COP28 & women: climate stakes and unequal burdens in the pursuit of sustainability

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Kenya Nicol

The 28th UN climate conference, occurring from November 30 to December 12 in the United Arab Emirates, brings attention to the largest COP ever convened and underscores its critical impact on women, who bear disproportionate consequences of climate change.

Women’s crucial role in local livelihoods

Women, constituting a substantial part of impoverished communities reliant on local resources, face the brunt of climate change. They play pivotal roles in sustaining their families by managing water supply, collecting fuels for cooking, and ensuring food security, especially in rural areas.

Historical context of COPs and climate agreements

Reflecting on past COPs, Chelsea Clinton notes, “Over time, COPs have been a hope for women, but few have been truly impactful.” The journey began in 1995 with the first Conference of the Parties (COP) in Berlin and continued through significant agreements like the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement.

Climate goals: from Kyoto to Glasgow and beyond

The Kyoto Protocol in 1997 marked the first binding international climate agreement, but its failure to contain emissions led to subsequent challenges, including the deadlock at Copenhagen in 2009. The Paris Agreement in 2015 aimed to limit global temperature rise, yet the recent COP26 in Glasgow faced criticism for falling short on crucial targets.

COP28 in Dubai: anticipated developments

COP28 in Dubai witnesses record participation, gathering over 70,000 participants. Despite concerns about the Emirati oil company Adnoc’s head chairing the event, the presidency prepares for multiple voluntary commitments. The battle at COP28 revolves around settling for the status quo or pushing for more ambitious calls to reduce fossil fuels.

The women’s perspective: livelihoods and literacy

In extreme climate conditions, women work tirelessly to sustain livelihoods, leaving little time for education or income generation. Chelsea Clinton emphasizes the impact, stating, “In Africa, women’s illiteracy rates were 55% compared to 41% for men.” Limited access to resources and decision-making processes, combined with restricted mobility, leaves women disproportionately affected by climate change.

Money matters and global balance

As COP28 unfolds, discussions will revolve around funding promises for climate adaptation and the establishment of a fund to address the “losses and damages” faced by the poorest countries. The battle between those accepting the current balance and advocates for reducing fossil fuels will shape the outcomes of the conference.

COP28 in Dubai stands at the crossroads of climate action, sustainability, and the urgent need to address gender-specific challenges, particularly those affecting women’s livelihoods and well-being.

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