Women are leading the toughest topic of the climate talks: reparations

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SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt — Men typically outnumber and outnumber women negotiators in climate talks, except when it comes to global warming’s thorniest diplomatic issue this year: reparations for climate disasters.

The question of polluting nations paying vulnerable countries is entrusted to women, who have put the issue on the agenda after 30 years. Whether or not this year’s UN climate talks in Egypt are successful will depend mainly on the issue called loss and damage in international negotiations, officials and experts say. It is an issue that intertwines equity and economy, balancing the needs of those who are injured and those who would pay.

Nearly all key players are women, and they and others say better gender representation could produce better outcomes.

“I think what we need at this crucial moment is empathy… We have to think about our world in the sense of taking care of our world,” said Chilean Environment Minister Maisa Rojas. “Perhaps culturally, historically, they’re seen as feminine values.”

Rojas, a climate scientist, and special climate envoy to Germany Jennifer Morgan engineered a last-minute deal that put the issue of losses and damage on the agenda for the first time at 27 summits on the climate.

Now that it’s commonplace, the best people looking to do something meaningful are women. And that gives hope, said a senior UN official.

“Sometimes, at least in negotiations, women are able to find a path where maybe high testosterone doesn’t sit well with that,” United Nations Environment Program Director Inger Andersen said in an interview. at the Associated Press.

Milagros De Camps, deputy minister of international cooperation for the Dominican Republic, said women simply perform better.

“There are better outcomes because women tend to be better at conflict resolution,” De Camps said. “They tend to be better at reaching agreements, better at developing stronger policies that tend to be more sustainable.”

Overall, in climate talks, men continue to dominate, both in total numbers and in top positions. The president of the summit, the UN climate chief, the UN secretary general and the top climate envoys from the US, China and India are men, as are the vast majority of government leaders who took to the stage in the first week .

Christiana Figueres, who was a driving force behind the 2015 Paris Agreement as UN climate chief, said that while every generality has exceptions, women tend to be more long-term, more inclusive and more concerned to justice with respect to men.

“We have a deeper sense of human justice and this is really a justice issue,” Figueres said in an interview with Zoom on Wednesday. “So I’m not surprised that it’s women who are taking the lead in both policy negotiations and thought leadership on loss and damage.”

“Women are at the forefront of the climate crisis,” said German special climate envoy Morgan, a veteran of the negotiations as an environmental advocate and former head of Greenpeace. “We understand how we have to work together with others to find a solution. Especially the most vulnerable”.

For women, “it’s not about ego, it’s about finding the solution,” said Preety Bhandari, senior climate finance advisor at the World Resources Institute.

It’s not just behind the scenes. The public faces of climate remediation are often women.

Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who is touting her Bridgetown Initiative which expands the idea with multinational development bank reform, and Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon “were fearless” in pushing for some sort of compensation scheme said Bhandari.

Many of the young advocates who push the negotiators further with their critiques of inaction, including Vanessa Nakate and Greta Thunberg, are women.

“(Legislatures) around the world that have more women, have stronger climate action,” said Katharine Hayhoe, lead scientist at The Nature Conservancy. “They did a study on it.”

A United Nations report said women made up 37 per cent of country delegations and 26 per cent of delegation leaders, at last year’s summit in Glasgow. But among those under the age of 26, 64% were women. In the group of those aged 26 to 35, nearly half were women.

Maldives Environment Aminauth Shauna said she noticed that when all the heads of state initially gathered for photos, called family photos, they were almost all male. But when it came to the people doing the work, they were more female and younger, like most of her delegation, she said.

“I hope all of us women here can make a difference this time,” said Shauna.

Wanjohi Kabukuru contributed to this report.

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Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears

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