Climate Change Needs a Champion — This Is Ours | Savoir Flair
Climate Change Needs a Champion — This Is Ours
article COP28
by Grace Gordon 5-minute read December 5, 2023

As the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions of COP28, Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak is a leading voice in the fight to include women in the conversation.

There is a sense of urgency around COP28 and its outcome that feels palpable. Countries, businesses, investors, and organizations are moving swiftly to enact change. In what is being heralded as a “groundbreaking start” to COP, billions of dollars have already been mobilized in a variety of sectors in a historic showing of collaborative support to halt the continued damage that climate change is wreaking on the globe. For instance, the UAE has launched ALTÉRRA, a USD30 billion “catalytic climate investment fund” that will mobilize investment in order to finance a new climate economy, the World Bank increased its support of climate-related projects by USD9 billion, USD3.5 billion was announced to replenish the Green Climate Fund, and the list goes on. All told, USD57 billion dollars have been mobilized so far. 

The alarm bells on climate change have been sounding for decades. Why is COP28 moving with such speed? Why now? 

In July, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres gave a speech in which he emphasized that global warming had become “global boiling.” That phrase raced around the world, adding a sense of surreality to the crisis. But he wasn’t being hyperbolic. Since climate data began being recorded, 2023 has seen the hottest recorded temperatures in human history. Climate boiling is happening, and it is happening faster and with much more devastating effects than even the worst-case scientific models had predicted. Enormous amounts of crops, animals, and people are dying at a rate accelerated by the climbing temperatures of our planet. What comes next can only be described as catastrophic on a scale humanity has never before witnessed.

This is especially true in our region, which is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Not only is food and water scarcity a growing issue in the Middle East, but so are “soaring heat waves, declining precipitation, extended droughts, more intense sandstorms and floods, and rising sea levels,” according to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. For the UAE, climate change has long been a primary issue, and when it comes to leading on the topic, few are as important to driving change as Her Excellency Razan Al Mubarak.

An inspiring leader, Ms. Al Mubarak is the founding Managing Director of the Mohamed Bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, the first Arab woman to be elected President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions of COP28. As the High-Level Champion, Ms. Al Mubarak is at the forefront of integrating the crucial roles of non-state actors, including businesses, local governments, and civil societies, into the heart of climate action discussions. Her mission is deeply rooted in three key areas: advocating for nature’s preservation, promoting inclusive climate action with a strong focus on gender equality, and ensuring that the voices and rights of indigenous peoples are recognized and elevated in the global environmental agenda. 

A leading voice in the fight against the climate crisis, Ms. Al Mubarak has been instrumental in bringing women into the conversation. December 4 was COP28’s “Gender Equality Day.” The inclusive messaging of this day, combined with Ms. Al Mubarak’s impassioned speech on the subject, highlighted just how crucial women are to the climate change mission. “Their voices, often marginalized, are vital in shaping effective climate policies,” she shares in an exclusive interview with Savoir Flair. “This day amplifies our commitment to ensuring that women's perspectives are not only heard but actively shape the global response to climate change.”

Read on for her full comments and insights.

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It is UNDENIABLE that when women are in leadership roles, there’s a tangible shift in how environmental policies are framed and implemented

Women are disproportionately affected by climate change. How does this impact the global response to the climate crisis?

Absolutely, women bear a significant brunt of the impacts of climate change. Representing 70 percent of the world's poor, they are more vulnerable to climate-related disasters. Yet, their roles in food production and community leadership are critical. Acknowledging this disparity is essential as we aim to transform it into a driving force for robust climate policies and actions. 

Can you tell us about the initiatives COP28 has taken to promote gender inclusivity?

At COP28, we're proud to have a strong representation of women in leadership. Two-thirds of our officials are women, including the UAE’s Chief Climate Negotiator. But our efforts extend far beyond representation. The launch of the Women and Gender Pavilion is a testament to our dedication to celebrating and empowering women in climate leadership. It's about creating spaces where their contributions are recognized and valued.

It's noteworthy that in the UAE, the seven main environmental organizations are led by women. How does this leadership shape environmental policies and actions in the UAE?

This achievement is remarkable for the UAE and a source of great pride. Having women lead key environmental agencies like the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change, Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, EPAA, the Mohamed bin Zayed Species Conservation Fund, and Emirates Nature-WWF are driving forces in our efforts to create effective, inclusive, and sustainable environmental policies.

It is undeniable that when women are in leadership roles, there’s a tangible shift in how environmental policies are framed and implemented. Research has shown that parliaments with more female representation adopt more stringent climate policies, and corporate boards with higher female participation set more ambitious emission reduction targets. In fact, companies with more female board directors are 21 percent more likely to have established emission reduction targets. This leadership is crucial because investing in gender equality has the potential to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15 percent by 2050. 

At COP28, we have reached a global realization that — without an inclusive approach — we will not reach our goals for climate action. Women bring unique perspectives and solutions to the table, and their absence means we’re missing critical insights. 

The Gender-Responsive Just Transitions & Climate Action Partnership seems pivotal. Could you elaborate on its objectives?

This partnership is central to our global approach to climate change. It’s focused on elevating women’s roles in climate decision-making and policy development. We recognize that women’s leadership and participation are crucial in crafting sustainable climate solutions. This initiative is about creating pathways for women to lead and influence climate action at every level.

Lastly, what message would you like to share on this Gender Equality Day?

On this day, we reaffirm our commitment to empowering women in the realm of climate action. Recognizing and harnessing their potential is key to driving transformative changes for a sustainable future. We are dedicated to ensuring that women are not just participants but leaders in our journey towards effective and inclusive climate solutions.

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