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How does Combatting Climate Change Benefit Women and Girls?


Mitigating the effects of climate changeis a key pillar of sustainable development. However, often the effects that climate change has on women and girls is not fully recognised. In this SoroptiVoice Blog, SI UN Representative to the UN's Environment Agency, Alice Odingo,discusses why climate change is such an important issue for women and girls and what can be done to empower them in combatting climate change. 

Climate change, Resources and the Sustainable Development Goals

"The impact of climate change on women and girls is often underestimated. Women are farmers, responsible for collecting water and firewood and feed their households. Livelihoods and ecosystems are endangered because of rising fossil fuel consumption driven by an increasing global population. Climate change can cause people to become internally displaced and environmental refugees (in the form of forced migration), and increases the possibility of rural to urban migration. Additionally, climate change can drive conflicts about natural resources, seen by the scramble for water and pasture in arid and semi-arid areas, as seen in Mali.    Degradation of biodiversity resources would reduce oxygen replenishment and reliable rainfall essential for life on earth. 

Click on the image above to find out more about the Sustainable Development Goals.


Even though the Millennium Development Goal 7 promised to halve the number of people without sustainable access to water and sanitation by 2015, it is still unlikely to be achieved as by 2025, 32 percent of Africans will be living in water stressed countries. Under achievement of the MDGs on environment and the challenges of climate change motivated the creation of an ambitious new global development agenda, the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, despite the ambitions of the SDGs, if we continue under ‘business-as-usual’ conditions, it will be impossible to achieve these new development goals.  

SDG 13 is ‘Take urgent action to combat climate change’, however climate change is relevant to many of the other goals.

Poverty is a major contributing factor to environmental degradation (as the poor depend directly on natural environmental resources for survival-trees, grass, medicinal plants, and soil, among others, which get overused) thus affecting a majority of women and girls, whose livelihoods are characterized by high levels of poverty.  In terms of health, climate change will increase the incidence of many diseases; flooding and drought affect the spread of water-borne diseases and temperature changes can cause diseases to spread to new areas.

Creating sustainable cities is essential in promoting climate change adaptation as they receive many young people from the rural areas who are also at the centre of innovation in these areas.  SDG 12, ‘ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’ is vital not only in meeting the SDG on climate change by reducing emissions, but also in reducing other wastes that choke the planet.  Without gender equality (SDG 5), it means that at least 50 percent of the population (women), will be left out of efforts to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change and influence climate change policy. The SDGs must be addressed concurrently to achieve the required climate change targets by 2050. 


Image: SI Madurai, Indai, march to raise awareness on climate change

Emerging Climate Risks

Emerging climate risks include:

  • Unpredictable and unreliable rainfall amounts, and increasing temperatures, leading to low food productivity, water scarcity, and insufficient energy for all. 
  • Changes in biodiversity due to deforestation affects the stability of ecosystems and thus making it harder to manage the local, national and regional environmental standards.   
  • The livestock production responsible for maintaining incomes and food security in many households, particularly, among developing countries in Africa, is under threat from climate change. 

The world cannot afford to ignore these risks, but should collaboratively design a practical strategy, mobilize resources and act now to minimize possible effects on life, livelihoods and the health of the planet. The SDGs could provide the mechanism to do this.

UNEP’s Response in 2030 Agenda

UNEPs response to climate change under the Inclusive Green Growth strategy aims at maximizing the benefits to human wellbeing that are delivered from a healthy environment, and to reduce global warming by 0.60C by 2050.  There are also efforts to accelerate development and ensure that technologies that can help people adapt to climate change and mitigate its effects are shared with developing communities. Other issues being worked on include deforestation and desertification.

As part of UNEP’s suggested responses SI can implement projects on climate change adaptation and mitigation within its constituency as steps to reach the target for emissions by 2050.  SI can also enhance technology transfer by offering training to member clubs (for example in assembling and maintaining solar lamps and other environment friendly technologies for climate adaptation), including study tours and relevant education through strategic grants or scholarships within its capability.  Reforestation and afforestation of degraded areas are important as efforts to decrease the amount of CO2.  It is also important to prioritize projects on renewable and clean energy, sustainable agriculture and related technologies as well as water and sanitation security which directly benefit the poor, yet make enormous contribution in addressing the climate change challenge."

By Soroptimist International UN Representative in Nairobi, Alice Oluoko-Odingo


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