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Will Women's Voices Be Heard in Copenhagen?

Worldwatch is Lead Author of the United Nations Population Fund's State of the World Population 2009

will bear the greatest burden of a changing climate but so far have
received little attention from negotiators working toward a new global
climate deal, according to the 2009 edition of the United Nations
Population Fund's State of World Population.
Robert Engelman, Worldwatch Institute's Vice President for Programs,
was lead author of the report, which argues that women's issues, and
especially women's health issues, have been largely overlooked in
discussions leading up to the UN climate talks in Copenhagen, Denmark,
this December.

"This is the first report in which a United Nations agency has
connected climate change to human population and the status of women,"
Engelman said. "Its main finding-that investing in women and erasing
the constraints on their achievement will slow climate change and build
social resilience-is powerful and hopeful."

In addition to exploring the inherent connections between population
and climate change, the report examines the climate issue as it
pertains to multiple aspects of health, development, and the global
environment. These connections have long remained at the forefront of
Worldwatch's research.

State of World Population 2009 shows that investments that
empower women and girls-particularly investments in education and
health-also bolster economic development and reduce poverty. But these
investments have an additional beneficial impact on climate. Girls with
higher levels of education, for example, tend to have smaller families
as adults, and the ensuing lower fertility rates contribute to slower
growth in greenhouse gas emissions and improved adaptation to the
impacts of climate change.

A recent report published by Worldwatch and the United Nations Foundation, Global Environmental Change: The Threat to Human Health,
notes that 200 million women worldwide currently lack access to the
family planning services they want or need, ranging from contraception
to reproductive health counseling. The report's author, Dr. Samuel S.
Myers of Harvard University, asserts that providing these services and
allowing women to decide for themselves whether, when, and how often to
give birth is an adaptive strategy against many of the predicted
impacts of climate change-all of which will be exacerbated by larger
populations needing access to resources, secure homes, and productive


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"No other intervention would provide more benefits across the health
and environmental sectors than providing global access to family
planning services," says Dr. Myers.

According to State of the World Population 2009, the poor
are especially vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and the
majority of the 1.5 billion people living on $1 a day or less are
women. The poor are more likely to depend on agriculture for a living
and therefore risk going hungry or losing their livelihoods when
droughts strike, rains become unpredictable and hurricanes move with
unprecedented force. The poor also tend to live in marginal areas that
are vulnerable to floods, rising seas, and storms. Research cited in
the report shows that women are more likely than men to die in natural
disasters-including those related to extreme weather-with this gap most
pronounced where incomes are low and status differences between men and
women are high.

"We can't successfully confront climate change if we neglect the needs,
challenges, and potential of half the people on this planet," said
UNFPA Executive Director Thoraya Ahmed Obaid in a UNFPA release
announcing the State of the World Population
report. "If we are really serious about halting climate change, then we
must get serious about eliminating inequalities between the sexes and
empowering women to persevere in our warming world."

For more information or to download State of the World Population 2009, please visit


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The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Its mission is to generate and promote insights and ideas that empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs.

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