IIn a moving speech at the opening of the COP26 World Leaders Summit, Mia Mottley, Prime Minister of Barbados, order: “When will leaders lead?” The problem he identified is that “both the ambition and the necessary faces are not present in Glasgow.” The over-representation of white men in climate change decision-making processes is stifling both for the imagination and for the implementation of transformative solutions. Globally, only 26 women they serve as heads of government and state. At the last COP summit, held in 2019, approximately 80% o 155 of the 196 heads of delegation they were men. Progress has been made to increase women’s participation in COP events, but it is estimated that gender parity in climate leadership will be achieved. only in 2068.
The global climate change agenda has been met with not just political inaction, but resistance in the form of populist denialism that threatens to derail or undo existing efforts. For example, studies of “conservative white men” in the us and Norway they have highlighted the connections between climate change denialism, patriarchal beliefs, and right-wing nationalism.
People who directly benefit from the status quo are more likely to feel threatened by the kind of political, economic and social reform that solutions to climate change require. More than an aberration, Donald Trump’s 2020 withdrawal from the Paris agreement is possibly the conservative effect of the white man in general.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) entered into force in 1994. Since then, the convention has spawned complex global governance processes, institutions and actors, with gender equality now widely recognized at the core of the climate change agenda. the first reference to gender balance appeared in the final document of Cop7 in 2001. By Cop25 in 2019, states had agreed strengthen efforts towards gender-sensitive climate action.
However, women are still underrepresented in climate change negotiations, as shown. in a report by the UNFCCC secretariat featured at Cop26. In addition to finding that women remain in the minority and less likely to lead a government delegation, it also analyzed the times of use of interventions at selected Cop25 meetings to provide information on active participation.. It found that “men were overrepresented in terms of presence and tended to speak more than women.”
Women tend to do better in terms of representation and participation in the civil society sector. Studies show that “women occupy a higher proportion of NGO representatives in each Cop than their counterparts delegated from the government”. Allowing civil society groups to play a direct role in climate negotiations creates space for diverse perspectives and forms of experience.
This is important because when decision-making processes incorporate gender perspectives and meaningful participation of women, solutions tend to be more comprehensive and durable. One study found female representation in national parliaments in 91 countries it is correlated with stricter climate change policies and lower carbon emissions. This reinforces the evidence that gender equality improves social outcomes in relation to environment and peace building efforts. The point here is not that female leaders are necessarily environmentally friendly by nature, but that female participation indicates a better quality of political representation.
Rethinking who is leading us to address the climate crisis, and how, requires recognition of the experience and leadership of the parts most affected by climate in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Environmental factors already limit the participation of people from these regions. Emerging accounts show that women community leaders struggle to engage in climate activism due to weather, distance, and transportation needs, in addition to their caregiving responsibilities. Cop26 is likely to be the most exclusive summit so far given the compounding economic costs and visa restrictions for participants from the global south. We cannot allow decision-making spaces to be closed to women and voices from the global south at a time when we most need their participation.
I have discovered in my own recent research that the lack of diversity at UN climate summits is both a cause and an effect of the “securitization” and “scientification” of climate change. Dr. Sherilyn MacGregor from the University of Manchester argues that climate change has been represented as both a scientific problem and a threat to security. Science and security have been traditionally male domains, where the production and validation of knowledge have been considered the territory of a very narrow and male-centered set of “insiders.” For instance, the participation of women scientists The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the authoritative international body responsible for evaluating all scientific information related to climate change, has gradually increased but remains low, with women accounting for only 32% of the authors of a recent report.
Unless the way our world leaders frame the climate crisis changes, we will continue to force women’s participation to fit within very rigid sets of diplomatic experience, procedures and styles that do not lend themselves to creating radical global and systemic change. And we will continue to witness how world leaders fall far behind the monumental task of ensuring the survival of humanity.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism