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Women show in San Sebastian that they are leading the fight against climate change

On International Women’s Day, the Change the Change Conference showcased women’s role at the forefront of raising environmental awareness.

Sylvia Earle and Bunny McDiarmid closed the last day of the conference, when all the presentations were given by women.

Women were in the spotlight on the last day of the Change the Change International Climate Change Conference, coinciding with International Women’s Day on 8 March. In fact, all the speakers were women. Furthermore, the session ended at midday so that all the delegates could be part of the 8-M protests. <0}

The Basque Government’s Deputy Minister for the Environment, Elena Moreno, the conference’s host, stressed that, on 8 March, the role of women within combatting climate change, along with their leadership, should be highlighted. And also the importance of a session combining the themes of ‘women’ and ‘climate’: “We talk about women’s vulnerability. They are going to be the ones that suffer the most as the result of climate change. 20 million climate refugees are women”: She also linked fighting climate change with social change: “The young people of ‘Friday for Future’ are not just mobilising because of climate change; they are also seeking social change, a more inclusive, fairer and more sustainable society”.

The Co-Executive Director of Greenpeace International, Bunny McDiarmid, and the National Geographic oceanographer and winner of the 2018 Princess of Asturias Award for Concord, Sylvia Earle, who inspired the delegates, are examples of empowerment and fighting for change. “I want to spur on the women who provide tools and are taking to the streets to mark today,” explained McDiarmid. “Women must be twice as strong to be successful,” she added.

According to the activist, “the energy transition will not be fair if it does not include 50% of the world’s population. They suffer the consequences of lack of access to energy”. Regarding the leadership of women, the activist believes that “it is imperative for there to be more women on the boards of directors of the power and electricity companies”.

McDiarmid described her experience of over 20 years in Greenpeace. “I had the two toughest jobs in the world: being a mother and saving the planet,” she explained. She wanted to highlight today’s feminist movements: “It is beautiful to see these movements emerge of young women taking to the streets, and also older women who are standing up to governments. Who refuse to be ignored”:

The importance of the blue planet

“We are empowered by knowledge and the human being’s greatest problem is not knowing”. Sylvia Earle spoke about the importance of the whole of the oceans’ biodiversity, of the need for all the existing species. “We are finding it hard to understand that the ocean has limits when it comes to its species,” she pointed out. “I urge you to look at all lives, and to treat them with respect and dignity”. Earle was highly critical of the way in which the human being enters and takes from the sea: “We have exceeded the limits, while we continue to hope that the ocean functions”.

“Only around 10% of the sharks that there were when I was small are left,” lamented Earle.  She provided a series of examples of violence against species such as whales to stress the importance of being aware even when extracting small micro-organisms. “The chemistry of the planet would change without small creatures”. “We can look in the mirror. We are the ones who will decide how the world will be, and what we do in the next ten years will make the difference,” concluded Earle.

The last day of Change the Change began with the Director of the TVE Weather Department and President of the Meteorology Communicators Association (ACOMET), Mónica López, who spoke about the “importance of communicating” during the “Climate Change Dissemination” special session. López stressed that “we are not use to this type of information”, whether due to the codification of the language or the scientific nature of meteorology. Even so, she called for meteorologists to “be used”: “We have the opportunity and credibility. We share science and we like it”. The challenge, according to López, is how to reach the audience: “Citizens need to understand the information and the communication process must lead to the use of that information”.

Leyla Acaroglu was the UN Champion of the Earth in 2016. The sustainability expert has taken part in the conference as a “heroine of the planet’: “We must be responsible with our present actions so as not to suffer their impact in the future”. Acaroglu inspired the delegates with sustainable alternatives, such as circular thought. “Everything we create has an impact,” stressed Acaroglu, and she invited the delegates to think about changing habits because “we must know how to create solutions”.

Only 20% women on the IPCC

More women led the fight against climate change at Change the Change: the Basque Government’s Deputy Minister for the Environment, Elena Moreno, hosted the Minister for Land Development Environment and Local Administration, Isabel Elizalde, the Director of the Conversations Division at ECODES and Sociology Professor at Zaragoza University, Cristina Monge, and the General Director of the Spanish Government’s Spanish Climate Change Office, Valvanera Ulargui. Indeed, they discussed giving impetus to the leadership of women.

Elizalde noted the importance of empowering women, which is particularly difficult in terms of rural women and women politicians. “I do not know if we are aware that we are here combining the two greatest challenges facing us: that of climate change and inequality towards women,” pointed out Monge. She reiterated the idea that “women are the most vulnerable of the most vulnerable territories” and, furthermore, “we are not in the decision forums. For example, only 20% of the scientists are women on the IPCC”. As regards issues such as energy transition, “they are also invisible in the renewables work area: 32% are women, half of which are working on administrative tasks, which even though they are extremely important, they remain in the background”.

Ulargui drew attention to agreements such as the Paris Agreement, where there is trade-off between countries for change, those whose economies are based on fossil fuels and those that which do not have emissions but need fair and supportive decisions. She called for women empowerment in those political and decision-making bodies: “Women have to be at the centre of the decisions and we are also addressing that with the new Climate Change Act”.