October 7, 2022

by Jacqueline Peel, Annabelle Workman, Kathryn Bowen and Rebekkah Markey-Towler, The conversation

The gender-related impacts of displacement from wildfires and other disasters may include increased domestic violence experiences. Credit: Shutterstock

When the new federal parliament was opened last week, record number of the female politicians took place: 38% in the House of Representatives and 57% in the Senate. This changing of the guard, with women at the forefront, presents an opportunity to accelerate Australia’s efforts on climate change.


The major parties were virtually silent about gender equality and climate change during the 2022 election campaign. Yet both issues proved to be turning points for the Australian electorate.

Climate change – one of the key platforms on which the teal candidates successfully campaigned – is central to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s parliamentary agenda. A bill including a climate target in Australian law was one of the first proposed to parliament last week.

Women are on the front lines of the impacts of climate change, which makes our experiences and leadership critical at decision-making tables. From Barbados until Finland, we have seen that women’s leadership on climate has brought fair, innovative and ambitious policies. We hope that a new era in Australian climate policy will also begin.

Women and Climate Change

Women all over the world are disproportionately affected by climate change due to existing systemic inequalities. For example in Africa, when disaster strikeswomen may find it more difficult to evacuate their homes as primary caretakers, fail to read written warnings, or be overlooked in rescue efforts in favor of men.

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Australia’s experience is no exception. For example, researchers note strong increases in domestic violence after disasters, such as forest fires.

Women also play a vital role in achieving ambitious and innovative climate action. as the Declaration of Female Leadership commented at the Glasgow Climate Summit last year: “Despite increased vulnerability to climate impacts, we recognize that women and girls have created and led innovative climate solutions at all levels.”

There are dozens examples of female climate leadership and the benefits that come when women and girls are given the opportunity to lead the way in climate action throughout recent history.

Notable examples include: Christiana Figuereswhich led the international climate negotiations to a successful outcome in 2015 with the adoption of the Paris Agreement.

Greta Thunberg’s vigil to sit outside the Swedish parliament every Friday and protest inadequate climate action inspired a youth climate protest movement.

Other young women like National Director of Seed Mob Amelia Telford in Australia, and co-founder of Pacific Climate Warriors Brianna Fruean are at the forefront of First Nations efforts in climate advocacy.

A OECD Working Paper published this year, notes that women’s participation in decision-making often leads to the development of relatively strong and sustainable climate policies and goals.

Example, Finland, led by the progressive prime minister Sanna Marinrecently committed to one of the most ambitious climate targets, legislate net zero in 2035 and CO2 negative in 2040.







Prime Minister Mia Mottley, awarded the 2021 Champion of the Earth – Policy Leadership.

In the meantime, Barbados Aiming to phase out fossil fuels by 2030, Prime Minister Mia Mottley is a passionate advocate for developing countries vulnerable to climate change.

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The participation of women is also crucial in the private sector. The OECD cites proof that when women occupy at least 30% of board seats, they bring about a change in climate governance within companies.

An end to Australia’s climate wars?

The Australian government’s keen focus on climate change is a far cry from the ‘climate wars’ that have been a roadblock to meaningful climate policy in this country over the past decade.

But Australia wasn’t always a problem country in international climate negotiations. At times we have been a climate leader.

For example, under the Labor government of Julia Gillard, Australia was one of the first countries to national legal carbon price in 2011. This changed in 2013, when newly elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott quickly withdrawn this landmark law. Nearly a decade of federal government inaction on climate change followed.

Signs of progress on climate change began to take shape in the 2019 federal election, when the conservative but green Independent MP Zali Steggall ousted Tony Abbott from his long-held Warringah seat.

The May elections then brought in a wave of female independents, along with gains for female Greens and Labor candidates. These women, such as Kate Chaney, Zoe Daniels, Monique Ryan, Sophie Scamps, Kylea Tink, Zali Steggall and Allegra Spender, will play a transformative role in our politics and society.

They campaigned on a climate and integrity platform, calling for stronger 2030 climate targets, increased renewable energy generation and the passing of a climate change law to set and commit emissions reduction targets.

of labor Climate change account was one of the first legislative texts to be submitted to the new parliament, and Negotiations are now in full swing between Labour, the Greens and the female independents to pass it on.

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A early success It has emerged from these negotiations that Labor’s current target – 43% emissions reductions by 2030 – is a minimum, not a ceiling, for ambition.

still like Kate Chaney put it in her first speech, “we have to move on.” This includes addressing to ask on accountability for achieving the target, and a mechanism to ensure that future governments continue to step up their ambition.

Towards a positive climate future

The success of the Teal Independents represents the huge wave of anger and frustration felt by many people who may have voted for the coalition government in the past.

This immense transformation highlights the need for Australia to put gender equality, climate action and integrity at the heart of our decision-making.

As our national climate laws and policies take shape, we watch with anticipation as Albanians navigate two homes occupied by women with strong, clear climate goals and unprecedented support from their voters.


Australia submits more ambitious 2030 emissions target to UN


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