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The UN Copenhagen Conference On Climate Change: How Are Women Organizing?

An interview with Cate Owren of the Women's Environment and Development Organization.

By Kathambi Kinoti

This article is the third in a four-part series that explores the gendered impact of climate change. The first article discussed how women are impacted by climate change, while the second examined how women address climate change. This third article looks at how some women's organizations are engaging with the process leading up to and during the UN Conference on Climate Change to be held in Copenhagen in December 2009.

The Earth Summit, which was held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro, established United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which came into force two years later. While the UNFCCC is aspirational, its Kyoto protocol which came into force in 2005, goes further in setting binding targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2012.

Since the Earth Summit, parties to the UNFCCC meet every year to negotiate targets for mitigating climate change. This year's talks will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark in December, and are particularly critical to ensuring that a comprehensive international climate change mitigation framework is in place by 2012.

Neither the UNFCCC nor Kyoto recognise the gender dimensions of climate change, and women’s organizations have been working hard in the lead-up to Copenhagen to ensure that the conference’s outcome document is gender responsive. One of the organizations at the forefront of this work is the Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). Cate Owren, who co-ordinates WEDO’s gender and climate change work, spoke with AWID about the participation of women in the Copenhagen conference and their hopes for the outcomes.

AWID: What has WEDO been doing in preparation for the Copenhagen conference?

CATE OWREN: WEDO has been working on climate change for several years now in a variety of capacities: by conducting research and analysis, broadening and strengthening our network of women's organizations around the world, and engaging in targeted advocacy at the national and global levels, WEDO seeks to raise awareness about the gendered dimensions of climate change, advocate for gender, and make project implementation more effective for both women and men. In 2007 at the Bali Conference of Parties, WEDO co-founded - together with UNDP, IUCN and UNEP – The Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) . Now comprised of 38 UN and civil society institutions, the GGCA works toward a mission of ensuring that all climate change policies, decision-making processes and finance mechanisms are gender-responsive.

AWID: What concerns do women have firstly about climate change in general, and secondly about the content and process of the Copenhagen conference in particular?

CO: Women are caretakers and managers of natural resources around the world, so stress to or changes in the natural environment have a direct impact upon women and their families and wider communities. Women still make up the large majority of the world's poorest, as well, which puts them at great risk. There are countless ways in which women, unfortunately, remain in the "most vulnerable" category. But what is far more critical right now - especially in the lead up to and outcome of Copenhagen - is that women's capacity to act and contribute to climate change solutions at all levels is fostered and ensured. Women are innovators, teachers, caregivers, leaders, organizers, providers, and more. Their experience and expertise must inform all aspects of climate change decision-making and implementation.

AWID: What advocacy opportunities exist for women's organizations within the Copenhagen process?

CO: Civil society participation has strengthened and expanded in the past few years - certainly in alignment with increasing global recognition of the gravity of climate change as a major crisis of our time. Women have participated in numerous ways and this year a major achievement was made: the Gender and Women Constituency was given provisional status. Finally, women and gender equality observer organizations have a formal opportunity to work together to input into the process.

For WEDO, and as part of the GGCA, we work with member institutions to work meaningfully with Parties to secure effective places for gender text in thenegotiating documents.

AWID: What outcomes do you hope for from Copenhagen?

CO: First and foremost, we are hoping for a strong, comprehensive agreement. Ideally, gender equality language would be reflected in each area: Shared Vision, Adaptation, Mitigation, Technology, Capacity Building, and Finance. Throughout this year, gender language has been in each of these areas! But as negotiations continue, language is streamlined, and the specific references have fallen out in most places. We are hoping that the momentum will not be lost and that a gender-sensitive strong outcome is indeed possible. We continue to work with our partners and with governments to find ways to make this happen.


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Article License: Creative Commons - Article License Holder: AWID


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Regions: Global

Topics: Environment, Human rights systems, bodies and instruments

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Type of content: Interviews


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