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Look to Women for Innovation and Impact: we celebrate Earth Day 2014

 
 
Once a year -- on April 22 -- around the world, people young and old, rich and poor, focus on the needs of our fragile planet and those of us who reside on it. Earth Day is a great opportunity to draw attention to how people and the environment co-exist. 
 
This year, in light of increasing disasters, many people are focusing on climate change and its impact on our weather patterns. Here in the Gender Office of the International Union for Conservation of Nature, we are excited by gender-based proposals to address climate change.
 
But ... Why gender-based? Because women have too often been left out of high-level decision-making on environmental threats and opportunities. The fact is that the more inclusive nations can be in addressing environmental issues, the greater the odd of success. Inclusion is the first of five "I's" that lead us away from business as usual and toward an innovative and successful way to address climate change:
 
 
The Five "I's"
 
 
1. Inclusion
 
Citizens of all backgrounds, ethnicity, gender, cast, age and class must contribute
 
2. Impact
 
Solutions need to have real results, in the reduction of emissions (greenhouse gasses)
 
3. Improve
 
All strategies must aim to improve the quality of life of all men and women
 
Increase
 
They must increase sustainability and nature-based solutions for our planet
 
Innovative
 
We must all think of new ways to tackle these critical issues. From Mozambique to Jordan to Australia and the Amazon, people are applying the Five "I's" as they prepare to implement some of the following ideas:
 
A water taxi network of the Nile owned and operated by women will reduce emissions and provide fast, reliable public transport in a gridlocked transport system in Cairo, Egypt. A waste-to-wealth recycling project will empower women as green entrepreneurs in Kathmandu, Nepal.
Women environmental whistle blowers on the coast of Liberia will assist the government in the collection of meteorological data to forecast the weather, act as an early-warning system for storms, and identify and report environmental offenses.
 
Women in Jordan and Nepal may use mosques and poetry singers in temples to communicate climate change messages.
Women could develop climate change kits in Mozambique that include traditional medicines that could help individuals and communities cope with some of the health impacts of climate change. For example, citronella could be used to control mosquitoes or the African plant moringa could help purify contaminated water.
IUCN is working with all of those who proposed these ideas to determine their efficacy, and is working with others to develop innovative solutions to pressing environmental issues. For far too long, we have all relied on scientists and "experts" to develop solutions when, in fact, each of us can play an important role in addressing climate change.
 
 
So...
 
Earth Day is a great time to pause, reflect, celebrate, worry... and then move on to developing plans for action that include all of us.
 
By Lorena Aguilar, IUCN Senior Gender Advisor.
 

Missing in Discussions of Climate Change: Women

 

Rigorous global discussions about climate change are critical as we face one of the greatest threats our planet has ever faced. So the release of the second of a four-part report from the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) earlier this week was welcomed eagerly by those of us who work on climate change on a daily basis. The report concluded that climate change poses a risk to everything from our food supply to public health. And it touches all of us whether we live in the wealthiest cities or the poorest villages. The latest report is by far one of the most complete scientific documents on climate change. It will guide and serve as a reference in the consolidation of the new framework agreement that should be produced by the end of 2015.

But a review of both the report and media coverage of it shows a glaring omission: Where are the women? To be fair, they are mentioned as victims of these dire changes. But why are they not included as major actors and agents of change in one of the largest threats humanity has faced in modern times?

The fact is that from Africa to Latin America to Asia and North America, women refuse to be passive actors in the face of climate change. Unfortunately, as is clear in the IPPC report and media coverage, that fact is rarely acknowledged.

Women have and are playing an important role in climate change adaptation and mitigation, and new studies have uncovered a positive correlation between the level of women's representation and a country's efforts toward sustainability. Women's contributions to addressing climate change are frequently overlooked, primarily due to such challenges as: obstructed access to markets, capital, training, and technologies; insecure land and tenure rights. The result is a lost opportunity to achieve multiple benefits -- gender equality and women's empowerment could open the door to greater strides to better overall development outcomes, including reducing greenhouse gases and building resilience to climate change impacts.

In partnership with IUCN and thanks to visionary support from Finland, 13 countries and regions have developed ccGAPs -- climate change gender action plans -- that are anchored in existing national climate change processes. Ministries and regional bodies have chosen to establish ccGAPs when there is limited understanding of gender inequalities in the climate change context and when they need to establish avenues to address these inequalities. Countries with ccGAPs are making greater strides toward equitable climate change responses. Among the many examples of how this momentum is leading to change:

Mozambique -- The ccGAP was the catalyst for the inclusion of gender equality measures in the development of the country's Investment Program for the Strategic Program for Climate Resilience under the Climate Investment Funds.

Jordan -- In response to the ccGAP, the Jordanian government signaled that gender mainstreaming is a national priority in the context of climate change and pledged to make gender a primary consideration in the country's third National Communication.

