Scotland’s First Minister has told the COP26 UN climate summit that the voices of women must be at the centre of helping to tackle climate change.
Nicola Sturgeon said more women and girls needed to be in decision-making roles as she said the situation where a minority of the 120 world leaders earlier who addressed the summit in Glasgow were female “must change”.
Women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, as they form a large majority of the world’s poor, often depend on small-scale farming for their livelihoods and can comprise 80% of those displaced by climate-related disasters.
Speaking on Tuesday as she chaired a panel at an event focusing on advancing gender equality in climate action, Sturgeon said: “There is no doubt we must ensure that climate change is a feminist issue.
“We must make sure that the experiences of women and girls across the world, so often disproportionately impacted by climate change, are understood as we devise the solutions.
“And we must make sure that the voices of women are at the centre of creating and implementing the solutions to climate change.”
She added: “When world leaders gathered here this time last week, of the 120 or so a tiny minority were women.
“That needs to change and it needs to change quickly.”
Among those speaking on the panel was the climate activist Fatou Jeng from Gambia.
She explained how her country is being affected by climate change, despite contributing “very little” greenhouse gases.
Ms Jeng said the impacts – including flooding, sea-level rises, drought and desertification – mainly affect agriculture, where women dominate as they use agricultural proceeds to support themselves and their children’s education.
She said: “I am a daughter of a farmer and my mum sells vegetables, but climate change has basically affected severely this particular activity that my family has been engaged in.”
Ms Jeng said through her community work she had seen girls forced into child marriage due to family poverty caused by climate change and others forced to stay at home through flooding.
She said scientists had warned that the capital city, Banjul, where she lives would be “inundated” if the sea level rises by a metre.
She added: “We are sitting here in the negotiation rooms making policies about climate crisis but are we really considering the gender aspect of it?
“Because the climate change issue is a human rights issue because of how it has been affecting people.”
She called for gender equality to be prioritised, saying in previous years there had been a lot of talk but little progress.
“We have the opportunity to sit and negotiate about the climate crisis and think we really need to consider those people that are left behind that are facing the daily challenges they continue to face,” she added.
“And if we want to achieve and get to a fairer planet we really need to make sure that women and girls are put at the heart and the centre of the discussions that we have been having today.”
The First Minister said the words of the panel speakers were “incredibly powerful”, adding: “Climate change is a human rights issue, gender equality is a human rights issue, the impact of climate on women is a human rights issue and that is how we must see it.”
The event followed the UK Government announcing that £165m would go towards boosting equality for women and climate action.
An official said addressing the inequalities faced by women and girls could help action to tackle climate change.
Ministers said the £165m included £45m to help groups in Asia and the Pacific challenge gender inequalities and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
And £120m would be used to build resilience to climate change, prevent pollution, protect wildlife, boost renewable energy and manage waste, as well as support women’s leadership, access to finance, education and skills in Bangladesh.
International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who chaired the event, said: “It is women, girls and those who are already most marginalised, that will be most severely impacted by climate change.
“But they also have a critical role to play to address the climate crisis.
“The UK is committed to addressing this dual challenge head-on, committing new funding to empower communities and women’s groups to take locally led adaptation action, to build local, national and global resilience.”