By Joanne Lim

Today, we celebrate the 110th year of International Women’s Day. It is a day dedicated to honor women for their meaningful contribution to society. It also serves as a call to action to push forward gender equality. While the status of women has significantly advanced in that they are allowed to vote, hold property, pursue different professions and speak out against sexual harassment as opposed to a hundred years ago, women still suffer from exclusion, discrimination and violence and are exposed to socio-economic vulnerabilities. And unlike a hundred years ago, women now face the reality of climate crisis and its effect on the environment and the people.

Women have less access to decent work and the gender wage gap continues to persist. The International Labor Organization, reports that globally, women earn 77% of what men earn. The informal economy where there is already poor working conditions and limited access to social protection also has a gender gap. Women are also left to carry unpaid household and care work.

The International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said in 2014 that “[people] who are socially, economically, culturally, politically, institutionally, or otherwise marginalized are especially vulnerable to climate change and also to some adaptation and mitigation responses”. Gender inequality then exacerbates the already adverse effects of climate change on women, especially in conditions of poverty.

Women must not be seen as just victims of climate change. If invested in and empowered, they are capable of helping curb the harmful consequences of a changing climate. With the Paris Agreement setting 1.5 degrees Celsius as the limit in temperature rise and the IPCC report stressing the need to for a global shift to a low-carbon economy, women can also be pivotal agents in the building of local power in communities for the fight against the fossil fuel economy towards a shift to renewable energy.

Women must engage in planning the transition to a low-carbon and sustainable economy and take it as an opportunity to address existing inequalities, secure rights at work and advance women’s empowerment. Just Transition can serve as a vehicle to further gender equality.

What is Just Transition?

According to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), Just Transition secures the future of livelihoods of workers and their communities in the transition to a low-carbon economy. It must be based on social dialogue, its plan must provide better and decent jobs, social protection, more training opportunities and greater job security for all workers affected by global warming and climate change policies.

It aims to effectively respond to the climate crisis through:

  1. Sound investments in low-emission and job-rich sectors with proper consultation
  2. Social dialogue and democratic consultation with trade unions, employers and communities
  3. Research and early assessment of the impacts of climate policies
  4. Training and skills development for support of new technologies
  5. Social protection
  6. Supporting communities to handle impacts of the transition

Just Transition is anchored on intersectionality, rights, a transition from an extractive to a regenerative mode of production and from a capital-intensive to a labor-intensive economy. It must maximize climate action while minimizing hardships for workers and their communities.

Opportunities for Gender Justice in Just Transition

Through developing a low-carbon and sustainable economy, negative effects from climate change, which would have exacerbated gender disparities, may be minimized. Emerging green sectors may also be pressured to adopt as a focus the equal opportunity and treatment of women and men, disallowing wage and skill gaps and enhancing social protection. New labor markets may be created which can formalize the informal economy jobs taken on by women and redistribute household and care work. A redefinition of jobs and workplaces can also improve working conditions and reduce health and safety risks that are often worse for women.

Justice in Just Transition

In shifting to renewables and to a low-carbon economy, Just Transition is not only a matter of a change in technology and replacing old industries with new ones. Just Transition should put prime importance in improving the lives of the people, the lives of the future generations and saving the planet.

And this is what the women’s movement fights for: the end of exploitation of people and the environment for the sake of profit.