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#ClimateChange: Mitigating the impact on women

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Climate change can affect women more than men and in some cases even increase their risk of dying. A new European Parliament report calls on the EU to bear this in mind when legislating.

Climate change does not affect everyone in the same way. It not only depends on where you live, but it can also make a difference whether you are a man or a woman. Research cited by the United Nations shows how it can affect them differently. One example given is for Bangladesh when the death rate for women was five times higher than for men following the 1991 cyclone and flood. During the 2003 heatwave in Europe more women than men died. Research also found that women and children are 14 times more likely to die in a disaster than men.

Parliament's gender equality committee adopted a report on gender and climate justice on 4 December, calling on EU institutions to bear the different impact in mind when creating new legislation.

Report author Linnéa Engström, a Swedish member of the Greens/EFA group, pointed out the importance of taking gender differences into account: “Women are many times more likely to die than men during natural disasters.”

In her report Engström said that gender equality could serve as a catalyst for sustainable development and that women should be fully included in policymaking on these issues.

“Women are not only victims," she said. "As they often farm the land, manage water supplies and energy use they can, when empowered be effective actors of change in developing mitigation and adaptation strategies within their communities."

How women are affected by climate change

There are different ways how women can be affected by climate change more than men, especially in areas where socioeconomic levels are low. For details check out this in-depth analysis on how gender and climate change are linked.

For example, in many developing countries women and girls are responsible for water collection. When drought occurs, their workload increases as they have to walk further to find it. Girls risk losing their education as they are needed at home instead.

Disease spreads easier when temperatures rise or in case of flooding. Since women are still the primary caregivers in many societies, their workload increases and they run a higher risk of contracting the diseases themselves. Pregnant women are particularly at risk.

More women are victims of extreme weather and natural disaster, as they are predominantly in charge of children and elderly, whose well-being they put above their own. Women are also limited by other aspects of their traditional role, such as not having been taught how to swim or being restricted in their movements due to traditional clothing.

Climate change can sometimes result in migration. In some cases only men migrate, while women are then left with their responsibilities back home, which creates problems as women cannot access resources and ownership in the same way in many places.

When women and girls are displaced, they are much more exposed to sexual violence and have other needs, such as sanitary ones that are often not met. They are also more vulnerable due to pregnancy and caring for small children.

Climate change

2030 Climate Target Plan: Commission invites initial feedback on four future legislative proposals

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The Commission has published its Inception Impact Assessments on four central pieces of European climate legislation, due to be adopted in June 2021 to implement the 2030 Climate Target Plan. These four future proposals will help to deliver on the European Green Deal and achieve the proposed new emissions reductions target of at least 55% by 2030. The Inception Impact Assessments on the EU Emissions Trading System, the Effort Sharing Regulation, the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry Regulation and CO2 standards for cars are now open for public feedback for four weeks, until Thursday, 26 November 2020. They set out the potential nature and scope of the revisions for each of these policy instruments and of the analysis that the Commission will carry out in the coming months. This initial feedback period will be followed in due course by further Open Public Consultations.

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EU climate law: MEPs want to increase 2030 emissions reduction target to 60%

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Parliament wants each individual EU member state to become carbon neutral by 2050 ©Adobe Stock 

All member states must become climate neutral by 2050, says Parliament in a vote on the EU climate law, calling for ambitious 2030 and 2040 emissions reduction targets.

Parliament has adopted its negotiating mandate on the EU climate law with 392 votes for, 161 against and 142 abstentions. The new law aims to transform political promises that the EU will become climate neutral by 2050 into a binding obligation and to give European citizens and businesses the legal certainty and predictability they need to plan for the transformation.

MEPs insist that both the EU and all member states individually must become climate-neutral by 2050 and that thereafter the EU shall achieve “negative emissions”. They also call for sufficient financing to achieve this.

The Commission must propose by 31 May 2023, through the ordinary decision-making procedure, a trajectory at EU level on how to reach carbon neutrality by 2050, say MEPs. It must take into account the total remaining EU greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions until 2050 to limit the increase in temperature in accordance with the Paris Agreement. The trajectory shall be reviewed after each stocktake at global level.

MEPs also want to set up an EU Climate Change Council (ECCC) as an independent scientific body to assess whether policy is consistent and to monitor progress.

A more ambitious 2030-target needed

The EU’s current emissions reductions target for 2030 is 40% compared to 1990. The Commission recently proposed to increase this target to “at least 55%” in the amended proposal for an EU climate law. MEPs today raised the bar even further, calling for a reduction of 60% in 2030, adding that national targets shall be increased in a cost-efficient and fair way.

They also want an interim target for 2040 to be proposed by the Commission following an impact assessment, to ensure the EU is on track to reach its 2050 target.

Finally, the EU and member states must also phase out all direct and indirect fossil fuel subsidies by 31 December 2025 at the latest, say MEPs, while they underline the need to continue efforts to combat energy poverty.

After the vote, Parliament rapporteur Jytte Guteland (S&D, Sweden) said: “The adoption of the report sends a clear message to the Commission and the Council, in light of the upcoming negotiations. We expect all member states to achieve climate neutrality by 2050 at the latest and we need strong interim targets in 2030 and 2040 for the EU to achieve this.

"I’m also satisfied with the inclusion of a greenhouse gas budget, which sets out the total remaining quantity of emissions that can be emitted until 2050, without putting at risk the EU’s commitments under the Paris Agreement.”

Next steps

Parliament is now ready to start negotiations with member states once Council has agreed upon a common position.

Background

Following the European Council decision (2019) to endorse the 2050 climate-neutrality objective, the Commission in March 2020 proposed the EU climate law that would make it a legal requirement for the EU to become climate-neutral by 2050.

Parliament has played an important role in pushing for more ambitious EU climate legislation and declared a climate emergency on 28 November 2019.

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Climate change

European Parliament cements position on climate change before haggling by member states

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European Union lawmakers have backed a plan to cut greenhouse gases by 60% from 1990 levels by 2030, hoping member states will not try to water the target down during upcoming negotiations, writes .

Results of the vote released today (8 October) confirm their preliminary votes earlier this week on a landmark law to make the EU’s climate targets legally binding.

The law, which contains the new EU emissions-cutting goal for 2030, passed by a large majority of 231 votes.

Parliament must now agree the final law with the EU’s 27 member countries, only a few of whom have said they would support a 60% emissions-cutting target. Lawmakers want to avoid countries whittling it away to below the level of emissions cuts proposed by the EU executive of at least 55%.

The EU’s current 2030 target is a 40% emissions cut.

Parliament also supported a proposal to launch an independent scientific council to advise on climate policy - a system already in place in Britain and Sweden - and a carbon budget, setting out the emissions the EU could produce without scuppering its climate commitments.

With climate-related impacts such as more intense heatwaves and wildfires already felt across Europe, and thousands of young people taking to the streets last month to demand tougher action, the EU is under pressure to ramp up its climate policies.

Groups representing investors with 62 trillion euros in assets under management, plus hundreds of businesses and NGOs today wrote to EU leaders urging them to agree an emissions-cutting target of at least 55% for 2030.

Scientists say this target, which has been proposed by the European Commission, is the minimum effort needed to give the EU a realistic shot at becoming climate neutral by 2050. The Commission wants the new 2030 goal finalized by the end of the year.

However, the climate law will require compromise from member countries. Wealthier states with large renewable energy resources are pushing for deeper emissions cuts, but coal-heavy countries including Poland and Czech Republic fear the economic fallout of tougher targets.

Given its political sensitivity, heads of government will likely decide their position on the 2030 target by unanimity, meaning one country could block it.

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