Friday, December 8, 2023

Women must be at the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon economy


Veronica Mendizabal Joffre and Pinky Serafica

Can we truly reimagine a path to a low-carbon transition and change the climate narrative? This is hard to envision when we witness the unprecedented damage we are inflicting on the planet.

For women, the effects of climate change are already a lived experience. Where environments are damaged and traditional sources of livelihood disappear, women must scrounge farther and travel wider to meet the needs of communities. As new diseases emerge from the imbalance in the natural world, women must grapple with the care and health of their families.

Gender inequality is at the core of women bearing the burden of climate change. Already vulnerable from multiple inequalities, for women there is no debate: transitioning to low-carbon and climate-resilient communities is urgent.

By now, everyone has climate stories hitting home. This has resulted in a momentum for a low-carbon future. But the transformations required will not pan out similarly for everyone. The thick layer of social and economic inequality determines winners and losers in the process.

This is why the transition to a low-carbon economy needs to be consciously designed to be socially equitable and inclusive–a just transition. Moreover, the transition cannot be gender-neutral and must be gender-just.

We propose that governments and other stakeholders take these actions to achieve a gender-just transition:

Accelerate access to clean energy for all: Reliable and affordable supply of energy is critical for the socio-economic development of communities and has a multi-faceted dimension for women. Electricity can enable businesses and education, cleaner energy for cooking and heating reduces indoor air pollution, and electric appliances can reduce unpaid household work.

Information technology expands networks, and greener mass transportation and safer active mobility (i.e., electric vehicles, cycling) can increase women’s freedom of movement.

But with seven years remaining to meet the 2030 sustainable development goal of access to affordable, reliable, sustainable energy for all, about 730 million people still lack basic access. The diversification and decarbonisation of the energy systems must include targeted support for the poorest so they can obtain and maintain affordable access to energy. We must keep in mind that changes in energy costs can affect women differently as globally, on average, women still earn 20 per cent less than men.

Increase women’s share in green employment: With the region relying heavily on fossil fuels for energy, the retiring of coal- and oil-fired facilities will result in job losses and socio-economic consequences down the line. While green jobs and investment opportunities are expected, social protection is critical to mitigate the displacement of workers and the informal sectors dependent on these industries.

Women make up only 32 per cent of the workforce in the renewable energy sector; and only about 11 per cent of energy sector start-up founders. The gender wage gap in the sector is estimated at 31 per cent, and women are more likely to be employed in lower-paid and administrative positions than in technical, managerial or policy-making positions.

While we know that current supply of green talent will not meet the demand, not enough women are moving into green jobs. In 2021, there were 62 women considered “green talent” for every 100 men.

The private sector must act quickly to set up human resource standards that can encourage more women to join transition-related jobs. Key actions include addressing workplace harassment and gender pay gaps, accounting for unpaid care roles, and supporting women’s leadership.

Support more women in education relevant to the transition: Transitioning to low-carbon livelihoods will, in the interim, interrupt supply chain and employment streams in the short and medium term. Options to diversify livelihoods have to be explored. Workers are needed to fill in the new types of jobs required for the transition–many in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields.

Globally, only around 30 per cent of female students choose science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study. Southeast Asia shows some variation in the share of women graduating in STEM fields, from about 17 per cent in Cambodia to 37 per cent in Indonesia.

While there has been progress, the narrative on gender stereotypes has to change for more women to pursue STEM careers, and to venture into the potential of upskilling and reskilling. We also need to bring about greater climate awareness in the education system, and gender issues in climate can be made part of the curriculum in higher secondary education.

Fully engage and amplify women’s voices: A just transition needs the full engagement and voices of women and vulnerable sectors to shape and monitor transition plans so no one is left behind. Communication is crucial to make informed choices, change behaviors in energy consumption and mobility, and break down barriers that prevent women from entering STEM fields and transitioning into green jobs.

Communication can mobilise women and amplify their voices to influence policies on social protection and fair wages. It can facilitate storytelling about nature-based solutions and indigenous knowledge systems, and help rally sectors to change the climate narrative in the region.

Climate change is a crisis that affects women profoundly. Gender equality dimensions must be fully integrated into climate-oriented projects.

Just as the private sector plays a key role in a just transition, development organisations must also step up with solutions such as the ADB-backed Energy Transition Mechanism, which speeds up the retirement of coal, oil, and diesel plants and attracts financing for sustainable and renewable energy.

This type of path-breaking initiative increases the opportunity for an inclusive and gender-just climate transition.

Pinky Serafica is senior communications officer of the ADB and Veronica Mendizabal Joffre is a senior gender and social development specialist at the Southeast Asia Department of the ADB.

Article originally appeared of The Daily Star.

Related News

Social media pressure changing news making

Opinion Afsan Chowdhury THE relentless reality of social media has begun to influence news making at several levels. Three social media elements are making these pressures so strong. (a) It reaches consumers almost instantly and in no way can professional media compete with that. (b) Content creators can mix and offer audio-visuals that cost little ... Read more

Securing water for sustainable urban future

Opinion By AKM Mahmudul Haque WATER, the essence of life, is a precious resource that sustains our planet and its inhabitants. Yet, despite the vastness of our oceans, only a small portion of the water is potable. Recent studies have revealed alarming statistics that approximately 80 per cent of the water supplied in cities and ... Read more

We need to transform social norms for gender equality

World Population Day Views Md Nuruzzaman Khan World Population Day, which has been observed on July 11 every year since 1989, holds significant importance in addressing critical population-related issues. This year, the focus is on gender equality, symbolised by the theme of “Unleashing the power of gender equality: Uplifting the voices of women and girls ... Read more

Quality education for all, but quality schools for few?

