Address by Minister Dion on climate change, gender equality and the human rights of women and girls


How to effectively address gender equality and the human rights of women and girls while combatting climate change

March 1, 2016 - Geneva, Switzerland

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with the Government of Canada’s communications policy.

In Paris in December 2015, the countries of the world finally came together to commit to collectively address climate change. They committed to act to ensure that eventually, later in the century, humankind would no longer have a negative impact on the climate.

This will be a long and challenging journey, as we will need to radically transform our economies so that they become carbon neutral as much as possible.

Governments and other sectors of our societies will need to work on all fronts: housing, transportation, management of natural resources, agriculture, industry, government procurement, trade, development and so on.

Developed countries will need to help developing countries to tackle the challenge of climate change. All countries deserve the right to develop, and this development can and should be based on access to clean energy technologies.

Climate change is not just a challenge, but also a historic opportunity—an opportunity to build a sustainable economy based on clean technologies, on green infrastructure and on green growth.

It is also an opportunity to bring about a more inclusive society.

Climate change affects the most vulnerable.

Its negative impacts are borne disproportionately by women who are often already in difficult situations in their societies.

Their limited access to decision-making power and physical, social, political and fiscal resources in many parts of the world results in an increased burden on them.

For example, women and girls are the main producers of the world’s staple crops. But they face many types of discrimination, such as unequal access to land, credit and information.

Women and girls also face an increase in water stress. As those who are primarily responsible for water collection, they spend more time collecting water and walking even further, which reduces the time available for education and income-building activities.

This reinforces the need to defend the right of every human being to a sufficient supply of clean and safe drinking water and to adequate sanitation.

National plans, policies and initiatives on climate change must be gender responsive and inclusive. We must apply gender analysis to ensure the specific needs, priorities and interests of women and girls are identified and addressed.

The Paris Agreement embraced this approach in a new way. In the preamble, it calls on parties to respect and promote human rights, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls when taking action to address climate change.

Women can be powerful agents of change whose leadership and participation at all levels of decision making is critical to any successful plan.

As evidenced by the distinguished panellists with us, the Human Rights Council here in Geneva offers a unique confluence of expertise on gender equality and climate change programs and policies. We are well equipped to find effective ways to respond to this multi-dimensional and shared challenge.

I look forward to today’s discussion, and I hope that we can come up with concrete recommendations on how to ensure that human rights—and more specifically, gender equality and the empowerment and human rights of women and girls—inform global, regional and national policies and measures designed to address climate change.


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