It is finally here: the year that climate change decision-makers, advocates and activists have worked toward. The year that countries must come to compromise, must commit to emissions reductions, must put financing mechanisms into effect. The year that ends in Copenhagen—where the 15th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) must produce an outcome that will serve as follow-up to the Kyoto Protocol.
And for women around the world, this is also the year that WEDO works to secure a place for gender in that outcome.
Some called last December’s UNFCCC meeting in Poznan, Poland, the world’s largest and most expensive “waiting room”. In many respects, it is understandable that the negotiations have been moving slowly—perhaps the greatest hurdle, the world’s wounded economy serves to distract attention away from what are often considered very technical policy discussions on climate change, far removed from our everyday lives. In addition, the outgoing U.S. delegation served as a convenient stalling tactic; countries were reluctant to bring new positions to the table when it was yet unclear how the new U.S. administration would approach negotiations.
But the excuses can stop. The economic crisis is an indication of systems gone wrong, and as food prices continue to rise and families struggle to make ends meet, we must be reminded that there is no time to waste. President Obama has already arguably demonstrated that a lot can be done in a short amount of time if there is political will, and his inauguration address boldly indicated that climate science would guide policy decisions.
Most agree, overall, that Poznan was a necessary step on the road to Copenhagen and, although concrete decisions were few and far between, outcome-oriented negotiations are fully underway. For gender advocates, some progress can be celebrated—many Parties, networks and other advocate groups were engaged and supportive of the gender agenda, recognizing the impacts of a changing climate on the poorest and most vulnerable populations. Specific language still has to make it into the outcome text, and climate change programs and funds have to be responsive to the people’s realities.
Along with everyone else engaged in the issue of climate change, WEDO anticipates that this year will be a busy one—but one of the most critical of our time.
Cate Owren is WEDO’s Sustainable Development Coordinator.