Climate change is a fact and women are tackling it

In a letter 11 women mayors outline the relationship between women and climate change: whilst they’re more vulnerable to it they’re also fundamental to its mitigation.

by Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris and Chair of C40
Muriel Bowser, Mayor of Washington D.C.
Manuela Carmena, Mayor of Madrid
Ada Colau, Mayor of Barcelona
Helen Fernández, Mayor of Caracas
Hanna Gronkiewicz-Waltz, Mayor of Warsaw
Zandile Gumede, Mayor of Durban
Fumiko Hayashi, Mayor of Yokohama
Patricia de Lille, Mayor of Cape Town
Clover Moore, Lord Mayor of Sydney
Karin Wanngård, Mayor of Stockholm

On International Women’s Day we should celebrate the fact that women are concretely breaking through the glass ceiling at more and more local elections and women mayors are increasingly common. In 2014, only four cities across the C40 network had women mayors – today 15 mayors are women, a 275 per cent increase. Governing the most important cities of our planet is no longer forbidden territory for us, women.

Read more: Cities are where the future happens first. An open letter by the mayors of Paris, Tokyo, Sydney and Cape Town

women's march washington
The Women’s March in Washington DC, the United States capital, on the 21st of January © Bryan Woolston/Reuters

Defending women’s rights

Yet 2017 has also reminded us that maintaining the values which make our cities such wonderful places to live requires constant vigilance. Last January hundreds of thousands of people participated in the Women’s March events in the United States and around the world. They marched to protect women’s rights. Unprecedented scenes on the streets of the world’s most important cities including Washington, Paris, Sydney, Mexico City and London showed that women, notably including very large numbers of young women, stand to defend these values against the forces that would try to undermine them.

women india
A woman stands by a bundle of cotton in Maharashtra state, India. Farmers are suffering the effects of droughts and floods attributed to climate change © Uriel Sinai/Getty Images

Women and climate change

As women mayors we want to support the next generation of women because they bear the primary burden of tackling climate change today and are likely to continue to do so in the future. Indeed, it may be an inconvenient truth but women are more vulnerable than men to the disasters of climate change. For instance 90 per cent of the 150,000 people killed in the 1991 Bangladesh cyclone were women. Whereas some prefer to imagine alternative facts, we face the reality that makes it clear that this must change.

Thanks to the tenacity of an exceptional group of women led by Christiana Figueres and Laurence Tubiana more than 190 nations signed the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. Yes, women shaped and keep shaping the future. And the science is clear that the next four years are now crucial. There is no time to waste on arguments with those who deny the scientific evidence.

women china
Wearing a mask to protect against pollution in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China © Kevin Frayer/Getty Images


In the most important cities of the world climate change is no longer a question but a reality that demands action. Through our C40 network, 90 mayors representing 650 million urban citizens are implementing their plans to create the green cities of the future. As members of C40 we know that we need to support the next generation of women leaders today, whose mission is to build tomorrow – starting today.

The Women4Climate initiative will concretely empower them offering mentorship, support, advice and guidance to these promising young women and their sustainable activities, projects and businesses for the benefit of the largest possible number of citizens. Helping new generations of women to lead the fight against climate change will make our cities stronger, more resilient and more equal.

women china
A grandmother with her grandchildren in Sichuan province, China. The area relies on pear production but the decline of pollinators such as bees because of factors including climate change is threatening livelihoods © Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Let 2017 be remembered as the year that a new generation of women leaders, galvanised by the threat of climate change and opposed to forces of populism, emerged to transform the world’s great cities. As mayors our message to everybody, particularly women, who are concerned about climate change is simple: now is the time to save our planet, making it better. We will support you in any way we can with the Women4Climate initiative, join us.

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