Women demand more climate action

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Pretoria - A two-day environmental conference ended in Pretoria on Sunday with a call by delegates for the South African government to move urgently towards the implementation of policies that would ensure more participation of women on issues of climate change adaptation and mitigation. 

Delegates at the Women in Media and Environment Conference, convened by government, also pledged to utilise "every available opportunity at our disposal" to raise awareness of climate change among South Africa's women. 

South Africa will host this year's United Nations Climate Change summit in Durban and resolutions coming out of the conference this past weekend are expected to feed up to a number of proposals that are expected to form the country's position at COP 17. 

But the more than 200 delegates, drawn from the country's media and environment sector, on Sunday expressed concern at what they described as a lack of public awareness on the subject of climate change among the country's poor, especially women. 

They said that women will bear the brunt of environmental degradation as a result of climate change.

"Imploring world governments and all delegates to the COP17/CMP7 to act decisively and with requisite urgency to restore the integrity of international climate change negotiations," read a declaration that followed intense discussions. 

"Recognising that our continent, Africa, is already experiencing dire consequences of climate change and that the continent is likely to suffer the most from these consequences we are calling on women and society at large to take greater interest in matters relating to environmental health and climate change," it said.

Delegates further urged African negotiators at the COP17 to speak with one voice and represent the best interests of African people at the conference adding that Africa stood to suffer the most from climate change. 

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, who was part of a government delegation at the conference, had earlier said that developing nations will foster ahead with their demand for a binding international treaty on climate change and called on women to take a lead in the Durban deliberations. 

"We as women should be demanding an international climate regime that balances adaptation and mitigation recognising the development needs of poor countries...so it's not about the fight between rich and poor countries but something that needs and has to be done," Molewa said. 

COP 17 in Durban comes at a critical moment when it's only one year left before the expiry in 2012 of the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, which binds nearly 40 countries to specific carbon emission reductions targets. 

Developing countries demand that the Kyoto obligations be extended and new targets adopted while industrial countries have been pushing for emerging economies to accept similar binding commitments. Decisions on the future of the treaty were deferred until the Durban summit. 

It remains to be seen whether countries will sign up for a second commitment period to cut emissions beyond 2012. 

It's understood that the Group of 77 countries and China are in consultation with the European Union for the second commitment period. 

Deputy Minister for Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency Dina Pule, who led the talks at the Women in Media and Environment Conference, said the lack of awareness on issues of climate change among rural women, was what needed to be addressed ahead of COP 17 and beyond. 
"What we are saying is that greater emphasis needs to be placed on awareness and dissemination of information that is why we are calling on women in media to help us address this challenge," Pule said. 

Speaking to BuaNews, she also called on the private sector to identify responses to climate change that would include technology innovations that are championed by women and young people. 

A call has also been made to all sectors of society to work together and implement campaigns, like nationwide tree-planting, in order to raise public awareness on environmental health and climate change. 

Pule noted that an ongoing climate awareness strategy will need to be in place to enable South Africa to meet its mitigation obligations long after COP 17. 

"We need ongoing training on issues of waste management, green economy, research and technology things that will eventually make it easy for not only mitigate but to adapt to the changing environment," she said. -BuaNews 

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