Most reports from the UN Climate Change Conference in Cancun, December 2010, conclude the conference was not a failure and, in fact, it exceeded the dismal expectations. In the midst of the debate regarding climate change, few observers are highlighting a key issue: women need, and are willing, to be at the forefront of leadership in the post-carbon green economy.
Until recently, women have represented a tiny minority at these conferences and other gatherings of green entrepreneurs. The women who are now playing a more active role realise their absence from the design and success of the industrial and technology revolutions prevented them from directly reaping the political and financial rewards from those economic shifts. These women also recognise that because they were sidelined, they failed to prevent the unsustainable business models that brought us climate change and other environmental disasters and economic inequities.
Today, women are better educated, more global in their perspective and more willing to stand up for sustainability.
During the Cancun climate conference, my organisation, Earth Day Network, launched the Women and the Green Economy (WAGE) campaign. Participants identified and discussed the skills and values that women bring as leaders in building the green economy, ranging from the importance that women place on fiscal responsibility, collaboration and partnership, to the priority that they place on social needs.
For the sake of short-term profits, the global economic model encourages businesses to sacrifice everything from long-term growth and climate stability, to future access to natural resources.
We need to shift our business model from short-term gains to perpetual sustainability. To make this shift it is vital that a critical mass of women sets the framework for the next economy and manages risk. For example, we cannot gamble on risky, false solutions such as nuclear energy, ‘clean coal’ and corn ethanol biofuels.
Such ideas exacerbate our sustainability challenges, simply trading one environmental problem for another. Lack of forethought about these risks will keep us on our current unsustainable path. Women’s leadership in this new economy can help fill this void.
Kathleen Rogers is the president of Earth Day Network.