On 20 March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published the Policymaker Summary of its Synthesis Report. The report summarises the state of knowledge of the climate crisis, its widespread impacts and risks as well as mitigation and adaptation and is the last report to be published until 2030.
Where we stand.
The climate crisis is a man-made crisis and the Global North is responsible for the majority of historical contributions to greenhouse gas emissions. Global greenhouse gas emissions have continued to rise and the climate crisis has caused widespread harm to people and the planet.
Vulnerable communities, who have historically contributed the least to the climate crisis are disproportionately affected. Approximately 3.3 to 3.6 billion people face a high risk of climate impacts. The climate crisis is already impacting people’s livelihoods in multiple ways right now, and while it has had negative effects on social equity, patterns of inequity and marginalisation in turn worsen vulnerability in the context of the climate crisis.
Global financial flows for climate mitigation and adaptation fall short of the levels needed to meet international climate goals, and Global North countries have still not fulfilled the COP15 pledge to mobilise USD 100 billion per year in climate finance for countries of the Global South, which would still not be sufficient. The wealthiest nations are spending 30 times more on their military forces than they are providing in climate finance for the most susceptible countries worldwide, despite being legally bound to do so.
The amount of CO2 that will be released by current fossil fuel projects in the future is expected to exceed the remaining carbon budget for limiting warming to 1.5°C. And yet, public and private finance flows for fossil fuels are still greater than those for climate adaptation and mitigation.
We cannot continue with business as usual. Luckily, we have the tools and resources to tackle the climate crisis. In this piece, we want to focus on solutions. The report mentions various responses, but what could they look like from a feminist perspective? Let’s expand on that!
What we need to do
We have to increase international cooperation, including improving access to adequate financial resources, particularly for those regions, sectors, and groups who are most affected, and adopting inclusive governance and coordinated policies
Global North countries need to contribute more to climate funds such as the Green Climate Fund and work towards swiftly implementing an effective loss and damage fund agreed on at COP27, while Global South countries should be relieved of their debt to enable strengthened climate action. At the same time, there isn’t only a need for more resources, but governments should also assess and adjust how funds are distributed, ensure accessible funding mechanisms and mobilise financing for feminist solutions. Governance structures and policies should be made more inclusive by involving affected parties in decision-making processes from start to finish, including representative and civil society organisations. And while international agreements such as the Paris Agreement are important means to strengthen international coordination, for them to work effectively, it is crucial that countries are held accountable for their commitments.
We must prioritise equity, climate justice, inclusion and rights-based approaches in adaptation and mitigation actions
It is important to keep in mind that actions such as transitions to renewable energy systems or afforestation can have negative socio-economic and environmental consequences without consideration of local contexts and possible implications. Land rights have to be upheld, the livelihoods and ancestral practices of local communities that depend on access to certain areas cannot be threatened and without due diligence, constructing wind parks or sourcing critical minerals can cause human rights violations and environmental degradation. We need to ensure that climate actions are consistent with human rights principles, such as the right to food, water, health, and a safe environment and Indigenous rights. Measures which prioritise equity should centre the needs of marginalised groups such as women, BIPoC, members of the LGBTIQA+ community, people with disabilities, and migrants and address underlying social and economic inequalities such as discrimination, poverty, and unequal access to (financial, technical and natural) resources. In centering justice and inclusion, policymakers should also foster participation and accountability by promoting transparency, empowering communities to monitor and evaluate climate actions, and holding decision-makers accountable for their actions.
We need to draw on diverse knowledge, including cultural values, Indigenous, local, and scientific knowledge
Indigenous and frontline communities are repeatedly excluded from decision-making that impacts them directly, be it climate negotiations or the distribution of funds towards biodiversity. Policymakers should listen to communities most affected and support community-led initiatives that draw on local and Indigenous knowledge to address the climate crisis. Diverse knowledge systems can complement each other, and policymakers can create spaces for dialogue and collaboration where different forms of knowledge are shared and discussed in an effort to assess the climate crisis and viable solutions in a holistic way. This includes actively seeking out Indigenous and local knowledge and building partnerships with frontline communities and (feminist) civil society in order to integrate their perspectives into policy design and implementation which is locally appropriate and socially acceptable.
We must push for and accelerate ambitious and potentially disruptive transitions across all systems
We need to address the root causes of the climate crisis. In the pursuit of transformations that are both just and green, policies should incentivise practices which are actually environmentally sustainable in the long term and apply an intersectional lens to the climate crisis to address and dismantle structural patterns of inequity. This also means transitioning to a more sustainable way of life that focuses on the wellbeing of all and not only the few. We cannot afford continuous mingling with the fossil fuel industry, we must stop all new fossil fuel projects and make sure to phase out existing ones to quickly achieve the substantial and sustained emissions cuts needed. At the same time, policies must support workers and communities affected by the shift away from fossil fuels and ensure that transformative action doesn’t harm communities that are already most affected by the climate crisis.
Listen to the science… and to those most affected and intersectional feminists!
The IPCC report highlights the disproportionate impact of the climate crisis on marginalised communities, emphasises the importance of participatory and inclusive decision-making processes in climate policy, and recognises the need for systemic change and transformative action to address the root causes of the climate crisis. These are all ways in which the report aligns with Feminist Foreign Policy.
Acknowledging that the climate crisis is a social justice crisis, demands structural change and cannot be solved by isolated environmental action or highly technical solutions alone, governments need to incorporate intersectional analysis across all policies. An intersectional Feminist Foreign Policy recognises climate justice as gender, racial, social, environmental, economic, and health justice and fights all factors, directly and indirectly, contributing to the climate crisis.
From our perspective, the findings of the IPCC report underline that feminist demands and approaches are needed to tackle the climate crisis in a way that is just and sustainable for people and the planet.
Now let’s get to work!
Caroline Dietrich supports our Climate Justice and Anti-Racism work as a student assistant.