Update on COP-19: Tuesday Was Climate Gender Day

by Myron Ebell on November 20, 2013

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Editor’s note: CEI’s Myron Ebell is at the 19th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Warsaw, Poland. Below is his first report.

Tuesday was one of the special theme days at COP-19 in Warsaw. It was Gender Day. I couldn’t go to many of the gender-related events because there were several important sessions that were part of the official negotiating process that I wanted to attend, but I was able to attend the high-level event organized by the Secretariat of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

The UNFCCC has adopted several resolutions on gender equality and women’s participation beginning in 2001. Last year at COP-18 in Doha, Qatar, they committed to gender balance in the Secretariat and member delegations.

The gender event on Tuesday was moderated by the executive director of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres. She began by saying that we should keep our feet on the ground but raise our eyes to the stars. She asked the speakers to tell the audience (of several hundred people) what their dreams were and to talk from their hearts and souls rather than their minds.

Bianca Jagger’s remarks were low key and modest. She said that her dream was ending violence against women. Lakshmi Puri, deputy director of UN Women, said that women were more adversely affected by climate change, but could do more to stop it than men.  Helen Clark, the head of the UN Development Programme and former prime minister of New Zealand, seconded that and said that the climate justice agenda included universal access to sustainable energy.

Mary Robinson, the former president of Ireland and former UN high commissioner on human rights, noted that there were more than a billion people without access to electricity and more than two billion whose meals were cooked, usually by women, on open fires. She somehow thought that “doing the right thing on climate” will somehow relieve this widespread energy poverty by creating a more just world with less inequality. She added that fossil fuels are a stranded asset as people have come to realize that, “like asbestos, they are too dangerous to use.”

Tara Holonen, the former president of Finland, introduced the new Environment and Gender Index. It ranks 72 nations according to six performance categories. The gender equality measurements don’t seem to have any connection to the environmental quality measurements, so the index makes little sense. The index was produced by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, which was once a respectable science and conservation group. The IUCN now describes itself as “a leader on gender issues in the environmental arena.” (www.EnvironmentGenderIndex.org)

A young Australian climate activist was invited from the audience to join the panel when one of the speakers was unable to attend. She said that the sole reason she fights for climate justice is to improve the lot of poor women in the developing world.

The highlight of this gender event, which was only one among many held on this special Gender Day, was the singing of a song composed especially for the event. It was sung magnificently by Elizabeth Njorge, who heads a foundation in Kenya that is dedicated to bringing art and music education to some of the poorest children in Kenya. Titled Vision 50/50, the song’s chorus reads: “We have a dream, a dream of hopes to turn a page that marks a golden age, A greener course, a greener course for planet Earth.” Note that the lyricist refrained from calling it Mother Earth, although the word “sustainable” is used in one of the verses.

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