Nepal -- Components of the ccGAP were slated for implementation in the context of the Annual Programs of seven climate change-related ministries and the government's Three Year Program.

Last year, IUCN developed the first-ever tool to monitor government progress toward gender equality and women's empowerment in the environmental arena. TheEnvironment and Gender Index (EGI) provides the first quantitative data on governments' performance translating the gender and environment mandates in the three Rio Conventions and CEDAW into national policy and planning. The resulting information helps policymakers, civil society, and others evaluate progress and identify where the gaps lie in achieving gender equality in the environmental context.

With tools including ccGAPs and the Environment and Gender Index as well as the clear mandates given by the Parties to the United Nation Framework Climate Change in relation to gender, it is inconceivable that gender is entirely missing from the latest IPCC report and the resulting coverage. Climate change is looming way too large for us to address it in anything but a comprehensive way. I urge all those in the IPCC community to embrace one of the most innovative ways to both adapt to and mitigate climate change: Ensuring that gender equality is a key component in achieving climate change goals.

This post was first published on HuffPost Green News

Solar Cooking Around the World: webminar on challenges, Solutions and Best Practices will take place on 04 April 2014 at 3 pm GMT.

Many parts of the world have significant solar thermal energy potential. Therefore, solar power is primarily used, for example, in a few large, desert solar arrays to generate electricity and in rooftop solar hot water systems. Despite the fact that hundreds of millions of families in the developing world could cook their meals with solar thermal energy more than three hundred days per year, there is still today very limited use of this power source for domestic and industrial cooking scale applications. 
 
As demonstrated by current projects in Chile and India, the use of solar thermal cooking devices in canteens at schools and companies as well as in restaurants is an attractive, sustainable and rational use of solar energy. Solar cooking is a sustainable alternative to the conventional cooking process since variations on this technology can bake and roast foods slowly like an oven, or boil and fry foods as fast as a gas burner. 
 
Despite significant education and training activities carried out by a large number of solar cooking advocates in sunny European nations like in Portugal and Spain, the use of solar cookers is not yet a common practice for replacing the use of gas and electricity for cooking in these countries.To help spread the word and successfull experiences, the International Solar Energy Society is calling upon a webimnar to address the challenges, solutions and best practices of solar cooking around the world.
 
The webinar will focus on current examples of the use of solar cookers and on recent technical advances in this technology. It will also present a comparative analysis of the development of solar cooking technology in different latitudes with various cultural parameters and energy situations.
 
The webinar will take place on 04 April 2014 from 3:00 - 4: 30 pm GMT/UTC. If you are not sure what time the webinar is taking place at your location, check the time at your location here.  Register online here to participate in this webinar. Please do so for the webinar before 04 April 12:00 pm GMT.  

In Norway men say no, thanks

Scandinavia is well known for its large female political representation. However, public debate is still dominated by men. Business conferences with a 100 percent male speaker lineup are not rare. Some of these men are tired of debating only men, and are taking action to change it.
 
In Sweden and Norway, male speakers are now refusing to participate in conferences and panel discussions without female representation.
This new initiative  wants  men to ask whether women are represented on the programme. If the debate is composed by only men, then the campaign expects men to turn the invitation down say no, thanks.
 
The campaing uses the  hashtag #tackanej. It was launched in November last year by three men, and was supported by the organization Equalisters. It has attracted more than 200 signatures, ranging from established media personalities to university professors and successful entrepreneurs.
 
The main goal of the campaign is to turn Say No, Thanks into a Say Yes, Please yes to more female speakers and more diversity in debates and conferences.

Some highlights on how climate and gender are linked

 
There are women doing all kinds of inspiring actions and showing us the importance of gender equality when addressing climate change.
 
This year's International Women's Day theme point that ou precisely: 'Equality for women is progress for all'  and even more, when it comes to climate action. 
 
At the UN Climate Change Conference in Doha, Qatar, in 2012, Parties to the Convention committed to promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of Parties in bodies established under the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol by adopting pdf-icon decision 23/CP.18, which became known as the "Doha Miracle". 
 
The UNFCCC Women and Gender constituency, the Global Gender and Climate Alliance, UN Women and the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice have been a driving force for advocating gender-sensitive climate policies and capacity-building activities to promote the greater participation of women in the UNFCCC process.
 
The member organizations of the UNFCCC Women and Gender constituency represent several hundred grassroots groups, national and international organizations and unetworks. The constituency seeks to represent women's voices, experiences, preferences, needs and capacities, and works towards equal representation within Parties and observer organizations to the UNFCCC and the incorporation of gender dimensions and human rights into UNFCCC negotiations for gender-sensitive climate policies all levels.
 
The tremendous scope and importance of linkages between gender and climate change has been captured in a wide range of resource materials, many of which are available on UN Women's new 'Knowledge Gateway for Women's Economic Empowerment' and UNFCCC's Climate Change Information Network Clearinghouse CC:iNet.