Opinion: Supporting Women Taking Climate Action Via Carbon Project Investment

Supporting Women Taking Climate Action Via Carbon Project Investment - Carbon Herald
Jessica Dwyer, CEO Tasman Environmental Markets (TEM)

by Jessica Dwyer, CEO Tasman Environmental Markets (TEM)

Women and children across the world are disproportionately impacted by climate change due to a range of societal, cultural and economic factors, making them vulnerable to personal safety, health issues and malnutrition. In many cases, these women also hold the key to unlocking critical emissions mitigation activities, as research from the United Nations (UN) has found.

Through investing in high-quality carbon projects, businesses can help combat the disproportionate effects of climate change whilst empowering women to have agency over their own health and economic outcomes. 

This International Women’s Day, which has the theme ‘Invest in women: Accelerate progress’, we reflect on this approach and discuss how businesses can align their net zero strategies with broader sustainable development goals. 

The importance of gender-responsive action

Climate change intensifies existing inequalities and magnifies the socioeconomic disparities that women face. Around the world, women are often responsible for sourcing water, fuel, and cooking food for their families, reducing their ability to access education and gain employment, and making them particularly vulnerable to climate-related disasters. To identify, understand and address these challenges, extensive community engagement is required and is mandated through all international carbon credit standards as an essential first step. 

Engaging with local communities, in particular women, ensures that initiatives are culturally sensitive, address local needs, and maximise benefits for impacted groups.

So, what can businesses do to help?

When drafting sustainability strategies and setting carbon reduction goals, businesses can consider investment in high quality carbon projects that support the needs of local communities, Indigenous groups and Traditional Owners of the land.

An example of a project that directly supports women and children is the TEM Laos Cookstove pilot project. This project provides local households with electricity-fueled induction cookstoves to replace their traditional open fire cookstoves, fueled by timber, charcoal or gas, which ultimately reduces carbon emissions and provides health benefits to households by eliminating smoke inhalation in the home. 

Built into the early stages of the project’s planning was a range of community engagement activities with the locals, aligned with the underlying United Nations human rights principles, including participating in decision-making. 

Induction cookstove at home in Laos. Source: TEM

This pilot project engaged the Laos Women’s Union, which conducted face-to-face surveys, in the local language to accurately and authentically assess how the community currently cooks their food at home. The surveys measured the volume of carbon emissions, as well as gathering information on the flow-on health and wellbeing impacts that these cooking methods have on households. The project went on to replace the participants’ traditional biomass fueled cookstoves with electric cookstoves, resulting in a range of community health and wellbeing benefits. 

Project feedback included that the local women not only felt empowered by the consultation process of this pilot program, but families also experienced many health and wellbeing benefits, including regaining valuable time that would have otherwise been spent sourcing fuel, which has created clearer pathways to education and employment for women – that will lead to an increase in the overall earning power of their household. This approach was well received and respected by locals, improving the overall success and acceptance of the project during implementation.

Further to this, the households that participated in this project experienced health benefits from the improved air quality in their home. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) (2021), household air pollution was responsible for an estimated 3.2 million deaths per year in 2020, and it states that inhaling smoke from traditional cookstoves is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes per day.

Relevant: TEM Partners With Sylvera To Boost Carbon Credits Due Diligence

Improved cookstove carbon projects like the TEM Laos Cookstove pilot project leads to improved air quality and a reduction in health issues relating to traditional, open-fire cooking.

This is just one example of a carbon project that, through best practice community engagement, delivers maximum community impacts, particularly for women, and emissions reduction benefits. Through supporting these types of projects, organisations are able to integrate their carbon abatement investments with their sustainable development contributions. 

The impacts of climate change are complex and intersectional, and businesses of any size can help pave the way for a more equitable and resilient future where women and children are supported and empowered.

Relevant: “Cookstoves Reduce Charcoal Use By 40%” – Susanna Berkouwer, Assistant Professor of Business Economics & Public Policy

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