Gender Day – Female Representation in Climate is the Need of the Hour

In the negotiations at last year’s COP in Glasgow, the previous president of Ireland, Mary Robinson, described male participation in the global climate negotiations aptly. She stated the male dominance as being too “…pale and stale'”. In this year’s COP27, five hundred global leaders have echoed the call for a half and half split of women and men in the leadership teams of the summit.

Gender and COP

The word “gender” first made its presence felt at the close of the seventh COP. This was as far back as 2001, and like all gender-related issues, balance in gender participation has been delayed. Nonetheless, it’s not denied, and gender equality, though elusive, is coming into force. Gender representation in climate issues have been a bone of contention with regulators at all levels of decision-making, be it at UN conferences, or other international forums. At COP26, last year, in spite of an urgent call for representation, women were, as usual, excluded from key areas of the conference. While COP strives to think of ways to reduce the risks posed by climate change, there should be awareness that female contribution can pay dividends when working to mitigate risks.

Laying the Foundation

Gender representation in climate is the need of the hour in all areas of environmental sustainability and climate representation is no different. The groundwork is being laid for a younger “coming-of-age” generation to take a firm stand. This generation is forceful in its approach and will not be overshadowed. Climate activists and environmental lawyers like Farhana Yamin, for instance, had started laying the basis for gender representation much earlier. This was in 1991, and done with the hope that, at least by now, some significant changes for the better would have taken place. It was Yamin who made the gender issue significant at COP, demonstrating how proficient women could take on roles that had been replaced (in a majority)by males. It was Yamin that spurred on an agreement to encourage women’s participation at all decision-making levels associated with climate change.

What the Statistics Say

In 2022, women played a role in 39 percent of places in climate bodies of the UN. In 2021, this percentage was at 34%. In spite of these figures showing promise, though considered paltry by most female entities, the number of female representation in leadership roles in national delegations saw a 1% drop in 2022. This indicates a reversal of a positive trend that existed in 2018. It is important to note that at COP26, 37% of national delegations were women. Nonetheless, the numbers may have been present, but they were largely unheard. Speaking time was grossly restricted with women taking part in just 23.7% of speaking time. True gender representation in climate still seemed a distant dream.

Realising a Gender Dream

In 2020, the “She Changes Climate” initiative was created when Bianca Pitt, a British corporate finance professional, fully came to grips with the risks of climate change. The members of this group found their calling when they realised that, in the UK COP26 team, there was not a single woman leader. The result? The group has called for equal representation in leadership roles at COP27. Consequently, the “dream” of equal participation would entail a man and a woman acting as co-presidents of any and every summit connected to climate change. To this date, it is important to note that there have just been only five female COP presidents.

Change from without, change from within

As much as the risk of climate change affects men, women and children equally, there needs to be equal adult representation in relevant fields of environmental sustainability. With this in mind, a diverse array of voices are beating the drums outside primary negotiations – women activists and indigenous females – calling for action to include women in important climate-centric decisions.

The aim is to draw public attention and compel much-needed change. If you are interested in discussing aspects related to sustainability and associated solutions, the Seamless team can help. The team of experts can explore opportunities with you in Southeast Asia and beyond as sustainability banks on sustainable human intervention.