Local and international academics, experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations (NGO) yesterday attended a conference on the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Taipei, with participants discussing how gender, Aboriginal people and public health are affected by climate change.
Citing the administration of US President Barack Obama’s pledge to cut the US’ carbon emissions by one-third from 2005 levels, American Institute in Taiwan Deputy Director Robert Forden said that reducing climate change is a moral obligation shared by every nation, as he congratulated Taiwan on the passage of the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act (溫室氣體減量法) in June to coincide with the UN Climate Change Conference scheduled to be held in Paris at the end of the year.
European Economic and Trade Office deputy head Viktoria Lovenberg said that climate change does not just concern governments, with NGOs and society playing vital roles in pressuring governments to pass environmental policies and oversee their execution.
NGOs can also help ensure a democratic process and participation in greenhouse gas reduction, she said.
The world expects governments to reach a legally binding mandate to combat carbon emissions, and Taiwan, by passing the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act, is the leader in the region and is poised to join the Paris convention, British Trade and Cultural Office Deputy Director Damion Potter said.
Panelist Bridget Burns, of the US-based Women’s Environment and Development Organization, said that climate change can exacerbate gender gaps, as women have limited access to daily necessities, education, basic political rights and property, making them more vulnerable to climate change.
Engendering climate policy and including women in policymaking are key to ensuring women’s rights and welfare, she said.
Foundation for Women’s Rights Promotion and Development researcher Annie Chang (張琬琪) said that the degree to which people are affected by climate change is partly a function of their social status, gender, poverty, power and access to and control over resources, with women usually occupying a lower socio-economic status.
Nonetheless, women can be positive agents of change, and their activities in family care, community management and natural-resource management place them at the center of development, Chang said, citing as an example the Taiwanese anti-nuclear NGO Mom Loves Taiwan, which was organized by a group of housewives.
Aboriginal group Mata Taiwan director Tuhi Martukaw said that global warming has caused more severe storms that ravaged Taiwan in recent years, but instead of implementing effective environmental measures to combat global warming, the mainstream concept is to relocate Aborigines from disaster-prone areas, ignoring their right to live in their traditional communities.
“We must have a human rights-based approach in policymaking that stresses the inclusion of indigenous people,” she said.
Citing native Americans as an example, University of Kansas professor Elizabeth Warner said that Aborigines usually live in vulnerable locations and have limited access to water and other resources, making them the most affected by climate change.
The traditional ecological wisdom of Aborigines should be incorporated into climate policy, she said.
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