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When it comes to climate activism, women are putting in the work. All around the world, activists have recognized the intersection of the climate crisis and gender injustice, and the ways that they are mutually reinforcing. In the United States, in early 2019, a group of feminist activists knew that they were living in a time of incredible momentum around climate justice and policy: the moment of the Green New Deal.
Some say we are living in the decade of the Green New Deal. Others proclaim themselves the #GenGND generation. The history of the conceptualization of a Green New Deal (GND) has complicated origins, but in today’s watershed moment, it is most clearly linked to Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York. She introduced the Resolution for a Green New Deal on February 7th with Senator Ed Markey to a firestorm of press coverage, assaults from Republicans and moderate Democrats, and enthusiasm from eager young climate activists and voters. The core tenants of a Green New Deal — a just transition for laborers, massive government investments in public services and sectors, prioritization of frontline groups — were of course conceptualized and fought for by climate justice groups, Indigenous nations and activists, as well as racial, economic, and migrant justice advocates decades before.
In the Spring of 2019, a group of feminist climate activists across the landscape of gender justice and climate justice organizations came together to discuss the Green New Deal, its momentum, its energy, and its opportunity. With their awareness of the appeal for collective generation — in Representative Ocasio-Cortez’s words, “the public imagination” driving the discourse — they knew there was an incredible opportunity to pose a collective intervention. This collective intervention would fill the gaps of what they noticed were missing in the national GND discussion: perspectives around gender justice, as well as ensurement these national policies also prioritized global justice.
The Green New Deal is our movement moment. It’s a galvanizing tool to talk about what our future could look like.” — Activist and member of the Feminist Coalition for a Green New Deal
The gendered nature of climate injustice is of growing interest to policy makers today — though scholars and activists have been speaking to, navigating, and working within this intersection for a long time. The relationship between environmental degradation and violence against non-male bodies — both rooted in conceptions of ownership, control and exploitation — is the driving force behind much of the last three decade’s scientific literature on gender and climate change. Today, the lived experiences and testimonies of women on the frontlines of climate change have shown how the climate crisis exacerbates the wealth inequality, political disenfranchisement, and labor exploitation already disproportionately faced by women and gender non-conforming people around the world.
The emerging call for “no climate justice without gender justice,” a statement used in women’s climate activism all around the world, is a result of dogged organizing and scholarship around women’s lack of participation and influence in global climate policy, the overwhelming ignorance of gender in climate research, adaptation planning and policy, and the clear gains of women’s interventions in other global policy spaces. The Feminist Coalition for a Green New Deal arises out of the legacies of this work, operating from the shared assertion that current women’s representation and participation in climate policy is abyssmal, more feminist voices are necessary, and policy attempts to redress gender and climate inequality right now are wholly inadequete.
The Coalition began to take shape in late April 2018, as a dozen or so individuals from gender and climate justice groups began to informally discuss the lack of feminist analysis in the Green New Deal. Mostly comprised of individuals who work on policy at the intersection of gender and climate change, they were primed to notice the lack of gender-sensitive discourse contributions in the public imagination, writings, and rhetoric around the Green New Deal. Spurred by a shared analysis, this kickstart group began snowballing outreach to their colleagues, movement leaders, and allies to discern collective interest in creating a feminist coalition for advocacy.
The Feminist Coalition’s Principles, synonymously known as the Values, were collectively generated by several dozen feminists during the summer of 2019. The principles were discussed, edited, changed, and reshaped over these months to reflect the wealth of knowledge and experience held by the members of the Coalition. In addition to framing comments, each Principle is followed by a paragraph of explanation — all accessible on the Feminist Green New Deal website. The Principles name patriarchy; alongside colonialism, militarism, capitalism and extractivism; as root causes of the climate crisis. It centers gender along with race and class as key sites of analysis for vulnerability and policy intervention — aspects that differentiate the Principles from other attempts to influence the Green New Deal. The Principles emphasize feminist economic solutions that revalue feminized labor and regeneration, highlight frontline women’s leadership, and emphasize the root causes of climate change and guidelines for a gender just transition.
They are, in short, as follows:
Principle 1: Require intersectional gender analysis across all actions.
Principle 2: Recognize that there is no such thing as domestic climate policy.
Principle 3: Confront institutional patriarchy and racism.
Principle 4: Center Indigenous Peoples’ rights and leadership.
Principle 5: Systemically confront exploitative and unsustainable production patterns.
Principle 6: Advance reproductive justice.
Principle 7: Ensure democratically controlled, community-led solutions.
Principle 8: Reject false and harmful responses to climate change that fail to address root causes.
Principle 9: Create regenerative economies that center systemic, feminist alternatives.
Principle 10: Respect the leadership of young people as they fight for future generations.
In 2020, the Feminist Coalition will be building out policy toolkits and advocacy plans for ensuring feminist analysis and outcomes in climate policy discussions this year. As public consensus and demand for climate action grows, it is women and girls who are on the frontlines of this powerful activism. They should be centered in the development of the policy that comes next, too.
Mara Dolan is an intersectional feminist, environmentalist, student and freelance journalist. She works on policy advocacy at the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, which is a member of the Feminist Coalition for a Green New Deal.