Views Mohammad Ehsanul Islam Khan Education empowers and shapes nations. Increased enrollment and reading levels in Bangladesh have also enhanced education access. But the focus on quantity has overtaken the drive for quality education, leaving only a handful with access to top-notch universities. According to Dr John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education ... Read more

Equal education leads to a better society

Opinion Mehreen Chowdhury EDUCATION is known to be strongest when voices and diverse perspectives are heard and shared around the community. It is vital that young people are given the space and safety to express them without feeling ashamed. The idea of special education is governed by the concept that education is for all. It ... Read more

Alarming increase in child marriage

Opinion Zillur Rahaman CHILD marriage is one of the social ills in Bangladesh. It was once an epidemic in Bangladesh. It, however, came under control because of various measures and the supervision of the government in the past decade or so, but has been increasing at an alarming rate since the Covid pandemic, which increased ... Read more

Time to prioritise social justice

Views We have the chance to reshape the world we live in – economically, socially, and environmentally. Gilbert F Houngbo May 1 is widely known as International Labour Day, a day when we celebrate the contribution of workers worldwide. It is a moment for pride, celebration, and hope. After three years of the Covid-19 crisis, ... Read more

More heatwaves are coming our way. Are we prepared?

Views While Bangladesh has a lot of experience in tackling cyclones and floods, we have not taken heat stress into consideration until now. Saleemul Huq The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently completed its sixth assessment report (AR6), with the Synthesis Report coming out in March. The Synthesis Report carries some key messages about ... Read more

Why collaboration is in our collective interest

ViewsRMG NOTESClimate ActionWithout fashion retailers and their suppliers working together, our industry as a whole will continue to see emissions rising. Mostafiz Uddin According to the latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world is likely to fail to reach its most ambitious climate target – limiting global warming to ... Read more

Will our universities survive in 25 years?

Views Syed Saad Andaleeb Quality education is the backbone of a wholesome and prosperous society. But finding the “quality” in quality education continues to be elusive in Bangladesh. The “so called” universities (more like community colleges) are rife with social, economic, political and ideological problems that work against building learning organisations. Teachers, the kingpins, don ... Read more

Can teachers be the pivot of change in education?

Views Manzoor Ahmed “No system of education can be better than its teachers” is an aphorism that remains meaningful. The nostalgic and idealised image of the teacher as a scholar, dispensing knowledge and wisdom to the young selflessly, who lives a simple life with little concern for material rewards and who is looked upon by ... Read more

Climate loss and damage are clearly visible in southwest Bangladesh

Views Ashish Barua, Sawkat Chowdhury The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that the sea level, over the last 120 years, has increased by 0.20 metres, and continues rising fast, caused by thermal expansion, glacier ice loss, ice sheet loss, etc. The sea level ... Read more

How can Dhaka solve its traffic problem?

Views Debra Efroymson If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that “traffic was particularly bad today,” I could have retired already. Over the years, people have hazarded various suggestions as to the cause of the terrible Dhaka traffic and its potential solutions. Causes include: not enough roads for all the cars; poor ... Read more

Celebrating 50 years of global environmental movement

Opinion Saleemul Huq The global environmental movement started in 1972, with the first global environment conference held in Stockholm, Sweden, hosted by then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. Among the heads of governments who also attended was the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who famously declared that environment and poverty were two major global issues ... Read more

Saving earth from disasters

Opinion By Md Zillur Rahaman TODAY is World Earth Day. The day is celebrated worldwide each year to show support for the protection of the environment. It was first observed in 1970 and is now held globally by the Earth Day Network. The UN-sponsored conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 3 to June 14, ... Read more

Women for women

Opinion Faria Rashid PATRIARCHAL societies like to deceive women into thinking that women cannot get along, work together and stand in support of one another. Given the patriarchal history of society, it has mostly worked to keep women in their places and apart from each other. This is why we hear so much about women ... Read more

CSR and a new order of business

From being seen as mere philanthropy and ‘doing good’, corporate social responsibility is now at the heart of business sustainability and ethical and accountable corporate behaviour Bitopi Das Chowdhury CSR or corporate social responsibility has been a buzz phrase for quite some time now. Not a day goes by without it being mentioned, albeit in ... Read more

Harmful impacts of cartels on consumers

Munshi Abdul Ahad A cartel is an anti-competitive arrangement between two or more competing businesses. Anticompetitive agreements, particularly cartels, harm consumers in urbanised society, as well as in the emerging countries. In adding together, cartelised industrial sectors lack competition which certainly reduces competitiveness in the long run and may have a negative impact on the ... Read more

How to troubleshoot the economy

Sadiq Ahmed Bangladesh is facing serious macroeconomic challenges and I have written a lot explaining them in a series of articles published in The Daily Star and in The Financial Express. In this new article I am going to write specifically about how Bangladesh could address those challenges while also mobilising substantial external financing in ... Read more

Jute bag prospects in global arena

Md Rashedul Karim Munna Global consumer demand for eco-friendly products has increased in both developed markets (such as Western Europe, the United States and Australasia) as well as new markets with emerging opportunities (such as the Middle East) mainly because of heightened awareness of the ill effects of environmental pollution and global warming. Large chain ... Read more