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What a Climate Deal (or Lack Thereof) Means for Women

December 19, 2009

Cop15: UN Climate Change Conference 2009Today global leaders reached a tentative deal on climate change at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen (Cop15), after two weeks of negotiations and much anticipation around the world.

According to Grist, President Obama warned that the agreement, which was limited and not legally binding, was “not enough” to curb global warming:

The deal came at the end of a day in which several drafts agreements were knocked back… Obama, whose presence was intended to provide the momentum to propel the deal over the finishing line, had earlier pleaded for unity while acknowledging any agreement would be less than perfect. The haggling capped two years of deadlock over crafting a new UN treaty from 2013 that would reduce global warming from mortal threat to manageable peril.

Scientists say failure to curb the rise in Earth’s temperature will lead to worsening drought, floods, storms and rising sea levels. The commitment to limit the rise in Earth’s temperature to no more than 2.0 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) falls way short of the demands of threatened island nations who, with their very existence threatened by rising seas, have called for a cap of 1.5 C (2.7 Fahrenheit).

‘Whatever the outcome, it looks bad for us,’ said a member of the Maldives delegation, an archipelago which fears being swallowed up by the Indian Ocean in a matter of decades.

But one major question that our leaders neglected to ask: How does this affect women? Studies show that women are 14 times more likely to die in natural disasters, as Riane Eisler writes for American Forum:

One heart-rending study of a Bangladesh flash flood found that 90 percent of casualties were female. Many factors contributed to this high casualty rate, all were avoidable. A woman’s role in this Southeast Asian nation, as in most of the Middle East and parts of Africa, is one of dependency—so of course, these Bangladeshi women were not taught to swim. But perhaps the most important factor was that they lived and died in a culture where women are so rigidly controlled that they aren’t permitted to leave their homes without being accompanied by a male family member. When the flash flood occurred, they sadly stayed and drowned.

Indian physicist, author, and activist Vandana Shiva, Director of Navdanya, a women-centered movement for the protection of biological and cultural diversity, spoke earlier this week at the Cop15 summit and demanded for action on climate change (video below, via kombatruck).

Unfortunately, Dr. Shiva must be disappointed with the results of the Cop15 summit. We need a legally binding treaty on climate change that is inclusive of all people. Mantoe Phakathi of Inter Press Service writes that the deal needs to account for gender rather than simply classifying women as “vulnerable groups,” a term used in climate change policies in many countries, including South Africa and Kenya.

“Gotelind Alber, a researcher for the U.N.’s agency for housing, UN-HABITAT, said women in city slums are more vulnerable after natural disasters—women are often last to hear warnings of coming disasters, unable to move quickly while safeguarding children in their care, and in the breakdown of order that typically follows, exposed to violence.”

Our leaders’ actions in Copenhagen today are a good step, but it’s not enough. Especially not for women.

For more coverage on the U.N. Climate Change Conference (Cop15), check out The Media Consortium’s environmental blog, The Mulch.

2 Comments
  1. David permalink
    May 12, 2010 5:34 am

    this deal is a goat rope, it’s based on lies to begin with, so it should not even be discussed. you should read, watch and listen to “the freeman perspective” to get to terms with reality, governments are just a tool to control the masses and are not based on facts whatsoever.

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