20 November 2008
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Women, as the primary household decision-makers in many parts of the world, were “indispensable” to addressing the impacts of climate change, and their role must be recognized if progress was to be made in upcoming talks to negotiate a global climate agreement for the post-2012 period, said Aira Kalela, the Head of International Affairs in Finland’s Environment Ministry.

Briefing reporters today at a Headquarters press conference, she pointed out that, in Africa, for example, women produced 80 per cent of the food for domestic consumption, took care of household water and energy needs and planted forests.

She was joined by Monique Essed-Fernandes, Interim Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization; Janet Macharia, Senior Gender Adviser, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP); and Liane Schalatek, Associate Director of the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America.

The panellists were in New York for a two-day meeting on gender and climate change, which specifically addressed how women could receive financial support for their activities to slow or adapt to climate change.  The meeting was organized by the Global Climate Change Gender Alliance, which is comprised of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), among more than 25 other members.

Finland supported the Alliance through awareness-raising and capacity-building activities, Ms. Kalela said.  She highlighted several important issues, saying first that, at a recent Heads of State meeting in Europe, States had learned they could not afford ambitious climate policy, but must look for an appropriate strategy.   Finland had taken a very firm stand that States must carefully look to the future.  Climate change would not be solved in a few months time.

“We have to have a wider horizon and we have to keep our targets,” she stressed.  The European Union as a whole, and Finland, were committed to reducing emissions by 20 per cent by 2020, and if other Governments agreed, would be ready to move to 30 per cent.  They would bring that negotiating target to Poznań, Poland, next week for the Fourteenth Conference of Parties meeting to take place under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Second, she said, all efforts to slow or adapt to climate change, including through increased use of renewable energy and creation of forest cover, and through sustainable water and agriculture management, were closely related to poverty eradication.  As such, climate policy was one of sustainable development, and she urged advancing agreed targets for development cooperation.  For its part, Finland was committed to its goal of allocating 0.7 per cent of its gross national product (GDP) for development financing.

Explaining UNEP’s view, Ms. Macharia said the Alliance had been formally launched in Bali, Indonesia, last year and focused on four areas, the first of which was global policy.  The Alliance was working with partners to ensure that policies were gender-responsive, and asking to what extent gender could be integrated into United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations.

Second, she said, the Alliance was focused on capacity-building, and would hold its first capacity-building training session in Poznań, Poland, which would train about 20 partners in integrating gender into climate talks.  It also would work closely at the regional level to prepare for talks next year.  “We cannot do this alone,” she stressed, adding that the Alliance was looking for other partner organizations.

Another emphasis was financing; to what extent could climate change financing ensure the promotion of gender equality?  After just one year, the Alliance was still “learning the ropes” and seeking support from and partnerships with Governments.

Joining the conversation, Ms. Essed-Fernandes said it was unfortunate that she still needed to explain why women must be at the forefront of climate change efforts.  They were not victims in the debate, but leaders to offset the negative impacts of climate change, particularly in terms of decision-making on consumption, food production and management of sustainable forests.

The Alliance was seeking “innovative and fast-acting decisions” on such issues, she explained, and it was looking at targeted financing mechanisms.  She hoped that Governments and the private sector could come together to find solutions during preparations for the Fifteenth Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Adding to that, Ms. Schalatek explained first that her foundation was affiliated with the Green Party in Germany and was a “member in spirit” of the Alliance.  She called for a “double mainstreaming” for equitable development, which incorporated gender and financing issues.  The costs of mitigation and adaptation efforts would be large, and even more daunting for developed countries was the need to keep commitments for development financing.

On climate financing, she said environmental financial mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism, had had limited benefits for least developed countries and women, owing to their lack of capital and market access.  There had been more than 12 new multilateral and bilateral financing mechanisms, producing important shifts in the overall picture.  The World Bank and others, for example through new climate investment funds, had become important actors in climate financing.

Responding to questions on the Alliance’s composition, Ms. Kalela said that “this is not a typical UN agency”.  There were representatives of Governments from European and developing countries.  Negotiations were ongoing on environmental issues, including climate change.

Ms. Essed-Fernandes added it was an open alliance, and parties were interested in joining because of a shared history in the United Nations context. Looking to negotiations in Poznań, she said the Alliance would make use of the United Nations various environment platforms, put positions on the table and garner allies, which was already “part and parcel” of such processes.

Ms. Macharia noted that there were extensive programmes on climate change in each body’s mandate, and the question was how to integrate gender issues.  Without partners on the ground -- civil society -– the Alliance would not be able to achieve its goals.  “If we don’t put heads together, we will not achieve what we want in the end,” she said.

UNEP was key to marshalling support from other agencies, she explained, including UN-Habitat and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  In addition, the Alliance supported the Network of Women Ministers and Leaders for the Environment, which was crucial for negotiations and to building support at the national level.

Ms. Kalela added that the Alliance comprised non-governmental organizations, civil society, international organizations and Governments.

Ms. Schalatek rounded out the explanation by saying: “It’s a coalition of the passionate.”

To a question about whether Finland was showing evidence of climate change, Ms. Kalela said “unfortunately yes”, noting its potential for colder winters and rainy summers.   Forest structures also stood to change.

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For information media • not an official record