Sexism blamed for hampering efforts to tame the climate crisis

Women played only a small part in the recent COP28 climate summit.

Women played only a small part in the recent COP28 climate summit. Photo: AP

A heady mix of misogyny and fossil fuels confronts those preparing to make the trek to the next international climate summit, and it carries lessons for Australia.

The host of this year’s COP29 climate summit is Azerbaijan, a former Soviet outpost and home to one of the world’s largest gas fields and many depleted oil wells.

Some call it the historic cradle of oil, and recent years have ushered in a gas boom as parts of Europe look beyond pariah Russia for supplies.

The republic’s oil and gas veteran turned Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources Mukhtar Babayev will preside over the summit in the capital Baku, taking the reins from 2023 host United Arab Emirates’ oil boss.

But it is the absence of women at the climate conference table that has many concerned.

Azerbaijan belatedly added some females to their organising committee for this year’s COP29 climate summit following a backlash to their announcement of an all-male group.

Melbourne-based Susanne Etti, a leader in sustainable tourism, says she was “outraged” at the initial line-up as the talks should be an opportunity for all humanity to create a cleaner, more inclusive future.

“With many of the successes we have seen at COP, and especially when you look at the Paris Agreement, it was women leaders who delivered it, working closely with their male counterparts,” Dr Etti tells AAP.

Christiana Figueres was appointed head of the United Nations climate change negotiations after talks in Copenhagen failed, and rebuilt the process that culminated in the historic Paris Agreement in 2015.

The pact was the first binding agreement for countries to work together to combat climate change and adapt to its effects.

Dr Etti says including women should be part of the planning process, particularly for Australia which hopes to host future talks with the Pacific.

Tourists need electric buses

“Let’s do it right from the beginning – have representation of women and don’t wait for leaders to push for it,” she says.

“Australia can really play a role and have the Pacific Islands represented at the forefront.”

Top employers for the Pacific such as tourism must work with other sectors to make the transition happen, she adds.

“So much of our emissions come from transport, so how does this industry transform so that we can also benefit from it?”

For example, small group adventure travel needs electric mini vans or small electric buses and that needs new manufacturing and infrastructure.

“Countries at the local level need to really push electrification so we have the charging stations in place,” she says.

Women and girls, particularly in developing countries and the Pacific, are bearing the brunt of climate-related storms, droughts, landslides and floods.

Women and the most affected regions must get a proper seat at the table because they can come up with the best solutions to prevent further environmental degradation and adapt to climate change, Dr Etti says.

“They’re often the primary care givers; in most countries they’re responsible for gathering food, collecting water, sourcing fuel for heating, cooking, and it’s getting more difficult.”

According to UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the climate crisis is “a human rights crisis and a women’s rights crisis”.

As a 2024 priority, he wants members to “make peace with nature” and ensure greenhouse gas emissions peak by 2025.

Queensland leads the way

To keep global warming to 1.5C, emissions must fall 45 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010 levels, he says.

As more families fall behind, more countries drown in debt and more people lose trust in institutions, he says countries must take action at upcoming summits on biodiversity, climate change and desertification.

The incoming presidency for the Baku talks says they are committed to ensuring “a transparent and inclusive process” in the lead up to COP29 in Azerbaijan from November 11 to 22.

The first multilateral consultations for Baku on February 21 will focus on taking stock of the outcomes of last November’s talks, which disappointed many.

Mr Guterres has since urged countries, including Australia, to come up with nationally determined contributions or NDCs that cover all emissions and sectors and to map a fair transition to clean energy.

That means no carve-outs for gas, agriculture or other big polluters and a new emissions reduction target for 2035 for Australia.

Under Labor, Australia submitted an NDC in 2022 that committed to reducing its emissions to 43 per cent by 2030 and it must submit a new one in 2025.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen says the 2035 target will be “ambitious but achievable”.

Six sectoral decarbonisation plans are being developed to cover the big emitters: electricity and energy, industry, resources, the built environment, agriculture and land, and transport.

Conservationists say Queensland’s recently declared 75 per cent target “sets a floor” for the federal government.

Meanwhile Victoria aims to cut emissions up to 80 per cent by 2035 and NSW is aiming for a 70 per cent reduction.


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