Women bear the brunt of climate change because they are more acutely subject to poverty, says Gender Links.
“The gender equality struggles on climate change have forced thousands of women to lose control of land, clean water, energy sources and food security,” said Sifisosami Dube, head of governance and sexual reproductive health and rights at Gender Links.
“As women bear the brunt of climate change, the message is clear that women and youth have to be at the centre of the climate action movement,” Dube added.
Climate activism has jumped onto the global agenda as young Swedish activist Greta Thunberg implored world leaders to declare a climate emergency.
According to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), 20% to 40% of the global population live in regions that have already experienced warming of more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial times.
The organisation found in its Fifth Assessment Report that global temperatures had already increased by 0.85°C and sea levels rose 19cm.
The IPCC found that limiting warming to 1.5°C would make it easier to achieve sustainable development and eradicate poverty, but that it would require “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society”.
President Cyril Ramaphosa highlighted the risk of climate change at the UN Secretary General’s Climate Summit on September 23.
He said that Southern Africa was at risk of flooding and drought as a result of climate change.
“The view of South Africa and Africa, as developing countries and as global citizens, is that the climate crisis cannot be solved outside of a development context,” said Ramaphosa.
“We see the crisis as an opportunity to strengthen global governance and that in addressing the crisis, we can meet the aspirations of the UN Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals.”
The World Bank highlighted South Africa’s progress in reducing poverty from 33.8% of people living in poverty in 1996 to 18.8% in 2015, but expressed concern that progress was slowing and the country was wracked by inequality as expressed by the Gini coefficient.
“Inequality has been persistent, having increased from 0.61 in 1996. High inequality is perpetuated by a legacy of exclusion and the nature of economic growth, which is not pro-poor and does not generate sufficient jobs. Inequality in wealth is even higher: The richest 10% of the population held around 71% of net wealth in 2015, while the bottom 60% held 7% of the net wealth,” said the global organisation.
In his state of the nation address, Ramaphosa said extreme weather was a threat to South Africa’s economy.
“Together with all the nations of the world, we are confronted by the most devastating changes in global climate in human history.
“The extreme weather conditions associated with the warming of the atmosphere threaten our economy, they threaten the lives and the livelihoods of our people, and – unless we act now – will threaten our very existence.”
Ramaphosa argued that SA needed to focus on economic transformation, education, service delivery, spatial integration, social cohesion and others in order to achieve the goals of the National Development Plan.
As part of the response to gender-based violence, the president announced in parliament on September 18 that the government would prioritise women for training opportunities and procurement of services.
“Government is committed to reach its target to set aside 30% of the value of its procurement for women-owned businesses, and to progressively increase that to 40%,” Ramaphosa said at the time.
He also told the UN that 6,422MW (Megawatts) of electricity had been procured from 112 independent renewable energy providers, the government had introduced a carbon tax, and would be decommissioning coal fired power plants older than 50 years.