This article is written by Mathilde Thonon.
Bonn, May 2018, the 6th Dialogue on Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE) unfolds in a packed auditorium. National delegates and members from the civil society are joining forces to shape the outcome of a 3-hours workshop.
Hold on a minute, what is that odd acronym that seemingly invigorates the participants of this 48th UNFCCC intersession? The term ACE dates back to the COP21 to refer, more intelligibly, to the Convention Article 6 crafted in Rio in 1992.
The article stresses the need to work towards education, training, public awareness, public participation, public access to information and international cooperation. These 6 areas are indeed primordial to insure that everyone understands climate change and can contribute to its alleviation. E-VE-RY-ONE yes, with no one left behind. In other words, the workshop takes up the challenge to achieve inclusivity while being considerate of diversity, with a specific emphasis on socio characteristics such as age and gender. What solutions for fostering capacity building and raising awareness of girls and women at UNFCCC? How to communicate on the linkages between gender and climate change? How to reach girls, boys, women and men from remote places and marginalized communities? Intended to reflect diversity, these questions echo a core principle in feminist and gender studies: intersectionality. Indeed, lived experiences are not unilaterally shaped by one characteristic but rather by the intersection of a multitude of them like age, gender, ethnicity and religion, amongst others. Albeit intricate, this attempt to find actionable solutions to Article 6 while drawing as close as possible to everyone’s reality is a remarkable effort that should not go unnoticed.
Likewise, the public is composed of diverse profiles. Many young faces stand out from the crowd, a composition lauded by Ms. Patricia Espinosa (UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary) who, earlier, was congratulating the YOUNGO constituency for its insightful and vigorous contribution to climate talks. Young people from all over the world thereby join 4 working groups, side-by-side with national delegates, to further the discussion on best practices for climate empowerment.
If youth is at the leading edge, gender and the crucial role of women is at the heart of the debate. In his opening remarks, Fiji’s Prime Minister highlights the “empowering power of young people and women” and their abilities as “agents of change for climate action”. If young people are very often seen as active players, it is not necessarily the case for women, regularly portrayed as vulnerable creatures, thus rather passive in the fight against climate change. This speech initiates therefore a positive rhetoric where women are the solution rather than a burden. The Prime Minister then leaves the floor to guest speakers outlining the need to address the gender gap in technology and access to communication tools: a key to unleash women’s transformative potential. Women are undoubtedly fierce defenders of our planet and can find ways to restore climate justice. Two grassroots women activists recently overturned a gigantic nuclear deal worth multibillion of dollars and won the world’s leading environmental award, the Goldman Prize.
To raise awareness, build capacity and get the message out, the UNFCCC bets on human-based and local-specific approaches and… rightfully so! One-size-fits-it-all strategies are swept away and leave room for new worksites where unheard voices have new challenges to disclose. We are henceforth eagerly waiting for such empowering discussions to go on to the implementation step and give to the ACE program the A(ction) it deserves.
About the author: Mathilde Thonon is a master student in Environmental Policy at Sciences Po Paris, specialized in Agriculture in Asian countries. She contributed to the Gender, Nutrition and Livelihood research cluster of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI, Philippines) as research assistant. Project coach of Gender and Climate Change, she is a passionate advocate of gender equality in regards to climate change.