NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - More than 100 prominent women’s rights leaders and activists from more than 35 countries will gather to build international momentum for increased attention, funding and action on the issue of climate change and to craft a Women’s Climate Action Agenda to be presented to the United Nations as the international body’s general debate gets underway next week.
The first International Women’s Earth and Climate Summit (IWECS), an offshoot of the International Women’s Earth and Climate Initiative (IWECI), will take place September 20 to 23 in Suffern, a suburb of New York City.
Delegates will meet on the eve of Climate Week NYC and as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) prepares to release the physical science phase of its fifth assessment report on climate change in Stockholm on Sept. 23.
“Nature will not wait while politicians debate. Women around the world are facing the impacts of a changing climate every day, and we are coming together to say ‘enough is enough’ and it is time for actions that address the roots of this crisis and foster just solutions,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, founder and co-director of the IWECI and head of the Women’s Earth and Climate Caucus, in a statement.
“I want to say that this summit is a clarion call to the world and to the women of the world because we’re at a very critical crossroads,” said Sally Ranney, co-director of IWECI and founder and president of Colorado-based eraGlobal Alliance, during a pre-summit briefing via teleconference. She said that current solutions presented are inadequate for the ailing planet.
“Think of your child with a temperature of 105 degrees and you give her an aspirin and send her off to school, assuming she’ll be fine, but, in fact, damage is being done,” she said.
“We are headed toward a 4 degrees C rise in global temperatures over the next decades that will create unprecedented havoc for our children, our grandchildren and future generations. Women are no longer willing to stand by when so much is at stake,” she said in a statement.
Anne Marie Miller, chief executive of Sustainable Waste Design in New York, stressed that it is important to identify the key issues, “but more than identifying issues, we really need to come to the table with solutions.” Her suggestion: “Focus on a triple bottom line: preserving the environment, having a socially sound working environment and sustaining profitability.”
She pointed to a trash-processing project in a Rio de Janeiro slum, which turns municipal solid waste into energy through small mobile waste units that power the washing machines in a laundry that employs women in the community.
Equally important is the need for climate change experts and activists to stop talking among themselves and start engaging the general population, said Kelly Rigg, executive director of the Netherlands-based Global Campaign for Climate Action (GCCA).
“I think the time has come to move beyond scientific (discussions)… and deal with people where they really are. I think the best way we can communicate that is not by arguing with contrarians but telling our own story - that climate change is real.”
Asked during the briefing why the organisers believe that this summit can get the attention of world leaders in a way they have not before, Lake said, “I think that what’s important about the conversation we’re having and leaders listening is the caliber of the women who are meeting together, a group of international women coming together and making a statement.”
Among those attending are Christiana Figueres, executive secretary to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC); Marina Silva, former Brazilian Minister of Environment; Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland; Jane Goodall, founder of the Jane Goodall Institute and U.N. Ambassador of Peace; Nobel Prize laureate, women’s rights and anti-landmine activist Jody Williams and dozens of others.
Lake added, “Women are putting the world on notice that we don’t think leaders are acting swiftly enough.”