Women Constitute 80 Per Cent of Climate Change Refugees: Up to 20 Million

Source: WEN

2 March 2010 - A staggering 20 million of the 26 million people currently estimated to be displaced by climate change are female, according to an extensive report launched by the Women’s Environmental Network (WEN) on 2 March at the House of Commons.

The report, Gender and the Climate Change Agenda, finds that because of ongoing gender inequality, different social roles, and simple biology, women are far more likely to die in natural disasters than men, suffer from increased workload, and be subject to abuse, including sexual violence, in resource conflicts exacerbated by climate change. The report also includes data gathered at the 2009 Copenhagen Conference highlighting the lack of a gender dimension even in the most recent international climate-change negotiations.

“Women are already disproportionally affected by climate change in many parts of the world,” said Bernadette Vallely, founder and chair of WEN. “If no action is taken, climate change will exacerbate gender inequality, making it far less likely that the Millennium Development Goals will be met. The core value missing from Copenhagen was the failure to prioritise the most poor and vulnerable, statistically mainly women.”

In the UK, 19 per cent more women than men live in poverty, making them especially vulnerable to rising food prices and projected increases in climate change-related health problems. In addition, women contribute less to climate change than men, and have been identified as particularly adaptive and innovative in developing countries hit by climate change, the report finds.

For this reason, correcting Copenhagen’s mistakes creates a powerful opportunity, Vallely said. “By giving women a greater voice in climate-change decision-making, and taking strong action on gender equality, not only could disastrous climate change be avoided but progress made towards a more equitable society.”

For the report (in PDF format), please click here.