United Nations Responsible Business and Human Rights Forum, Asia-Pacific
Day 2 | 8 June
Unlocking the Potential of Women's Leadership for Accelerating the Just Energy Transition
To achieve the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting global warming to 1.5°C, a significant reduction of global greenhouse gas emissions is required. While countries are taking steps to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change, it is crucial to recognize that rapid and comprehensive shifts in energy systems are necessary. However, effectively responding to the climate crisis cannot be achieved with technological and economic solutions alone but needs to go hand in hand with social transformation.
Climate change poses the greatest threat to sustainable development worldwide, leaving people and countries behind, with the risk of further widening inequalities due to its negative impacts on the environment. Women and other marginalized groups often bear the brunt of climate change and disasters, due to discriminatory social and gender norms resulting in as they have limited access to and control over essential resources and opportunities, resulting in negative effects on their lives, livelihoods, health, and well-being.
By 2025 Asia will for the first time use half of the world’s electricity. It is important that Asia’s energy transition, which is urgently needed, does not create new injustices. In this context, the importance of the just energy transition and the role of human rights and gender equality in clean energy development is increasingly recognized as a necessity to reach climate goals. It has been shown, for instance, that high inequality represents a significant barrier to sustainable development, as it stifles economic progress. Consequently, using an intersectional approach to deliver on the goal of Agenda 2030 and the principle of leave no one behind has the potential to support faster recoveries from shocks and can be a driving force for the growth of more resilient, sustainable and inclusive economies.
The shift towards a more sustainable and low-carbon economy demands that the needs of workers and communities that may be affected by the changes brought about by moving away from fossil fuels be prioritized. To uphold their rights, the economy and economic system need to be transformed in a way that is equitable and inclusive.
The just energy transition offers a solution to ensure that women and other marginalized groups are not left behind in the transition towards renewable energy. It supports the creation of inclusive and gender-responsive energy access and pathways, policies, and actions to effectively respond to the needs of those furthest left behind, enabling them to lead, meaningfully participate and benefit from the energy transition. Investing in projects that prioritize social equity and inclusivity in the renewable energy sector does not only make good social sense but is also economically viable in the long run. Diversifying the energy workforce, by including women, in all their diversity, will allow the renewable energy sector to tap into a wider pool of talent and increase competitiveness.
Enhancing economic opportunities for women is an integral in achieving the goals of just energy transition. Financing women-led business as part of the just energy transition, can offer several advantages, including sustainability and economic viability. For instance, investing in women-led businesses can improve their performance in terms of return on sales, return on assets, and return on equity. Gender diversity in the boardroom has also been positively correlated with company performance in high-tech manufacturing and knowledge-intensive services. Furthermore, gender diverse boards of banking supervision agencies are associated with higher levels of financial stability, which is an indicator of greater resilience to financial stress. Women-led businesses have been found to have lower default rates on loans compared to those led by men, indicating their financial stability and reliability as borrowers. This makes them attractive investment opportunities for financial institutions and can contribute to the overall stability of the financial system.
Moreover, the just energy transition must also consider the rights of those who work to protect the environment, especially women human rights defenders who play a crucial role in realizing Agenda 2030 and environmental rights but often face threats, harassments and gender-based violence as a consequence of their work. The pathway towards a zero-carbon economy must be grounded on a rights-based approach that recognizes both substantive and procedural elements of women human rights defenders to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment.
The key objectives of this session are to:
Increase participants’ understanding of how the low-carbon transition can advance human rights and gender equality, as well as how integrating human rights, Leave No one Behind and gender approaches can accelerate the just energy transition.
Raise awareness of systemic barriers to women’s entrepreneurship and leadership in the just energy transition, including technology and finance, and present promising solutions.
Share good practices, knowledge and initiatives that harness women’s potential as active agents of change within the just energy transition.