Women and energy

by Pedro Vicente, Intern

Changing from an economy based on use of fossil fuels to one using clean and efficient energy is a major concern for this century. The United Nations General Assembly declared 2012 the International Year of Sustainable Energy for All, recognizing that “…access to modern affordable energy services in developing countries is essential for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals, and sustainable development, which would help to reduce poverty and to improve the conditions and standard of living for the majority of the world’s population.”

 The UN community argues a need for new governmental policies that will (1) ensure universal access to modern energy services, (2) double the global rate of improvement in energy efficiency and (3) double the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix – all by 2030.

Clean energy can answer serious environmental issues including climate change, and also boost the economy through developing new green jobs and energy security for countries that are energy-poor.             

Availability of energy, especially clean energy, can be particularly important to women.  Women form a disproportionately large share of the poor in countries all over the world. They are especially susceptible to suffering from a lack of access to resources, and in many countries are responsible for securing energy for cooking and heating.  In many countries these responsibilities also fall on children, especially girl children.  Moreover, women and children are most likely to be affected by toxic gasses emitted from fossil fuels or other noxious sources.

In developing countries, when drought, inadequate rainfall or deforestation occur, or in times of political unrest or war, securing fuel, whether charcoal, wood or animal waste, is even harder.   When women must travel further from home, they are more susceptible to violations of their rights and can be raped or killed on their journey.  Culture as well as local economic systems may prohibit women from participating in relevant economic and social decision-making that could affect their lives.

By contrast, women in developed countries often have a stronger role in economic decision-making.  In some countries, women make over 80% of consumption decisions, and therefore their economic power can affect sustainability.  They particularly exercise decisions over the purchase of basic essentials such as food, clothing and household articles.  The decisions they take can have considerable impact on sustainability.

Surveys show that women, as compared with men, are more likely to be sustainable consumers, e.g., they tend to buy eco-labeled or organic food, have a higher propensity to recycle and place more value on efficient energy. Women tend to be more concerned about climate change than are men and advocate positive changes in life-styles and consumption behavior.  In part this is because they are looking ahead to the wellbeing of future generations.

However, across the world, barriers to women’s entry and influence in political decision-making remain. Increasing the percentage of women in decision-making positions and support of women’s effective leadership once they have been elected, are essential if they are to have a role in making crucial sustainable development decisions.    Gender equity, for example in national delegations to international bodies, is one way for women to have a voice in determining the future .

Through its Energy Project, the UNA Southern New York State Division promotes the adoption of energy efficiency and use of clean, sustainable energy across the US.  We also promote women’s empowerment as a means to enabling women in developing countries to educate themselves and their families about energy choices and as consequence preserve the earth for future generations.   We think that supporting development of clean energy will allow women to achieve a different role in society, while natural resources in their countries are protected.

For further information about the USA-SNY Energy Project and topics mentioned above, email unaenergy@unasouthernny.org and check and subscribe to our blog, https://unaenergy.wordpress.com/.  You can also subscribe to our Twitter handle:  @UNAEnergy.

References:

Women Watch:

http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/

Sustainable Energy for All:

http://www.sustainableenergyforall.org/about-us

Women’s Environment and Development Organization: http://www.wedo.org/category/themes/womens-leadership

 Promoting sustainable consumption in OECD countries: http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/1/59/40317373.pdf (Gender paragraph)

 

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