A FEMINIST LENS FOR EUROPE’S GREEN DEAL
During the last working session of the Commission on Status of Women, held in New York from March 14-25, 2022, Katy Wiese, Policy Officer at the European Environmental Bureau, presented the report “A Feminist European Green Deal.”
This report explains how policies aimed at halting or mitigating the effects of climate change are often gender blind, that is, they do not consider socioeconomic differences between men and women, with the risk of perpetuating or exacerbating gender inequalities.
The study conducted looked at the European Green Deal, which was analysed with an intersectional perspective, therefore assessing the different impact of climate policies on people not only based on gender, but also in relation to other characteristics, such as economic status, age, ethnicity, disability and sexual orientation.
The Report considers three key sectors addressed in the Green Deal: energy, transportation, and agriculture.
TRANSITION, GENDER AND ENERGY
The energy sector is heavily dominated by the male workforce, which is around 80 percent. The first obvious implication is, therefore, that jobs created in this area favour men in particular.
Not only jobs, however: women benefit less from energy renovation opportunities, for at least two reasons. First, they own houses more infrequently than men, and second, the gender and pension pay gap (difference in average salary and pension between men and women), which are around 14 percent and 30 percent, respectively, reduce women’s economic ability to access efficiency work. Paradoxically, moreover, renovations (the Renovation Wave) increase the value of houses and their rental cost, with the risk of making decent housing inaccessible to the most economically vulnerable groups (women, young people, the elderly, migrants…). This can lead to the phenomenon of renoviction (evictions in favour of renovations) and gentrification (exodus to the suburbs).
The cultural factor, to date, also weighs heavily. The Renewable Energy Directive for example stimulates the role of citizens as prosumers, that is, producers and at the same time consumers of the energy they produce. Women, however, tend to be less involved in the field of modern technologies, which means that they often do not join initiatives such as this, missing out on the economic benefits.
New approaches and criteria would be needed to include women in the Renovation Wave and at the same time protect them from the risk of energy poverty. However, the lack of women’s representation in energy-related decision-making and institutional roles has an androcentric effect in energy transition policies, which to date do not seem to consider gender inequalities.
TRANSITION, GENDER AND TRANSPORT
The Strategy for Smart and Sustainable Mobility proposes an action plan of 82 initiatives and provides the overall direction of the future of transport in Europe.
Gender, it must be said, is addressed about employment, which targets new jobs for young people and women. However, the Strategy focuses on technological modernization of existing means of transportation (electric cars and buses, air and rail transport) and not on new forms of mobility. Private and individual transportation, mostly prevalent among men and the wealthy classes, continues to be favoured (in Germany 62 percent of cars are owned by men, compared to 38 percent by women), at the expense of more sustainable and inclusive modes of travel.
The Strategy also does not consider the issue of safety of women and certain minorities in transportation, although there is evidence that they are particularly affected by perceptions of safety in their choice of travel.
A sustainable transportation strategy should expand public transportation, with safe and affordable mobility services. While men, for example, tend to commute mostly only on the home-work commute, women commute several times a day, as they are more involved in care activities (children, elderly parents…) that require them to travel to multiple places throughout the day. Strengthening off-peak public transportation, making them safer-include with awareness and respect education campaigns-and providing subsidized fares would truly perpetrate a sustainable mobility strategy for all. As crucial as technological modernization is this cannot be the sole focus of a strategy that must be cast in a social context with diverse needs and must address the entire population.
TRANSITION, GENDER AND AGRICULTURE
Agriculture has a major impact in terms of climate change, biodiversity and pollution, with consequences for food security as well. As many as 13 million people in Europe live in moderate to severe food insecurity, among them especially women, children and marginalized groups.
Moreover, the agricultural sector sees exacerbated inequalities present in European society: gender pay gap, job insecurity (with a strong presence of seasonal contracts and undeclared work) and low presence of women in top positions.
Yet neither the Common Agricultural Policy nor the so-called From Farm To Fork strategy address the social issue and gender (dis)equality. Such policies are left to individual member states, but with no obligation.
Instead, it would be important to implement policies that encourage female entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector (data show that women are more likely to grow organic crops), support small- to medium-sized and family farms, regularize and protect seasonal and non-contracted workers (and female workers) as much as possible, and act against food waste at the same time.
INTERSECTIONALITY AND INTERSECTORALITY TO MAKE THE EUROPEAN GREEN DEAL INCLUSIVE
Considering the above, the Green Deal appears to be incongruent with the European Commission’s gender equality strategies. What emerges from the Report is that, to achieve a just ecological transition, it would be necessary first to revise the traditional definition of well-being, identified so far only with GDP-and therefore inevitably linked to extraction, production and consumption activities-and to value instead the activities of care towards people and nature, which are fundamental to human and planetary well-being. It would then be crucial to perpetrate policies that not only favour jobs in male-dominated employment and leadership sectors, but also jobs and activities (often performed for free) in the fields of care and education, fields mostly held by women and which, while equally important for a sustainable future, are excluded from environmental policies. Finally, development strategies should be based on cross-sectoral analyses that consider the diversity of society and are as inclusive as possible.
Welfare by population groups is not possible; the transition is ecological and just only if it belongs to everyone.
Edited by Giulia Canilli, Italian Climate Network Volunteer