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Remarks by Heather Grady at the “Momentum for Change: Women for Results,” UNFCCC COP 18

Thank you, Folly, and thank you Christiana, for your words, and your leadership. On behalf of our foundation’s President Judith Rodin, and my many colleagues who care passionately about women’s empowerment and leadership, the Rockefeller Foundation is very pleased to support such a forward-looking initiative.

I’m honored to be here with so many inspiring women leaders, and some great men too. But I’m also impatient. Global emissions are rising; we’re seeing the tragic effects of climate change increasing inexorably; irrefutable evidence is mounting – note the recently released World Bank Report on the terrible specter of a 4 degree warmer world.

And yet our political and business leaders are not doing enough on the mitigation, or the adaptation, side of climate change.

I have two daughters – Christiana I know you do too – and they and their generation deserve more action from my generation. If we don’t do it – it will be too late. Will we change things for them, and with them, or not? We are at a crossroads, and we must unleash and scale up new approaches and actors.

The Rockefeller Foundation is 99 years old – we celebrate our centenary next year, in 2013, less than a month away – and we know that social and economic progress can take a long time. But we believe that the urgency of the threat of climate change requires fast and fundamental action now. And that’s where women come in, and why we are supporting the Women for Results Pillar of Momentum for Change.

When Hillary Clinton traveled to foreign countries as First Lady, at the beginning of her trips she always met with local women. She did that, she often said, because if you want to understand the challenges of a particular region, you need to hear from the young girls, the mothers, as caregivers and breadwinners. And we are here today because what we’re hearing from women the world over, in dozens of languages, is that climate change is a ubiquitous challenge, a deadly challenge, and a challenge that we must address now.

Just over a month ago in the United States we were reminded of this fact in a very big way.  On October 29th, a super storm larger than the US state of Texas devastated the eastern United States. It killed more than 125 people, and caused upwards of $50 billion in damage. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, one of the costliest and most visible illustrations of the havoc wreaked by climate change. And this was on top of a crippling drought in the middle of the United States earlier this year. Other countries face such hazards regularly, but many of them have far fewer financial resources to rebound, of course.

Shocks like Hurricane Sandy – and the other good surprise I just mentioned, the World Bank’s recent 4 degrees Report – are, in our view, going to catalyze greater and faster change on the climate front in 2013. The drumbeat for change is growing. But it won’t happen without women at the forefront of both mitigation and adaptation.

As Cristiana mentioned, climate change has differential impacts on women and men. While climate change affects us all, it does not affect us all equally. The poor and vulnerable of our world, though not responsible for high emissions, bear the brunt of the impact. Women, who play outsize roles in the daily life of the developing world especially, often bear the heaviest burden in coping. Many of us here know that when a deadly cyclone struck Bangladesh in 1991, it is estimated that 90 percent of those who died were women.  And when longer and more severe droughts afflict sub-Saharan Africa, it is young girls and their mothers who must walk further to collect water and firewood.

Women aren’t just disproportionately affected by climate change, they are differently affected. But women aren’t just victims of climate change impacts – they are agents of change in mitigating its effects, and adapting to the changes it is bringing.

Unless we take into account the unique ways that women are impacted—and the unique ways women can have an impact on the problem of climate change—we will never produce fully workable, equitable solutions to this most pressing of  problems.

For these reasons, The Rockefeller Foundation is proud to fund the Momentum for Change: Women for Results process, which will seek out innovative and meaningful projects that incorporate women’s insights, experiences and talents, and make women indispensable allies and innovators in tackling climate change.

We are here today because we understand that without the active involvement of women in forging solutions, the problems we face are, quite simply, unsolvable.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s support for this work builds on our commitment to, and learning from, our global Building Climate Change Resilience Initiative, a US $70 million commitment launched five years ago as part of our work to strengthen the resilience of people, communities, cities and nations to both acute shocks and chronic stresses, including climate change. This means building resilience to survive, adapt and transform in positive ways. The concept of resilience encourages us to work in new partnerships, through interdisciplinary efforts, and through public-private collaboration.

