Transitioning to a green economy to achieve sustainable development is a tall order that requires consistent cooperation of every segment of society. As the complex but interconnected issues of social inequality, environmental degradation, and economic instability remain a major threat to progress and quality living, each and everyone has a role to play to fast-track the green economy movement worldwide.
Women are a core player in this all-encompassing crusade to build a sustainable future for all. As active contributors to the economy and society as a whole, women are crucial to ensuring the growth of a green economy.
An article posted on the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) states that 51 per cent of humanity is composed of women and girls. Experts agree that they are more likely to bear the brunt of climate change. This makes their ideas and perspectives all the more critical as their male counterparts’. Coming up with comprehensive green and sustainable solutions that are fair and add value should require women’s active participation as well.
The female species are fully aware of this role. It is, therefore, not surprising to see women across the world leading many fights against climate change and calling for the protection of the environment and natural resources.
Their unique leadership and skills, non-traditional approach to a myriad of issues, and great influence within families — the core of any society — are vital to pushing common green economy goals; increasing demand for green products and services; and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions, among others. They can help push those in power to prioritise climate change and take immediate, long-lasting action addressing this threat.
In the world’s fight against climate change, many women have stood out over the centuries and are still continuously standing out up until today. American scientist Eunice Newton Foote, the first woman in climate science, was one of these trailblazers. In 1856, Foote discovered the cause of global warming by noting the impact of changes in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere on the earth’s temperature.
Indian environmentalist and political activist Sunita Narain has also been making waves in the sustainable development department. Narain, the director general of the Centre for Science and Environment, has co-edited India’s Environment report in 1985 and wrote a book, together with Anil Agarwal, on local democracy and sustainable development. In her years at the Centre, she has helped raise public consciousness about the need for sustainable development.
Another is Hannah Jones, chief sustainability officer and vice-president of the Innovation Accelerator of Nike. Hannah has been named one of the top professionals shaping the fashion industry. She’s actively changing the way companies view sustainability and social responsibility, from mandatory to an opportunity to innovate.
One of youngest is perhaps Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg. The 16 year old managed to mobilise a whole generation into demanding climate action by calling for better accountability from top polluters and governments.
These are just a few who have significantly contributed to the sustainability advocacy but more women climate leaders are still needed to help accelerate the goal. To do this, policy and decision makers in both the government and private sectors should do their part to help empower women and offer them all vital support to ensure that they are given equal access to all opportunities.
A number of challenges such as gender inequality remain, hindering them from fully maximising their potentials to lead and contribute to the ultimate goal of sustainable development.
Education and training that caters to their needs are in order, especially in light of the growing demand for professionals with knowledge in green and sustainable business practices. This is just one aspect. In the midst of the continuous threat of climate change, key policies and measures should also be passed allowing and empowering women to play a bigger role in every nation’s efforts to shift to a green economy and build a better world for the current and future generations. To discuss more on this, let’s meet at the World Green Economy Summit (WGES) 2019, which will take place on October 20 and 21st at Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre.
— Habiba Al Mar’ashi is co-founder and chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group