“Climate solutions are only solutions if they are also advancing justice and equity in the world”

Ensuring women empowerment and access to education, as well as giving women the right to choose for themselves are necessary steps in overcoming the climate crisis.

Words

Anna Siwecka

Listen to the full interview with Dr Katharine Wilkinson on The Beam Podcast, Episode 3: Women at the Forefront of Climate Action.


 

Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming is a thick book providing one hundred solutions to curbing carbon emissions. Among them, a handful solutions are intersecting with the lives of women and girls around the world. 

Dr Katharine Wilkinson, Lead Writer for Drawdown, has written about how taking care of Educating Girls, Family Planning and Women Smallholders could become vital climate change solutions. 

In the interview on the latest episode of The Beam Podcast – Women at the Forefront of Climate Action, we ask Katharine to break down how empowering women can help solve the climate crisis, how to make the solutions from Project Drawdown a much-needed reality and what is the role of men in achieving gender equality. 

So how exactly can empowering women and girls help solve the climate crisis?

Dr Katharina Wilkinson: So, I think about your fundamental rights and the ability to make choices about our lives. And critical to that, of course, is access to education and to reproductive health care, comprehensive, high quality, voluntary reproductive healthcare. And what we see is that when women and girls have access to those things when those fundamental rights are secured, they have more agency, we’re able to make different choices about our lives. And oftentimes those choices include: marrying later and having smaller families and being able to decide how many children we want to have or whether we want to have children, when to have them, etc. So, the decisions that individual women and their partners make, add up right across the world. And over time that ends up influencing how many human beings are living on this planet and eating and building and producing and consuming and wasting, and all of the things that we do that generate emissions. And I think there’s a critical caveat, which is: how many of us are living on the planet. That is one variable. But we cannot think about population size and population growth in the absence of thinking about dramatic inequalities in wealth and consumption, as we also know that the top 10 percent most affluent individuals in the world generate roughly half of our consumption-related emissions. 

Education and choices are also about having role models, right? Because women or girls don’t have so many role models that are in a position of leadership today. So there is this idea about educating girls so they become maybe role models for the next generation. 

Dr Katharine Wilkinson: Definitely. I’m actually very excited and knocking on wood for the very long shot of a proposal that was put together by Room to Read, which does amazing work around girls education and literacy in eight countries, along with WEDO, The Women’s Environment and Development Organization, which does incredible advocacy training for women around the world, and the Brookings Institution, which has been doing some fantastic research on girls education and climate and how those things intersect. And along with Project Drawdown, we put together a proposal firm for MacArthur 100&Change that is focused on rolling out a climate justice curriculum to girls and young women across those eight countries, because I think exactly to your point, we are so desperately in need of the kind of voices and vision rising up from girls and women around the world and a little bit more sort of support for that could be incredibly, incredibly powerful. 

And in the context of the climate emergency, could you talk about how important climate justice is? Especially for women and girls. 

Dr Katharine Wilkinson: I think it’s helpful to think about climate change as a threat multiplier or a force that magnifies existing inequalities and of course that includes gender inequality but isn’t limited to gender inequality by any means. We have to be thinking about both how to redress the inequalities that climate impacts deepen and how to ensure that solutions are helping everyone. I think it’s worth remembering that climate solutions are only solutions if they are also advancing justice and equity in the world. 

In Women at the Forefront of Climate Action, we also talk with Sheila Oparaocha, the International Coordinator and Programme Manager at ENERGIA and Katherine Lucey, Founder and CEO of Solar Sister.

Listen to the full interview. Tune in to The Beam Podcast, Episode 3: Women at the Forefront of Climate Action.

 


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