The campaign slogan for International Women’s Day was Be Bold for Change and no bigger change is needed than to stop climate change: because no one wins in a warming world.
Women have always been at the forefront of the environmental movement. They may not always have high-profile roles but in terms of action, women are consistently the ones who turn out, volunteer, and make the difference.
I believe this is for three very simple reasons: Firstly, we see it, secondly, we care and thirdly, we will just get on and fix the problem.
Who wants cities where air pollution is so great you can’t let children play outside for fear of an asthma attack? Or seas so warm that stinging jelly fish litter our beaches.
Each year the Climate Change Coalition organises the Show the Love Campaign to highlight the people and places we want to protect from Global Warming. Overwhelmingly, the majority of people who hosted events, made and shared green hearts and turned out to support the Coalition were women; from church groups to WI members, they came out in their thousands.
Nearly 7 million people viewed the video within a few weeks! Of the 600 plus events organised 400 alone were from the wonderful women from the WI. This amazing success was possible because of an unseen commitment from women around the country to protect the people and places and life they love from a changing climate.
For the historic Paris Agreement the UN asked Christiana Figueres to chair the conference who succeeded with oil exporting countries signing to limit fossil fuel consumption. And when Mary Robinson and Helen Clarke ceased to be Ireland’s President and NZ’s Prime Minister respectively, they both chose roles supporting action on climate change instead of the lucrative speaking circuit. And why?
Because the impacts of a warming world disproportionately impact women as they are less able to escape when climate disasters strike. This is due to a lack of access to funds and their work in caring for the young and the old who cannot travel. They are virtually trapped despite the rising sea levels, failed crops or hurricanes that destroy their homes.
So as the often brutal extreme weather events remind us, the race is on to fix our addiction to fossil fuels.
In UK politics we have Mary Creagh, MP as Chair of the Environment Audit Committee, who continues to highlight the Treasury’s failings in ignoring the costs of climate change and still supporting the oil and gas industry. And Caroline Lucas as the UK’s first Green MP.
Unfortunately, the number of senior women in the UK energy sector is very low with women making up just 2 to 6% of executive boards! There are exceptions: the Women’s Power List 2017 included Juliet Davenport from Good Energy, Jenny Blackford at Siemens Financial Services, and Lindsay McQuade, at ScottishPower Renewables but they are few and far between.
The reason this sector is so critical to combatting climate change is that the majority of man-made carbon emissions derive from the energy sector. Is it a coincidence then that the oil and gas companies have been so slow to engage meaningfully with alternatives and ensure that a rapid transition occurs to a low carbon economy?
Now is the time to put this issue at the forefront of our lives; at home, in our communities and at work. The current lip-service paid to climate change is, the equivalent of playing Russian roulette with our future and our children’s future. And the longer we delay the greater the damage.
Will the switch to clean energy be fast enough to stave off the irreversible impacts that unfold as the world warms? If more women were running energy companies, would their investment decisions be so entrenched? I believe not but there is hope.
The technology and knowhow to combat climate change exists and more importantly clean tech is reliable and affordable. The only thing missing is the will to change. And this is where Women can influence corporations via their consumer decisions and financial endorsements. If everyone bought an electric car the demand for oil would plummet and air quality would be transformed. Because women make the majority of consumer decisions they can switch to a green energy supplier, insulate their home, avoid long-haul flights. And they can tell their friends: In a world of social media testimonials and customer feedback is key and extremely powerful.
Women can also use their networks to have those urgently needed conversations: about organising a Flood Plan for vulnerable communities or setting up a car sharing initiative or installing solar panels on school roofs because these issues will increase our resilience when the next storms blow in.
The race is on to a low-carbon economy and the prize could not be greater. More than ever, women are needed to be bold for change because it is women who will bear the brunt of the climate destruction and also have the power to change our energy system.
‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ Margaret Mead