Women’s engagement in the transition towards renewable energy is crucial to combating the climate crisis and promoting economic development, panelists said at a March 22 virtual event.
During the event, titled “Advancing an Inclusive Transition to Renewable Energy,” climate experts discussed the importance of involving women, thereby advancing gender equality while combating climate change. The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Permanent Mission of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the United Nations hosted the event, which consisted of a panel moderated by Ambassador Melanne Verveer, executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS).
Women have fewer opportunities to join work regarding climate and security despite experiencing the issues of the climate crisis firsthand, according to Gillian Caldwell, deputy assistant administrator for climate and energy at the United States Agency for International Development, a government agency that administers development assistance internationally.
“They are very much on the front lines and don’t have the same resources that men have,” Caldwell said. “So, women are both more likely to find themselves in the crosshairs of the climate crisis and are the ones that are best situated to understand and advance the solutions. Even in cases where women and girls are not formally empowered to lead, they are leading.”
Women make up 80% of people displaced by climate change. Despite being disproportionately affected by the issue, women’s organizations receive only 0.2% of donations to environmental causes, according to a 2018 report published by the Global Greengrants Fund, a charitable foundation that makes small grants to grassroots environmental causes around the world.
Gender diversity fosters innovation and should be a central component in the fight for a more sustainable society, according to Dr. Nawal Al-Hosany, representative of the UAE to the International Renewable Energy Agency, an intergovernmental organization supporting countries in their transition to sustainable energy.
“Women must have a seat at the table where the decisions about the long-term future of our planet are made,” Al-Hosany said. “To do this, we must integrate more women into the fields and sectors that will fuel and shape the world in the years to come. If we can do this, we can unlock the full potential of humanity and not just half of it.”
In a review of 17 international studies, the inclusion of women in conservation and natural resource management efforts resulted in stricter and more sustainable extraction rules, greater compliance, more transparency, accountability and better conflict resolution.
Public policy that supports women innovating in the climate space is a necessary step toward combating the climate crisis, according to Olasimbo Sojinrin, country director of Solar Sister Nigeria, an organization devoted to investing in women-owned clean energy businesses in rural Africa.
“We’re working to see how we can enhance policy,” Sojinrin said. “So for us, one of the most pressing things that we’re working on is ensuring that we can amplify the voices of our women entrepreneurs so that their efforts and their challenges can get to the ears of policy makers. That needs to change. So last year, we hosted a national roundtable in Nigeria and Tanzania to enable policymakers and market environments to support women entrepreneurs.”
Women can also be empowered in the private sector through training and entrepreneurship programs, according to Sojinrin.
“To share specifically our assistance approach, we’re an organization that provides economic opportunity, training, technology and support to distribute a range of clean energy products in underserved communities,” Sojinrin says. “We do this by helping women launch clean energy businesses, and of course they are making an income.”
Actors in both the public and private sectors must involve women in climate action in order to best tackle the climate crisis, according to Verveer.
“If we’re going to address climate change with the urgency that is upon us, we really need to do more to accelerate the transition to renewable energy inclusively, where women can fully participate and move strongly in that direction,” Verveer said. “There’s clearly much work that needs to be done.”