Sonya Sangster: Women in global south most affected by inaction on climate change
(This article was originaly published in straight.com on Oct 10, 2014 at 11:07am)
At the end of the UN Climate Summit in New York, a number of strong resolutions were agreed upon which show great promise for both governments and corporations to work together to achieve international climate goals. Goals were set around cutting emissions, moving markets and mobilizing money, pricing carbon, and mobilizing new coalitions.
The time to act is now
400,000 people took to the streets of New York, and millions more in climate marches across the world, to pressure world leaders and corporations to start negotiating. Their voice was clear: we need to act, and act soon. According to the World Health Organization, 150,000 people die as a result of climate change every year. Moreover, the United Nations warns that there could be over 150 million environmental refuges by 2050 due to climate change.
At the summit, the EU, U.S., and 40 other countries committed to hard emissions targets by 2020. Hundreds of billions of dollars were committed to funding the Green Climate Fund, mitigation programs for developing countries, and other carbon pricing initiatives. Leaders representing 52 percent of global GDP, 54 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and almost half of the world’s population agreed on carbon pricing to help mitigate climate change. However, these future policies will take years to implement; meanwhile our global food security and the livelihoods of billions of people are at stake.
Women, water, and climate change
Worldwide, food production is the economic activity that depends most on climatic conditions. Women comprise between 43 percent to 60 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. Although women farmers living in poor communities contribute little to greenhouse gas emissions, they are disproportionally affected by climate change. And because they tend to be highly dependent on local natural resources for their survival, climate change negatively impacts both their income and access to food. It affects the forests and fisheries they rely on, the crops they can grow, and the water they can count on to irrigate their land. It means diminishing crop yield and loss of livestock.
As temperatures rise and rainfall patterns change, women will have to spend more time farming even as they produce less food. As agricultural productivity declines in many developing countries because of climate change, men are migrating to cities to look for jobs while women stay behind to work the land. Women are increasingly responsible for farming and food production but are left with land that is increasingly prone to drought and flooding. They are also responsible for raising their children, caring for the sick, cooking, cleaning, and collecting water and firewood. Climate change increases the burden on women at all of these levels—as food producers, providers, and caregivers. This means that women have less time for education, income generation, community participation, and participating in decision making at many levels.
Between irrigation and water for domestic use, climate change is wrecking havoc on the livelihoods of families, where women are having to go further and further away from their homes to access water. Climate change is currently affecting women who in Africa and Asia walk six kilometres to collect water. In Mozambique, rural Senegal, and eastern Uganda, women spend on average 15 to 17 hours per week collecting water. By 2025, one quarter of humanity will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity.
A walk of solidarity
Oxfam is holding a “Pailwalker” event next Saturday (October 18) to walk in solidarity with women in developing countries, whose water struggles are increasing everyday due to climate change. The gathering point will be in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on the West Georgia Street side, and supporters will walk to Jericho Beach in a show of solidarity with women and girls all around the world.