Want to fix climate change? Fix gender equality

Solutions to environmental crises must work for everyone. Liz Hutchins showcases some of the women leading the charge for change.
Portrait of Liz Hutchins, Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth
By Liz Hutchins    |      Published:  06 Mar 2018    |      2 minute read

Over 100 years ago most British women were granted the right to vote.

In recent years, a global movement has grown to expose the horrific scale of sexual assault around the world. #MeToo has become a shout of shared experience and a call to arms. The crescendo of women’s voices clamouring for change is urgent and powerful.

While the world stutters to respond to women saying "time’s up", we also face another urgent challenge: climate breakdown.

Women and the effects of climate breakdown

The impacts of climate breakdown aren't felt equally. Poverty and geography are important dividing lines – but so too is gender. Disasters caused by climate breakdown disproportionately affect women.

When disaster strikes, women, who still often play the primary role of looking after children and the elderly, are the last to evacuate. This leads to higher female death tolls.

Around 90% of the 150,000 people killed in the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone were women. They typically have less access to emergency response information. If they do survive, women, especially in poor or marginalised communities, are often less able to rebuild and recover.

Solutions to climate breakdown need to work for everyone – yet women’s voices and needs are still often excluded from decision-making.

The problem of climate breakdown is simply too big to overlook female talent.

Why women will save the planet

The pioneering book Why Women Will Save the Planet, from Friends of the Earth and C40 Cities, articulates why we can’t fix climate change without fixing gender equality. It showcases some of the amazing women already leading the charge for both.

From Rachel Carson, the American marine biologist who, through her 1962 book Silent Spring, changed the way we think about the environment. To Berta Cáceres, the murdered Honduran environmental activist who forced the world’s largest dam builder to pull out of the Agua Zarca Dam.

And there's Christiana Figueres – a driving force in negotiating the 2015 Paris climate agreement. Negotiating the agreement was a feat that many said couldn’t be done. It commits the world to pursue efforts to keep global temperature rises to 1.5°C. If honoured, it will save countless millions of lives – in the coming decades and in generations to come.

Equality and sustainability

The message of Why Women Will Save the Planet is that equality and sustainability are two sides of the same story.

Business as usual for the global economy has had terrible consequences for our environment – as we use more and more of the Earth’s resources with little care for what happens next. The economic system has also led to huge inequality.

It’s time to re-imagine and create a different kind of world. One with equality and sustainability at its heart. One where we share resources and power fairly.

Benefits of equality

When women are allowed a seat at the table, we all benefit. It's becoming well-known that companies with women on their boards perform better. The same is true for women and climate change.

Why Women Will Save the Planet captures some of the spirit of the great women who came before us. It shows that with hope, passion and perseverance, we can build a better world.

  • Read more: Why Women Will Save the Planet  is a collection of articles and interviews from some of the leading lights of the environmental and feminist movements. New edition in association with C40 Cities published March 2018. 
  • Liz Hutchins was Campaigns Director at Friends of the Earth.