For example, as part of our Asian Cities Climate Change Resilience Network, or ACCCRN, we have supported 10 cities across four countries – India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand – in developing their own resilience strategies to deal with current and future climate risks and impacts. As of now, partners in these 10 cities are implementing more than 25 different resilience projects. The number of cities and countries is growing each year as we build a consortium of donors and partners on the ground.

Women’s achievements in ACCCRN are clear. For example, in the Vietnamese coastal city of Da Nang, the leader of one of our NGO partners, Ms. Nguyen Thi Phuc Hoa of the organization Challenge to Change, conducted an analysis highlighting the vulnerability of female-headed households to typhoons and storm surges. In response, the Women’s Union of Da Nang set up a revolving loan fund to help these households upgrade and stormproof their housing. Such upgrades save assets, and sometimes even lives, in poor households.  Just as important, the women of Da Nang are assessing their own climate liabilities, pooling their resources in innovative ways, and taking steps to secure their own futures.

A continent away, African nations are grappling with their own climate challenges. Crop yields in sub-Saharan Africa are projected to fall at least 10-20 percent by 2050, even as the population grows. To tackle the food security challenge, we support Oxfam America and the UN World Food Program for their Rural Resilience Initiative, which incorporates weather-indexed agricultural insurance. In the event of insufficient rainfall, the scheme compensates Ethiopian smallholder farmers, who pay their premiums by working on community projects—such as building irrigation systems, and replanting on hillsides. This effort too is now expanding to other countries in Africa.

One early program participant in Ethiopia is Selas Samson Biru, a 50-year-old mother of six, who partnered with ten farmers to purchase a pump to irrigate their crops. With the proceeds from an abundant harvest of peppers, Biru was able to pay off the loan for her share of the pump. Then she took an even bigger plunge and invested in her own pump, and she’s now planning to invest in orange and mango trees. The program has grown to over 13,000 Ethiopian farmers, a quarter of whom are women.

A third project implemented by CARE that we support  in Western Kenya enables women to plant trees that THEY want to plant – trees they identified as directly reducing their many household responsibilities — cooking, fetching firewood and water, and grazing. These “women’s trees” are in communal woodlots, exclusively managed by the women. Previously considered private male property because of their high timber value, these trees have become communal resources.

These projects, at the nexus of climate change and women’s leadership and empowerment, are sorely needed, and need our support. Fortunately, we have witnessed extraordinary women leaders like those speaking here today who support the work of such women on the ground, and champion their cause in high-level negotiations from Copenhagen to Cancun to right here in Doha. In fact, we are achieving a great success this week with the decision to incorporate women substantially into the negotiating process, and I know Mary Robinson will speak more about that.

In sum, in these efforts and others, the Rockefeller Foundation has been privileged and proud to join and support the UN and so many other partners and women leaders. Women like my friend Constance Okollet, a farmer from Uganda and one of the Climate Wise Women, who on the eve of a UN climate summit wrote to the world: “climate change is killing our people”—and challenged us to take notice and take action. Women like Jaclynn Larington and Sarah Hartmann, two New York City Marathon runners who saw their city reeling from Hurricane Sandy, and organized fellow marathoners to provide badly need relief and support.

Like all of you in this room, women AND men who are putting climate change on the global agenda and insisting that women not be left behind. Women we’ve not yet met, who are out there, ready to lend their voices, insights and hard work. That’s why we’re here now. That is what we hope to highlight in the projects that will be featured under this pillar of the Momentum for Change initiative – Women for Results.

We’re going to watch a video that describes our effort, which will be formally launched in a few months on March 8th, International Women’s Day. We’d like you to think about the women you know who are doing the most impactful and innovative work on mitigation and adaptation – and ensure they engage so that we can all learn from them.

Once again, it’s an honor to be here today, and we look forward to working with many more of you in the months and years to come. Thank you.

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Judith Rodin

Judith Rodin

Judith Rodin is a pioneer, innovator, change-maker and global thought-leader. Read Full Bio

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