This year, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), the United Nations’ largest gathering on gender equality, takes up environment and climate change as its priority theme for the first time ever. 

From March 14-22, representatives of UN member states will discuss climate change and its intersection with gender equality. Feminists and rights advocates are now engaging CSW as an opportunity to push policy standards that fell through during the UN Climate Change Conference, also known as the Conference of Parties (COP), held at Glasgow on November of last year.

Some of the feminists’ key demands include

  • Ensuring gender-just climate finance and financing for loss and damage—the immediate and unequal climate impacts that cannot be adapted to and suffered most by global south countries.
  • Advancing a just and equitable transition of global and national economies to decarbonised economies through large scale investments in public services, care and decent work.
  • A rights-based framework which includes the right to care and to a safe and healthy environment. 

“The Global South countries have—for long—been demanding Global North countries to pay their fair share of climate finance in line with their historical and continued responsibility for the ongoing climate catastrophe,” said Wanun Permpibul, Executive Director of Climate Watch Thailand.

Giving weight to the feminists’ long-held demands is the recently-released report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It specifically deals with impacts, adaptation and vulnerability to climate change.

The IPCC report emphasizes how people and ecosystems least able to cope are being hardest hit and highlights a narrowing window of action for policy-makers. 

“The reality of loss and damage as reported by the IPCC is not new. Women in our communities have always had clear evidence of this, and it is now backed by science. Governments need to address loss and damage and provide communities with dedicated and direct access to the funding as it is a matter of life and death for those on the frontlines of the war against the climate crisis,” Permpibul added.

The IPCC report also explicitly calls out gendered impacts of climate change. For the first time in an IPCC report, it includes a section on health implications of climate change on pregnant people.

“It’s a relief to see pregnancy health getting much-needed attention in the report. The climate crisis, unaddressed, will worsen already rising rates of preterm birth, and increase the unjust inequities between and within countries in who gets to have a healthy pregnancy and newborn,” said Skye Wheeler, Senior Researcher in the Women’s Rights Division of the Human Rights Watch.

Against the backdrop of this recently released report, feminists are adamant and eager for CSW to turn things around for gender and climate, particularly in light of the failures of the recent COP at Glasgow.

“CSW66 must mark a turning point in this, demonstrating a collective commitment to urgent, deep shifts, as the window for change is fast-closing for us, other species and the living planet,” said Noelene Nabulivou, a feminist leader from Pacific-based organization, DIVA for Equality. “We know the situation, the solutions, the need to urgently move toward safe, just, ecologically sound feminist futures. What is missing is the political will.”

Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls from Shifting the Power Coalition in Fiji, Pacific echoes a similar sentiment.While Pacific Island women bear the brunt of the climate crisis, we are determined not to be seen simply for our vulnerability, but as women with solutions”.

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