‘Women more impacted by climate change’

Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), a US-based non-profit international environmental advocacy group, is working with women to create 100 green villages in India, its Managing Director, International Program, Amanda Maxwell said in an interview. Edited excerpts: 

Why is the Clean Energy movement so important right now?

The new IPCC WGIII report (by the UN working group) said that we are at a really critical moment in the fight against climate change. How we react in the next few years is really going to set the stage for how humans live on this planet for the next century or two. We have always talked about clean energy future, but based on all the science that’s out there, it has to be clean energy present. 

The IPCC report showed us that we have the tools — it’s a matter of doing it in a bigger and better way than we have done so far. The energy sector in particular is important because when you take electricity, heat, transportation, buildings — all of these sectors are intricately connected to energy, and that’s well over 50% of the global greenhouse gas emissions.

 What is the role of women in this movement?

We are seeing so much more momentum for women in the climate fight in the clean energy sector. Its important because women, as research has shown are by large more vulnerable to climate change. They are generally more directly reliant on natural resources that are being threatened, as water is becoming scarce and land is becoming less fertile.

They’re becoming more victimised in a way by climate change in a higher proportion than men and haven’t yet been able to participate in the solutions in extent, as men have. I think we’re at an exciting moment because there is this realisation, a sort of global acknowledgement, of equity at large.

So as women have become more impacted by climate change, they also need to start to generate the conditions so that they can fully contribute to the solution — the key elements that NRDC is working on, especially in India.

What are some of the initiatives that NRDC is working on in India?

We do a lot of work on cooling, trying to help homes become more comfortable, especially extreme heat is getting worse. As heat is becoming more oppressive, more deadly. What NRDC is doing very particularly in India right now is focusing on how can we help contribute to those solutions in ways that are affordable, that are accessible, that are maintainable.

We’re working with the Mahila Housing Trust on the installation of cool roofs. And then we’re also working with the Self Employed Women’s Association, Sewa, to help bring clean energy access to rural women. And there we’re working mostly in Gujarat and Rajasthan with women farmers in villages. Right now we have these green village plans and ten villages, and we’d like to expand up to 100, hopefully by the end of the next year or two. 

With Sewa, we try to identify the kinds of clean energy solutions that these women could benefit from. So far, it’s been solar pumps, solar water pumps, energy efficient light bulbs, drip water irrigation systems, and making sure that they have access to the financing for those types of equipment, and then also making sure that they have developed the skills to maintain that equipment and can also, in addition, generate an income from helping maintain other systems among their neighbours.

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