects of climate change, they are also a big part of the solution. It’s exciting to see more women coming together in Governments, Businesses, academia and communities who are pushing boundaries and providing real action in their communities, cities and countries.
Through our Wales for Africa work, women in their communities in Mbale are working to rear and plant fruit trees for action on climate change. These trees are not only storing carbon but are providing vital food, shade, reducing the impacts of flooding and helping to providing a much needed income to help to alleviate poverty.
In my current role as a Steering Group member for the Under2 Coalition, which is driven by a group of ambitious state and regional Governments committed to keeping global temperature rises to well below 2°C, I am proud to work with other leading women from all over the world who are all driving action in their own regions in their own way. Most recently, I met the Canadian Minister for Environment as Part of the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The Alliance is a coalition of national and sub-national governments, businesses and organisations working to advance the transition from unabated coal power generation to clean energy. These collective declarations show the power of collaboration.
Wales is one of only a few counties to have enshrined the UN Sustainable Development Goals in legislation and have already set out our own Well-being Goals. The UN’s goals importantly recognise the role of women and girls, everywhere and having equal rights and opportunity. This is something we are also passionate about here in Wales.
At the international level, Christiana Figueres has been a key advocate in driving forward action on climate change and has dedicated herself to rebuilding the global climate change negotiating process based on the values of fairness, transparency and collaboration. Christiana was instrumental in securing the Paris Agreement in 2015. She was a powerful influence and part of a great team of women at the Paris conference and continues to be a voice of reason.
It’s clear from just a few examples here that women are, and should be, part of the catalysts of change when looking at solving the climate change impacts we are all facing. Women bring a wide range of knowledge and skills to effectively contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation, but women are still under-represented in discussions and decision-making processes at all levels. This can’t continue and we must look for ways to keep empowering women and provide opportunities to lead and be heard around this agenda.
There are no more excuses, it’s time we work together now to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius. In Wales, we have set legislation to help drive action and reduce our emissions. The Environment (Wales) Act 2016 sets a legal target of reducing carbon emissions by a minimum of 80% by 2050 and recently I set a series of interim targets (for 2020, 2030 and 2040) and carbon budgets. This month we will be launching our first action plan on 21st March outlining clear practical steps we will be taking to reduce our emissions.
However no one person or one Government can do this alone and no matter of gender or age, everyone can be a part of the solution.