Increasingly people realise that climate and CO2 emissions cannot be considered in isolation – a changing climate impacts biodiversity and the ecosystem services we rely on. But it also has an outsize impact on women and girls, particularly those in developing countries where there is a higher reliance on natural resources for livelihood and survival.
The link between gender equity and climate is often overlooked as we consider solutions to the climate challenge we face.
Quite simply, the longer we take to raise organisations’ climate ambitions and take meaningful action, the worse global gender inequality becomes. And the more we do to address it, the more we can make progress on our global climate goals.
135.6 Years (too long) to Gender Equality
The UN Women’s latest report on progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 5 (SDG) – to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls by 2030 – said that from the data they have “the outlook is grim” and we are not on track. The Global Gender Gap report states that it will take 135.6 years to close the gender gap worldwide.
These figures must serve as an impetus for action on climate so that we can move the needle on gender equality now. If we can view the climate crisis, and therefore solutions, through a human-centric lens, then perhaps we will start to see greater progress. There is not one winning solution, and climate action must always be viewed as a toolkit, but one solution with direct gender benefits, alongside the climate, is channelling finance to fund carbon reduction projects.
Putting a Price on Carbon
Carbon finance puts a price on carbon, enabling organisations to offset the emissions they cannot yet reduce through the purchase of carbon credits from emission reduction projects around the world. Crucially, it funnels investment to ensure the financial viability of these projects, often in developing countries and economies in transition. This money is not a form of debt to be repaid, it is money that scales climate solutions, invests in technologies, generates green jobs, and improves health and livelihoods.
A common misconception is that carbon finance channels capital to tree planting projects only; while afforestation and reforestation projects are both critical and popular, they are just one part of the puzzle. Health and livelihood projects that reduce deforestation through more efficient cookstoves, or access to clean water, help households and communities decrease indoor air pollution, provide clean water, and raise household income, whilst reducing global emissions. And it is these projects that provide great benefits to women and girls, those often responsible for collecting wood and performing household tasks.
Clean Cookstoves: The Most Socially Impactful Carbon Projects
Nearly 1 in 3 people across the world still do not have access to clean cooking technology, instead, they rely on biomass fuels such as wood and charcoal for cooking and heating. Not only does this create 1 billion tonnes of emissions annually, the same as the aviation industry, it also contributes to four million deaths per year from indoor air pollution – more than HIV, Malaria and Tuberculosis combined.
With responsibility for cooking often falling to them, women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the negative consequences. In addition, in rural areas, women and children spend hours each week collecting wood, unpaid time that could be better spent in education or income-generating activities. And in urban areas, families pay large amounts for wood or coal that is inefficiently burnt, money that could be used for education or family well-being. Millions of women could emerge from poverty through better access to education.
Installing more efficient cookstoves may be a simple solution, but the human impact is huge.
Several cookstove projects also create job opportunities, upskilling local workers to manufacture stoves and distribute them through a network of local retailers. The Bondhu Chula project in Bangladesh for example, created by the Bondhu Foundation, has created a specialist programme to train women to become stove maintenance experts, visiting homes to carry out checks and repairs on stoves. These jobs as maintenance specialists are entirely new income-generating opportunities and focus on recruiting women – they are the experts as the primary users and beneficiaries of Bondhu Chula stoves in Bangladesh. Crucially, carbon finance is used to subsidize 50% of the cost of stove installation, provide after-sales services and a week-long training programme for local entrepreneurs.
Scaling Carbon Finance to Scale Impact
It is heartening to see increased impetus for climate action, though we still have a long way to go to meet safe global climate targets. But as we see the dire consequences the changing climate is already having on some of the most vulnerable communities around the world, and those with little responsibility for emissions, we must embrace carbon finance as a method to deliver not only emission reductions now, but a positive impact on inequality that has lasted far too long.