Suffern, New York

20 September 2013

Secretary-General's message to International Women's Earth and Climte Summit

I am pleased to send greetings to the International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit.  You meet at a crucial time in history as nations work to reach a global, legal climate agreement and define a post-2015 development agenda. 

The deadline for both is 2015.  Success in each has profound implications for the other.  Holding global temperature rise to below 2 degree Celsius from pre-industrial levels is essential to ending poverty and promoting equitable social and economic development.  Pursuing a sustainable development path that benefits people and the planet is essential for combating climate change.

Women are central, as beneficiaries and actors.  Pursuing gender equality and women’s empowerment is an end in itself.  It is also a powerful tool in the race to combat climate change.  Around the world, women from the poorest communities – as heads of households, owners of small businesses in urban slums and small-scale farmers in rural areas -- face increased hardships as climate change affects land productivity and the availability of clean water.  Women and children are also directly affected by energy poverty and the threat to health from burning dirty fuels in the home for cooking, light and heat.  Climate-smart agriculture, low-carbon growth and sustainable energy for all can relieve many of these burdens and empower women.

The challenges women face are too often compounded by inequality.  Women – in the fields of science, politics, medicine, business, design, education, agriculture and natural resource management – have tremendous potential to alter the direction of our common future.  But society will never realize this potential until women have equal rights.  They must be safe at home and in public and free from discrimination at work and in the corridors of power.  When girls are healthy and educated and women have equal access to land, property and economic opportunity, nations have a better chance to thrive.

Your conference is addressing all the issues that affect women and development -- from the big picture to the essential details.  I look forward to your deliberations enriching the ongoing essential debates on climate change and the post-2015 development agenda.

I wish you a productive and empowering meeting.