climate justice

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By MARIANNA ALBUQUERQUE*

Climate change affects different social groups in different ways and intensities

The latest report from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), published in 2021, brought alarming data about the irreversibility of climate change. Despite the conclusions of the document indicating the universality of the impacts, there are elements that also indicate the inequality of the effects of global warming. There are regions that are more severely affected, such as small islands, and there are also groups that are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

Climate change not only implies environmental impacts, but also affects the social and economic dimensions of our existence, for example, by threatening human rights, especially of historically more vulnerable groups. The term climate justice indicates that climate change affects different social groups in different ways and intensities. Climate change raises several ethical and political issues (in addition to environmental ones) such as, for example, the deepening of gender inequalities.

Among the groups most vulnerable to climate change, experts single out women. Some effects are biological: in processes such as pregnancy and breastfeeding, for example, women have nutritional needs that make them particularly sensitive to situations of food insecurity, since climate change directly interferes with the food production cycle. Other effects are cultural, such as economic dependence, which results in the difficulty of abandoning residences in risk areas and interferes with the possibility of professional replacement after climate disasters, associated with lower educational levels of women in several countries.

In addition, sexual abuse of women in post-disaster shelters is common and recurrent, as well as the actions of human trafficking networks in contexts of forced migrations caused by hurricanes, tsunamis or large fires. Furthermore, these impacts are not uniform for all women: those with other forms of vulnerability associated, for example, with racial prejudice and less access to economic opportunities, tend to suffer first and most. However, there are still few studies and initiatives that integrate the gender and climate agendas. In an interview, the specialist Cecília Sorensen stated that such lack of knowledge and lack of connection happens even in the medical communities, which are still little qualified to propose health models that integrate gender, race, class and climate change.

Among the strategies that women have found to face this situation is the formation of women's communities. Through the sharing of knowledge, skills and work, women are jointly able to reduce collective vulnerability and increase their economic prosperity. Some strategies for this strategy are capacity building, strategic cooperation and networks of advocacy, raising awareness and disseminating information on the topic, and training to work in practice.

Some initiatives that can contribute to this effort are training and mentoring for candidates for political office, in order to transform projects into long-term public policies, such as risk and disaster reduction policies, budget, municipal and state sectoral plans, plans of government and multi-year plans. O advocacy with public bodies to provide data disaggregated by gender and diversity is also a useful tool to inform climate, risk reduction and disaster policies with a focus on vulnerable girls and women.

Due to the importance of the topic, there are already initiatives and networks linking up to promote gender and climate-responsive policies, such as the women lead climate, women climate, In Power and Women's Environmental Network. These examples show us that the international presence of women's organizations in climate mobilization contrasts with the relative vacuum of movements in Brazil and Latin America. Therefore, the region needs a broad agenda that connects the challenges and solutions into a more robust climate and gender planning and action strategy.

The climate crisis is not gender neutral. The challenge of climate justice involves, on the one hand, the recognition of the intersectionality of climate vulnerabilities (gender, race, social class, etc.), and on the other hand, the persistent low representation of women in spaces of power. In addition to recognizing inequality, we will begin to reduce climate justice in Latin America when we assume a serious commitment to place people committed to the climate agenda in all its nuances, including gender, in spaces of power and representation.

*Marianna Albuquerque holds a PhD in political science from the Institute of Social and Political Studies at UERJ.

Originally published on New Economic Debate Monitor blog (MNDE).

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