On Climate Security

WILPF Statement issued by the International Board
24 November 2008

WILPF recognizes climate change as one of the most urgent security challenges of our time.  Predictions of future climate impacts vary from disruptive to catastrophic natural disasters, hunger, drought, widespread displacement, conflict, and suffering.

Narrow military notions of security can do nothing to alleviate these challenges. Bombs, guns, and landmines will not prevent or stop a tsunami, a hurricane, a flood, a virus, or a water shortage.  Instead, the acquisition of arms and current global military expenditure of 1.3 trillion dollars per year diverts enormous financial, technical, and human resources from where they are needed.

Proven and clean energy technologies are ready to be implemented now in developing and developed countries. Stopping the use of non-renewable, polluting energy sources through investment in renewable resources and technologies will have a beneficial impact.  Public transport, refitting homes, recycling, and buying locally-produced products will also help, but these measures must be accompanied by government-wide behavioural and policy changes.

Rich and poor countries do not emit the same amount of carbon and have different responsibilities to address climate change.  The richest 28% burn 80% of fossil fuels, producing 80% of the greenhouse gas. Western countries generate 16 times more greenhouse gas per person than developing countries.

Women comprise the majority of the world’s poor, therefore climate change will impact women disproportionately. Due to present societal structures, women are not equally participating in decision-making on climate adaptation and mitigation strategies.  Ironically, surveys show that women are more concerned than men about climate change, want more far-reaching changes and are more willing to alter their behaviour and lifestyle. Therefore, participation of women and a gender perspective must be included in the international climate change negotiation process and in developing climate policies at regional, national, and local levels.

WILPF urges that all national and global policies incorporate gender aspects of climate change, guided by the many global agreements on gender mainstreaming and human rights treaties such as the Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).  This will require improved international environmental governance structures, cohesion between UN agencies, as well as tools such as gender-specific indicators to guide national reporting to the UN Framework convention on Climate Change.

Governments should be encouraged to mainstream gender perspectives into their national policies, action plans, and other measures on sustainable development and climate change. This can be done by carrying out systematic gender analysis, collecting and utilizing sex-disaggregated data, establishing gender-sensitive indicators and benchmarks, and developing practical tools to support increased attention to gender perspectives. Governments should invest in research on patterns of gender-specific use of resources and consumption; gender-specific effects on climate change; gender aspects of mitigation and adaptation; women’s capacity to cope with climate change; and gender-related vulnerability.

When preparing contributions to the post-2012 climate protection system, which must be established in order to succeed the commitments of the Kyoto Protocol, governments should request input from relevant international bodies. These should include the UN Commission on the Status of Women, the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), and women’s organisations and networks, as well as gender experts.  Due to the disparate effects of climate change on men and women, preparation of future commitments and mechanisms should be based on and fully integrate gender analysis.

In this regard, the UN Food and Agricultural Organisation’s contribution as a technical UN agency is crucial, because of the excellent analysis and research of its Gender, Equity and Rural Employment division.

The world is in an ecological, carbon, and radiation debt.  We already have internationally agreed commitments, which as a start, should be transformed into reality. Climate change means change; but business as usual is not an option, in fact, it’s suicidal.