Power for a Sustainable Future: Women and Green Energy
Date: Tuesday, August 22, 2017
Author: Julie Broussard, UN Women China for Econet China
Green energy development does not automatically benefit all evenly and sustainably. The world today faces a significant energy divide, between rich and poor countries, between urban and rural areas and between men and women. 1.1 billion people worldwide, mainly in rural areas, do not have access to energy, and 2.9 billion people worldwide still use solid biomass, such as wood or waste, for cooking and heating. In developing Asia, 526 million people, or 14 per cent of the population, lack electricity access. Without significant political commitment and investment, energy poverty is said to deteriorate even further over the next 20 years.
Women in most developing countries disproportionally bear the burden for energy poverty, as women and girls are the primary energy providers in the household and collect solid biomass, which is not only time consuming, but also limits their educational and income generating options. Additionally, women and children suffer greatly from the health risks associated with indoor air pollution of cooking with solid biomass. However, rapidly decreasing renewable energy technology costs and new business models also mean that technological decentralized energy solutions hold great promise to accelerate universal sustainable energy access. Providing renewable energy technology to rural communities promotes their economic development. On a large scale this can significantly increase cost effective economic development and offer local and global environmental gains.
China has established itself as a leader in total renew-able energy investment and capacity. It currently has the world’s biggest financial commitment to renewable energy, investing over 100 billion USD in 2015. Under the 13th Five Year Plan (2016-2020), the country aims to have 750 GW of renewables capacity available – more than all the countries of the OECD combined. China’s plan to invest 361 billion USD in renewable energy by 2020 is estimated to create 13 million more clean energy jobs by the end of this decade.
As the energy sector will play an increasingly critical role in livelihoods and energy access, diversification and distribution of those who control the energy system change is increasingly important. Nevertheless, research shows that there is currently a larger gender gap in the energy sector than in any other major industry throughout the world, as women account for only 20-25 per cent of the global energy workforce. Although research demonstrates that diversity enhances innovation and creativity, there is limited attention to promoting gender diversity within companies’ workforce. The gender wage gap in China has been decreasing over the last few decades and in 2010, urban women’s income was 67.3 per cent of men’s, and rural women’s income was 56 per cent that of their male counterparts. Women face barriers in recruitment processes and bias in the workplace. Specifically in rural areas, women are disadvantaged in their access to loans, skills development opportunities and other productive resources, which limit their entrepreneurial opportunities.
It is possible to change this pattern of women’s disempowerment for the benefit of both women and the economy. Research shows that an increase in women’s productive employment results in faster economic growth. Similarly, comparison of the Human Development Index 2014 and Global Gender Gap Index 2015 confirm a correlation between gender equality and GDP per capita, the level of competitiveness and hu-man development.
Aligned with the understanding of the multiple benefits of addressing the current gender gaps, UN Women, together with UNEP, has developed a Global Programme on “Women’s Entrepreneurship for Sustainable Energy”. The programme promotes gender-inclusive energy planning and policy, improves access to finance for women entrepreneurs in the green energy sector and promotes women’s productive use of sustainable energy. It also aims to increase the skills and knowledge of female sustain-able energy entrepreneurs, and ensure safe, discrimination-free working environments that attract and promote women. In China, UN Women is looking to collaborate with the private sector on innovative approaches to support women in being leaders in pro-moting sustainable energy for their own and communities’ empowerment. As the global energy leader, successfully addressing gender in the context of in China’s renewable energy industry is an opportunity for mainstreaming gender in renewable energy both nationally and globally.
中国已经成为可再生能源总投资建设的领头羊。在全球，目前中国对可再生能源有着最高额的财政承诺。在2015年中国的投资了超过1000亿美元。根据中国“十三五”计划 (2016-2020)，未来将达到750吉瓦的可再生能源容量，这将超过国际经合组织所有国家 的目标总和。到2020年，中国计划在可再生能源投资3610亿美元，并将会创造1300万个新增清洁能源相关职位。
随着能源部门将在营生和能源获取方面扮演越来越重要的角色，确保能源技术与决策人员的多样化和比例分配越趋重要。然而，国际可再生能源机构的研究表明，与全球任何其他行业相比，目前能源从业人 员的性别差距较大，女性仅占全球能源劳动力的20-25％。虽然研究指出多样性将会增强创新和创造力，但公司对促进性别多样性的关注仍然有限。中国的男女工资差距在过去几十年中一直在变小。在2010年，城市女性收入为男性的67.3％，而农村妇女的收入为男性的56％。妇女经常在招聘过程中面临障碍，在工作场所遭受偏见。尤其在农村地区，妇女在获得贷款、技能发展机会和其他生产资源方面都处于不利地位，进而限制了她们的创业机会。改变妇女的弱势地位，以造福于妇女和经济是有可能的。研究表明，增加妇女生产性就业能加快经济增长。同样，2014年“人类发展指数”和“全球性别差距指数” 也证实了两性平等与人均国内生产总值、竞争力水平和人类发展之间的相关性。