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Women Bear The Biggest Burden When It Comes To Climate Change

11/09/2015 05:30 EST | Updated 11/09/2016 05:12 EST
Oxfam Canada

Poor women are least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, but are often the ones most harshly affected by the unfolding climate crisis.

by Julie Delahanty, Executive Director of Oxfam Canada

The climate is changing. For some of us this means less quality food, less choice and higher prices. As today's World Bank report notes, for millions, it means being pushed into poverty. And for millions of women already living in poverty, it means more hunger.

Canadians elected Prime Minister Trudeau on a platform of change. One of the most pressing changes he can make is to act on climate change, an area where Canada has been a laggard for the past decade. Trudeau has already sent a signal that the issue is a priority for him by including "climate change" in the new minister of environment's title.

Now, as world leaders get ready to meet in Paris to make decisions about how to tackle climate change, Trudeau must make sure that poor people's rights are at the heart of Canada's actions. The World Bank report adds urgency to the need for ambitious and durable climate agreement in Paris that addresses the needs of poor and vulnerable communities.

In every corner of the planet, Oxfam works directly with poor women -- those least responsible for greenhouse gas emissions and often those most harshly affected by the unfolding climate crisis. It is one of the most vivid illustrations of inequality unfolding in front of us. The drying lands and the erratic weather are not only an added burden to these women -- they are the difference between being able to eat each day or not.

Millions of poor people and their communities around the world are taking climate matters into their own hands. They are building sustainable agricultural solutions and by doing so taking bold steps to protect both their families and the world. Women farmers are standing up to governments and to big businesses that are failing to act, and we need to stand with them. Will you stand with us too?

We won't win the fight against climate change this year, but together we can start to win some important battles. We can turn those steps into leaps.

We need the Paris deal to lead to a change where money to help women and their communities cope with the impacts of climate change is on the rise, and the use of polluting fossil fuels, the biggest drivers of climate change, is on the decline. We need to cut emissions to avoid climate change spiraling out of control, and we need to invest now in helping those already hit to adapt. The links between the local and the global have never been clearer than they are now; one planet, one climate.

The Leap Manifesto makes these local-global connections in a way that is both aspirational and practical. The manifesto speaks with eloquence, imagination and honesty, proposing bold solutions to deeply rooted problems.

It explains that, domestically, Canada can lead the way by expanding non-carbon intensive sectors of our economy like health care and education. These services provide a huge public good, and generate an extra advantage for women who remain unequal in this country as in so many other parts of the world. Public investment is often smartly designed not only to fuel our economy, but to systematically eliminate racial and gender inequalities, too.

Unlike carbon-intensive economic sectors, the benefits of investing in social infrastructure are vast and environmentally sustainable. They lead to a healthier society and a better educated public; prepared for the jobs of the future that are aimed at an equitable society with a light footprint. They lead to a society that cares more and better for everyone, not just for the few.

We can also lead the way by showing up at the global table. Ensuring our government heads to Paris this December and fights there, not just for us, but for the good of the millions of women who, despite contributing so little to this problem, are already doing so much to address it.

Oxfam and the famous Canadians who have signed the LEAP manifesto are standing together against climate change. We need you to stand with us, too.

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