Today is International Women’s Day. An occasion to celebrate the wins for gender equality so far. To reflect on the struggles. And a day to look ahead, take a glance at the future and imagine what could be.
What could be if key policies – such as the Green Deal which strives to set Europe on a path towards carbon neutrality – also served as a catalyst to move towards a just, fair and gender-equal Europe.
This year EIGE will focus its work on identifying ways to integrate a gender and intersectional perspective into Green Deal policies to help make this vision a reality.
Because striving to be the first climate neutral continent is more than just becoming an economy with zero greenhouse gas emissions. It’s also about creating an equitable environment for all people on this planet.
Moving towards a green and gender-equal Europe can go hand in hand.
Diving deep into different Green Deal related policy areas, we will provide key evidence and concrete recommendations on how to include a gender perspective for an ever-green future.
The European Green Deal is a transformative plan in the making. Opportunities for growth abound.
But where do we start?
Climate change will not wait. We need to understand the impact climate change has and will have on our lives – and how it will have diverse impacts on different groups of people.
Reem Al Salem, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls, who participated in EIGE’s Gender Equality Forum last year, spoke to a reality where climate crisis is exacerbating the risk of violence against women and girls.
We are living a triple mega crisis: conflict, climate change and violence against women and girls. Each of them of epic proportion. Each of them is preventable. But each of them is lacking the political will to do so. Every crisis has a gendered impact. We see that the rights and freedoms of women and girls are the first to be at risk. The long standing and pre-existing discriminations at play are magnified.
In addition, we need to understand that the policies implemented to address climate change have an impact on the lived realities of people. The Green Deal covers various areas, including energy, biodiversity, sustainable mobility, food and agriculture, building and renovation and the move towards a circular economy. The Deal also sets the aim to help ensure a just and socially fair transition.
European Commission Vice President Timmermans early on saw the importance of a gender perspective on environmental policies:
I will pursue a twin-track approach on gender and climate change. I envisage taking measures designed to redress gender inequalities that are exacerbated by climate change (…).
Among areas the Green Deal will focus on, here are some initial considerations to advance a green and gender-equal transition:
Energy: The hardest hit by energy poverty
At the moment, the energy crisis is impacting lives, livelihoods and businesses across the EU. And energy poverty, which is understood as a household not being able to fulfil their energy needs, such as heating, cooling, lighting, or obtaining other essential energy services, is a key area on the EU’s political agenda.
While more and more people struggle to pay their energy bills as a result of inflation and the overall cost of living crisis, the struggle varies across different groups of people. Structural inequalities contribute to this. Women tend to have lower incomes due to gender pay and pension gaps – therefore, can be hit harder in the fallout of a crisis – any crisis.
Single mothers are particularly affected. Recent evidence has shown that almost 1 in 2 single mothers were anticipated to have faced difficulties paying their bills in the past months.
As part of a green transition, energy policy needs to consider and address the struggles of different groups, taking a gender and intersectional perspective, to ensure a just and socially fair transition. This is one critical step towards a green and gender-equal Europe.
Transport: Driving equality
The Green Deal also focuses on the improvement of safe, efficient, and environmentally friendly transportation.
Transport policies need to consider how women and men use different modes of transport for different purposes and in different ways. Despite the fact that transport projects and policies are often considered to equally benefit women and men, there is a large body of literature emphasising that transport is not gender neutral.
According to these studies, gender is a significant factor in accounting for differences in mobility and travel behaviour.
And policy also has the power to help overcome gender segregation in the transport sector. Currently only 22% of the people working in the transport sector are women. To make a green transition, everybody needs to be taken on board to ensure a fair representation and drive green growth.
Women in decision-making roles
Right now, women are woefully underrepresented in decision-making roles in policy making areas related to climate change and the environment. This gender imbalance likely signifies that many policies under the Green Deal overlook issues affecting women disproportionately.
In the EU Member State governments, only 27 % of government ministers responsible for environmental and climate change policies are women.
We know that the green transition could generate up to 1 million additional jobs by 2030. Therefore, creating opportunities for relevant skills development for everyone is key for a gender equal future.
#3StepsForward – towards a green and gender-equal Europe
“We must ensure that the green transition is not aggravating gender and social inequalities. We need to see more women in decision making roles in policy areas or industries related to climate change,” says EIGE Director, Carlien Scheele.
As part of this year’s thematic focus of the Gender Equality Index EIGE will have a closer look at two areas with large contributions to carbon emissions – energy and transport. The Institute will provide updates related to the gender balance of women and men in decision making related to climate change and the environment.
And through the GREENA project, EIGE will also develop approaches and practical tools on how to simultaneously integrate environmental and climate action concerns along with gender equality issues in evaluations.
By bringing evidence and recommendations to Member States and the EU, we hope to reduce the gaps between different groups in accessing the benefits of a green and gender-equal Europe.