Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Gender, Climate Change and Energy in South Africa: A Review

Academic journal article Gender & Behaviour

Gender, Climate Change and Energy in South Africa: A Review

Article excerpt

Climate change is one of the most pressing global environmental challenges facing humanity in the 21st centuiy. In recent years climate change has been viewed not only as a development issue, but also as a gender issue. Indeed, the UNDP (2007) document Gender and Climate Change: Human Development Report 2007-2008 makes the critical linkage between gender equality, poverty and climate vulnerability. Consequently, a greater realisation has emerged that gender inequality intersects with risk and vulnerability. Women are disproportionately vulnerable to climate change because they have fewer resources to cope, they tend to be found in the poorest sections of society; and they are more reliant on climate-sensitive resources for their livelihood and because of the social division of labour. As Nelson ( 2011: VI) aptly states: "Climate change is not a neutral process; first of all, women are in general more vulnerable to the effects of climate change, not least because they represent the majority of the world's poor and because they are more than proportionally dependent on natural resources that are threatened".

Furthermore, women face social, economic and political barriers that limit their coping capacity. These barriers when coupled with unequal access to resources and to decision-making processes, as well as limited mobility places women, especially in rural areas in a position where they are disproportionately affected by climate change. In South Africa, climate change mitigation poses significant challenges to the South African Government because it has to juggle the needs of its energyintensive economy, based on coal with resultant veiy high emissions, with a host of daunting development challenges inherited from the Apartheid regime (Earthlife Africa/Oxfam , 2009). This paper examines climate change and gender issues in South Africa with special emphasis on how men and women are differently impacted by climate change.

Climate Change: The Effects and Causes

Climate change is one of the most pressing global environmental challenges facing humanity in the 21st centuiy. Climate change causes increases in extreme events, increasing climate variability, and longerterm shifts in average temperature and precipitation resulting in drought, floods, hail and storms (USD, 2004). Climate change is caused directly or indirectly by human activities that alter the composition of the global atmosphere and creates emissions of greenhouse gases, which are a result of burning fossil fuels and deforestation. Climate change should be differentiated from mere increases in global temperatures. As Davis (2010:2) points out, climate change ''encompasses changes in regional climate characteristics, including temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind, and severe weather events, which have economic and social dimensions"

In South Africa climate change has been attributed to the countiy's high emissions. Due the heavy reliance on coal energy sources, South Africa has relatively high emissions per capita, at 7.8 tons CO2 annually (including non-energy emissions (Winkler and Marquand, 2009:50). According to Earthlife Africa / Oxfam (,2009:13) South Africa was responsible "for emitting almost 318 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2003". The countiy's dependency on coal-fired power stations has resulted in a yearly per capita emission rate of about 10 tons of carbon dioxide, which is 43 per cent higher than the global average . Most of the emissions come from just two companies Eskom (coal-fired power stations) and Sasol (coal - to - liquids company) (Earthlife / Oxfam, 2009:6). Eskom- South Africa's state-owned power supply utility- is responsible for supplying 95 per cent of the countiy's electricity- 90 per cent of which comes from coal-fired power stations scattered around the countiy. The energy sector is the major source of South Africa's emissions which include a number of key energy-related activities including the energy industries (responsible for 45 per cent of total gross emissions), manufacturing industries (14 per cent), transport (11 per cent), fugitive emissions from fuels (2 per cent), and other energy-related activities (6. …

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