UN Climate Speech / 18 Oct, 2017
Women’s Leadership is Driving Climate Action

On the margins of ministerial meeting in Fiji, designed to the prepare the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn in November (COP23), the UN's top climate change official Patricia Espinosa gave a speech on women's leadership in climate action and sustainable development. The Executive Secretary of UN Climate Change said that COP23 provided an important opportunity to move forward on gender-related issues and gave an update on the Gender Action Plan of UN Climate Change. Read her address here:

Thank you for being here for an event that highlights women’s leadership in driving solutions to climate change.

And a special thank you to prime minister Bainimarama for extending his warm invitation to this event.

Together with support from Australia under the Women Delegates Fund your Government has been advancing the ability of women to play an ever increasing and important role in multilateral negotiations.

We also acknowledge Ambassador Khan of Fiji as an International Gender Champion and we look forward to welcoming more women negotiators into this family of expertise at COP 23 in Bonn.

Ladies and Gentlemen, here in Fiji, delegates are working to prepare for COP 23, where the attention of the world will be on Bonn, Germany and the next round of climate change negotiations.

While Paris represented one of those moments where the best of humanity achieved an agreement so important to our collective futures, Bonn represents how we will move forward to fulfill its promise. 

Bonn also represents an important opportunity to move forward on gender-related issues.

Today I want to discuss three very specific items related to those issues.

First, I want to provide you with an update about the Gender Action Plan.

Second, I’ll highlight some of the work we’re doing—and what I’m specifically doing—at UN Climate Change to advance female representation in the negotiations process and beyond.

Finally, I’ll provide some interesting examples of how UN Climate Change is working to advance women’s leadership in driving solutions to climate change.

Before I do, however, I want to talk to you about the urgency of our task to address climate change.

Never has our work been more necessary. We see this with respect to the extreme weather events affecting almost every continent throughout the world.

Whether it’s hurricanes in the Caribbean, drought in the Sahel, or wildfires in western North America, it’s observably clear to many that the impacts of climate change are happening right now.

We feel compassion for those who have lost everything, including homes, jobs, and, in some cases, friends and family.

But it also emphasizes that we are running out of time to turn things around. To do so, we must significantly increase our efforts to reduce emissions and our carbon footprints.

Not tomorrow. Not five years from now—today. As we can plainly see, the weather won’t wait for us to act.

As Secretary-General Guterres was last week when he was in Barbuda to see the impact of Hurricane Irma:

“The link between climate change and the devastation we are witnessing is clear, and there is a collective responsibility of the international community to stop this suicidal development.”

If we are to get off that development path, if we are to make the changes needed, we must have unprecedented cooperation, coordination and confidence.

And women must be at the forefront. 

It’s not opinion. It’s not aspiration. It’s a fact.

And it’s what signatories agreed to under the Paris Agreement.

The Agreement is clear. It states that when Parties take action to address climate change, they should respect, promote and consider gender equality and the empowerment of women.

It’s also stated in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

We all know that promises without action, however, are empty.

That’s why we’ve been working hard on a number of fronts, beginning with the Gender Action Plan.

This was a plan requested by the COP in Marrakech last year, in order to support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates under the UN Climate Change Process.

This was a significant decision.

After all, we know that gender equality and empowerment of women and girls is key to the successful implementation of the three big agreements I just mentioned.

And there is compelling evidence that links the inclusion of women in climate policy and solutions with better results, economic growth and more sustainable outcomes.  

I’m happy to report that we’ve had a number of workshops and informal meetings that has moved the Gender Action Plan forward recently, including a very successful meeting last month in Ottawa.

This built on previous informal consultations in the Hague, hosted by the governments of the Netherlands and Costa Rica.

At the meeting in Ottawa, participants—including UN Climate Change—worked through 75 activities identified during previous workshops.

The purpose was to try and make each as actionable as possible.

I’m pleased by the work that has been accomplished and, as a result, we fully expect that an action plan will be adopted at COP 23 in Bonn.

This, however, does not mean our work related to gender ends. Just like the Paris Agreement, the next step will be implementation—a step where we must define exactly what activities we’ll undertake and exactly how we’ll work together to achieve them.

In the meantime, we at UN Climate Change continue to call upon Parties to address gender imbalance within their delegations.

We continue to encourage them to increase the number of women being nominated and elected to constituted bodies. This is especially true of developed countries.

The fact remains that the only nationally-determined contributions that include references to gender or women are from developing countries.

Frankly, this isn’t good enough and must change.

We at the UNFCCC stand ready to work with all Parties to help them take action to increase the participation of women.

The good news is that, to date, more than 50 gender-related decisions have been adopted within the UNFCCC processes.

I have also personally been working on the gender front.

For example, I am very pleased to be a global mentor with the C40’s Women for Climate initiative—a group that conducts research on the links between gender, cities and climate change.

In June of this year, I was also fortunate to be offered the opportunity to join the International Gender Champions network and help empower more women leaders.

I am doing everything I can to create more space that gives women a voice.

As one of my commitments, I signed the panel parity pledge, meaning that I will request organizers of any event at which I am speaking to aim for gender balance among speakers in panel discussions. I plan to hold all organizations to account.

I want to ensure that when we talk about a topic as significant as climate change, women who are working in this field are provided an equal opportunity to share their knowledge and perspectives.

UN Climate Change’s own Momentum for Change initiative is also raising the visibility of women acting on climate change.

For those who don’t know it, Momentum for Change shines a light on some of the most innovative, scalable and practical examples of what people across the globe are doing to combat climate change.

We organize the projects under pillars, one of which is called Women For Results.

This year, for the first time, we have two separate focus areas under that pillar: one on women’s empowerment and one on women’s leadership. Let me share a few examples.

One project is called Waste to Wow, based in Italy.

It’s a woman-led, eco fashion business that addresses climate change while also providing jobs for disadvantaged female workers.

It does this by recycling high-quality fabric waste from fashion companies to produce women’s clothing collections.

More than 200,000 meters of fabric was recovered in 2016, reducing CO2 emissions by around 18,000 tonnes.

Another project from Belize is equally innovative.

A woman named Lisa Carne was Belize’s first female diving instructor in a male-dominated industry.

She decided to start a company called Fragments of Hope.

Through this company, she offers women subsidized training programs on marine tourism and lagoon ecology so that they can help restore coral reef habitats.

So far, 90,000 corals have been transferred from nurseries into nature in three different national parks and marine reserves.

There are two final projects under the Women For Results pillar: one project out of Ecuador that increases sustainable production of organic food through urban agriculture — the participants are mainly women…

…and an agricultural program for women farmers in Sudan that recognizes their crucial role as agents of change in improving food security.

The project, among other things, helps train women in conservation techniques and helps them access finance and markets.

These are all fantastic projects and shine a light on the leadership role women are playing with respect to building a cleaner and greener future.

They’re also examples of practical, hands-on solutions to climate change that are being implemented right now—solutions that will help not only women, but all people.

Finally, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of you for your dedication, support and leadership with respect to advancing gender as part of the climate change process.

As I’ve discussed today, while we still have much to accomplish, we have made real progress. We need to continue that momentum.

Because these are days when we need the voices of women more than ever.

When it comes to climate change, we need women at the negotiating tables, in boardrooms and as the heads of businesses, in the streets and in the fields…

…not only having their voices heard about climate change, but making the key decisions that will lead to a better tomorrow for all.

I look forward to seeing many of you in Bonn and working with you in the future.

Thank you.