Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto: Climate Change is Not Gender Neutral

High-Level Panel at World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
Conference on the Gender Dimensions of Weather and Climate Services

WEBRemarks by Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Good morning, everyone.  I applaud Secretary General Jarraud and the WMO for organizing this conference on a topic of such pressing concern — and one that is close to my heart, as one of my priorities is to consistently highlight the female dimension in the global challenges we face and to find practical ways to give women and girls a louder voice in the many decisions that affect their lives.

I also want to thank the distinguished panelists for their insightful observations.  It is wonderful to see my colleagues from other Missions and everyone who has come to join us today.  I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in this morning’s session.

Women and girls around the world continue to face profound inequalities in every aspect of their lives, in virtually every country, and in both public and private sectors.  Reversing that reality, and ensuring that women and girls can participate on an equal footing with men and boys, would be among the most transformative changes we could set in motion when we chart the course for the Post-2015 Development Agenda.

I have been inspired by the remarks we’ve just heard – because this discussion is focused not only on the need to empower women, but more importantly, on the ways to empower women, and then how empowered women can most effectively make a difference in addressing these important issues, such as climate change.

Because while climate change and gender equity might at first glance seem like separate and distinct issues, we all know they are not.  The impact of climate change is not gender neutral.  Its impact falls disproportionately on the most vulnerable in our societies. Women’s empowerment and gender equality are critical to finding durable solutions.

Although the challenges are daunting, each and every day, decisions are made and actions are taken right here in Geneva that make an enormous difference in the lives of countless people around the world.  The breadth of organizations represented this morning exemplifies the wealth of experience and attention that we bring to discussions on both climate change and on women and their role in society.  Here in Geneva, the operational hub of the multilateral system, we have the scientists, the organizations, the resources, the experts – and therefore the responsibility – to ensure these cross-cutting issues get the attention they deserve.

I am going to take just a few minutes to talk about how the United States sees the nexus between climate change and gender, and share some personal thoughts.

The United States is committed to identifying inclusive, ambitious, and flexible approaches to address climate change.  This is a priority for both President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry, as evidenced by the strong interagency support for the US 2014 Climate Action Plan. This Plan recognizes that women, unfortunately, are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

The U.S. also recognizes that women possess unique skills for addressing climate change – skills such as special knowledge of local ecosystems, agriculture, and natural resource management – which enable women to add a deeper perspective to climate discussions.

So whether addressing vulnerabilities or supporting the unique role women can play, I am personally committed to keeping these issues at the forefront of our agenda here in Geneva, across sectors and across organizations.  Climate change governance must have gender-balanced representation in all processes dealing with climate issues.  Women need to be involved in decision-making at all levels.

Allow me to cite just one example of what we in the U.S. are doing.  The U.S Agency for International Development works with countries around the world to increase access to climate and weather science, and the related data and tools, so that countries and communities can identify vulnerabilities and develop adaptation strategies to build climate resilience – including strategies specifically for women.  As part of these adaptation efforts, USAID integrates gender perspectives into its activities because it understands that its programs are more effective when women are engaged and empowered to contribute their unique perspectives.

This is only one example of U.S. activity at the nexus of climate and gender. You will hear many more examples from our NOAA team later during the conference. NOAA is committed to ensuring that women are involved in the breadth of climate services, from data-gathering to information dissemination to decision-making.  But I don’t want to steal their thunder — no pun intended — so I’ll let my colleagues from NOAA go into more detail on this a little later in the conference.

Of course educating women is a critical step on the road to empowerment.  Better education will help reduce women’s vulnerability to climate change and advance gender equality.

On a personal note, as a young girl, I was always very interested in math and science and data.  When I went to college, it was a natural fit for me to pursue a degree in engineering.  It was a challenge, however, because back then only 6% of engineers in the United States were women.  But I stuck with it because I knew that a technical and scientific education would give me skills in critical thinking and an analytical framework for tackling complex problems – transferable skills, which would prove valuable throughout my career.

The fact remains that engineering, and stem fields more broadly, remain male-dominated both in school and in the workplace.  This has got to change for women to play a more significant role, an equal role, on the global stage.

This conference is a platform for launching plans and concrete actions, including around education, that will empower women to access and use critical climate information, to improve their lives and to build stronger, more resilient communities and societies.

There are many initiatives being implemented around the world, but still, so much more needs to be done.  The United States will continue to support the WMO’s efforts to address climate change, working alongside other international organizations, NGOs, universities, and the private sector – including women professionals like those of you gathered today and working in this field.

I applaud all of you for your commitment to addressing these important issues.  Thank you very much for inviting me to share my thoughts.  I look forward to hearing from others who are on the front-lines of this work.  I am convinced that we can work together to make an even greater impact in addressing these challenges.

Thank you.