Equilibrium & Sustainability

Gender equity, family planning missing from US city climate plans: report

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American women and gender-diverse individuals are disproportionately affected by climate change, but municipal climate plans fail to address family planning or gender equity solutions, a new report has found.

The report, released on Tuesday by the Center for Biological Diversity, scrutinized 21 climate plans in cities nationwide, whose total populations represent about 10 percent of the U.S. population. The authors found that none of the plans included family planning, contraception or reproductive health solutions and that only one city — Boston — referred to gender equity as a climate change mitigation strategy. 

“Societies are more resilient when governments invest in women and girls,” Kelley Dennings, a campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement.

“Gender-empowerment solutions to climate change risks, like sexual and reproductive health, benefit people and the planet,” she continued. “Population pressure makes it even harder to meet emissions-reductions targets and recover from climate-related catastrophes.”

While the climate plans all included a range of climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies for areas such as energy, housing and transportation, they consistently neglected to address gender equity and empowerment initiatives, according to the report.

But such initiatives are critical climate change solutions, the authors argued, citing the nonprofit Project Drawdown, which has found that better health outcomes for women can strengthen the abilities of communities to adapt to climate change.

Because women lose their jobs more often than men following natural disasters and are also more likely to be caregivers, they are less flexible to protect themselves from and respond to extreme weather events, the report found. 

Including gender empowerment efforts in climate plans is by no means unprecedented, according to the study. The first internationally recognized “climate change gender action plan” was adopted at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP-23) in 2017, the authors stated.

The U.N. action plan identified how women face greater risks when it comes to climate change impacts but are also equipped with unique tools to contribute to mitigation and adaptation efforts, according to the report.

Because 45 percent of pregnancies in the U.S. are unintended, providing comprehensive reproductive health care would enable policymakers to give women the autonomy to determine whether they want to have children, the authors explained. This ability to choose then “makes the planet a more sustainable place for those already on it,” they argued.

The authors also cited the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which has deemed climate change “an urgent women’s health issue.”

The cities included in the evaluations were Albuquerque, N.M.; Atlanta; Austin, Texas; Boston; Charlotte, N.C.; Chicago; Columbus, Ohio; Denver; Washington, D.C.; Houston; Kansas City, Mo.; Lincoln, Neb.; Los Angeles; Minneapolis; New York; Newton, Mass.; Philadelphia; Phoenix; Portland, Ore.; San Antonio and Seattle.

The years their climate plans were written ranged from as early as 2008 for Kansas City to 2021 for Albuquerque and Lincoln.

The one city to mention specific gender-based activities that could help combat climate change was Boston, which offers a “Women Bike” program “for Boston residents who identify as female or gender-nonconforming,” according to the city’s 2019 climate plan.

The Center for Biological Diversity researchers described the Boston bike program as “a great example of a climate solution that falls at the intersection of public health and public transportation.”

They called upon other cities, however, to include such gender-based strategies and solutions in their climate plans, stressing that doing so “will provide long-term benefits to people, wildlife and the planet.”

“Women, girls and gender-diverse people are more affected by the climate emergency than men, so it’s crucial for climate change solutions to include them,” Dennings said.

“Decreasing population pressure by providing comprehensive, convenient and affordable reproductive healthcare, including abortion, is key to mitigating the long-term effects of climate change and bolstering conservation,” she added.

Tags Climate change gender equity

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