Dear Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry,
We are grateful for your leadership over the past two years to tackle the climate crisis head-on by advocating for policies that advance emissions reduction and public health, but it’s not enough.
On this International Women’s Day, we need to ensure these efforts consider the gender inequalities of the climate crisis. The US must take bold action to move us from a world reliant on fossil fuels to a world that uplifts and prioritizes the care of communities, particularly women, girls, and gender-diverse people who are facing the harshest realities of the climate crisis.
When natural disasters strike, they hit poor and marginalized communities first and worst. These communities have done the least to cause the climate crisis yet have little support from the leaders of the highest carbon emitting countries.
Since women are more likely to live below the poverty line, they are also more likely to bear the heaviest impacts of climate change. The UN indicates that 80 percent of people displaced by climate change are women and girls. Natural disasters and heightened conflict due to climate disasters increase competition for resources and leave women, girls, and gender-diverse individuals at risk of displacement, in addition to violence and food insecurity. Those with disproportionate care responsibilities – often women – are then left with limited resources to protect their families.
The US is historically the largest carbon emitter and therefore holds the greatest responsibility to decarbonize and support communities most impacted by climate change. In spite of progress achieved by the Inflation Reduction Act, the United States continues to expand oil and gas production. It also continues to prioritize the extraction of resources and the profit of powerful corporations while harming disadvantaged women, girls, and gender-diverse people, down-playing the importance of caring for our communities, and refusing to pay for what has already been lost.
The US must support policies and programs that address core challenges made worse by climate change, including access to clean energy, water, and food; disaster recovery; caregiving responsibilities; and protecting rights to land and other critical resources. It also means ensuring that people have access to justice and support services in the face of gender-based violence and climate-related health impacts on pregnant people. Efforts to address the climate crisis must prioritize the safety and security of those who care for the community, primarily women.
You have stated, “We have the tools so let’s put them to work.” On this International Women's Day, we urge you, as the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, to take bold and decisive action to reduce the United States' carbon emissions equitably and to ensure the country provides support to marginalized communities as they cope with the climate crisis that rich countries have caused. Women must play a central role in these efforts, and their voices and perspectives must be represented in decision-making processes.
Together, we have the power to create a just and sustainable green-energy future that prioritizes the care of communities over the profits of fossil fuel companies. Let that be your legacy.
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