Climate Leaders demand equal gender representation at COP26

The lack of female voices at next year’s UN Summit is a national embarrassment

Over 400 women climate leaders have signed an open letter to the British Government, calling for stronger female representation in the COP26 leadership team. The campaign’s organisers are demanding 50/50 representation. The current team headed to COP is made up of less than 25% of women in leadership positions.

The campaign for 50/50 representation was launched by SHEChangesClimate last November ahead of the scheduled UN Climate Summit, COP26, which has been postponed until 2021. In September, the UK government announced that an all-male team would be hosting the summit, with no women at a senior level working in negotiations.

Next year’s COP26 in Glasgow is being heralded as the most critical climate conference to date, unifying world leaders, climate campaigners and scientific experts to come together to coordinate a resolution to the climate crisis. This is a pivotal moment for climate action, and disappointing for many to see the categoric failure to accommodate gender balance in the climate debate.

In addition, women are disproportionately affected by climate change, and data continually points to the intersection between gender and climate. The IPCC found that gender inequalities are further exaggerated by climate-related hazards, and The Paris Agreement acknowledges special provisions will be required to ensure women receive additional support to cope with future climate hazards.

Women are more likely to have less access to basic human rights, to live in poverty and to be the victim of systemic violence during instability, all of which will be exacerbated by exposure to the risks of a changing climate.

The letter points out that not only is a lack of gender diversity an issue of representation, curtailing women from the agenda is also detrimental to the success of the decision-making process. It ignores the wealth of benefits female leadership brings to the climate debate.

Time and time again, studies have shown that greater gender diversity leads to better performance across the board, including climate governance. In fact, a recent study by Bloomberg NEF found that emissions growth from firms with a third of female directors was 0.6%, compared with 3.5% from those without any women.

Undoubtedly women’s voices need to be at the forefront of the climate decision-making process to make COP26 a success, and the UK team should be a reflection of the diversity of the UK itself, which means providing representative voices of half of the population.

The letter has garnered widespread support, with signatories including female environmental heavyweights, such as Paris Agreement co-author, Laurence Tubiana, and ShareAction Chief Executive Catherine Howarth, as well as household names including Emma Thompson, Ellie Goulding and Nobel Prize winner Jody Williams.

To read more about the campaign, visit the SHEChangesClimate website here.

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