Document Actions

Local engagement and empowerment of women key to a sustainable future

For each dollar spent on education of girls you get five times as much CO2 reduction as you get by investing in energy efficiency. This was one of the surprising conclusions of a seminar held by the Nordic Council of Ministers at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD19) on May 12.


From right to left: Karen Ellemann, Rejoyce Mabudafhasi and Jacqueline McGlade at Nordic event at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development

A side event held May 12 by the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) and its Finnish chairmanship for 2011 at the UN meetings on sustainable development looked towards the Rio+20 Conference next year and debated the role of sustainable consumption and production in a green economy.

Video: Interview with the Danish Minister for the Environment Karen Ellemann from UN meetings, May 12 2011.

The debate, however, focused just as much on the role of women in the economy and the importance of engaging civil society and citizens at large to create a sustainable future.

- A green economy is not just about the market and making money on green solutions. It is about changing behaviour and establishing sustainable consumption and production patterns, Danish Minister for the Environment Karen Ellemann stated in her address to the 100+ UN delegates, who attended the side event.

She added that Green Public Procurement is crucial in a green economy and noted that if all public purchases of IT equipment worldwide followed the energy saving standards of the city of Copenhagen, it would save the equivalent of the annual energy consumption of a country like Hungary.

A green economy is not just about the market and making money on green solutions

This was supported by European Environment Agency (EEA) Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade.

- What we need is smart governance, especially locally, to enable us to go together towards a green economy, she said in her presentation.

Summing up an expert seminar held by the NCM and the EEA on Sunday, McGlade underlined the need to look at the areas of transport, food and housing in particular as they represent the highest consumption intensity.

The importance of engaging civil society was also acknowledged by sustainable development veteran and former UNEP director Ashok Khosla, who praised the role of the Nordic countries in the effort to support the grass roots on the path to a sustainable world.

He, however, stressed the need to look even more specifically at the empowerment of women.

- The cost of saving 1 ton of CO2 is 25-50 USD if you do it by increasing energy efficiency. By investing 5 to 10 dollars in the education of young girls you get the same result, said Kholsa.

He also cited a study of a Norwegian sponsored project in India, showing a clear correlation between education and population planning – a topic he saw as crucial to the survival of the planet, if we are to be able to curb the needs of a growing population without depleting all resources.

- Over a twenty year period, the women who got education and jobs had on average two children. Their cousins who did not enjoy these benefits had on average over twenty children in that same period, Ashok stated.

Other speakers at the event included South African Deputy Minister Rejoyce Mabudafhasi , Ministry of Water and Environmental Affairs and Tom Jacob from T.R Jacob and Associates, representing American Chemistry Council and International Chamber of Commerce, plus Hannele Pokka, Permanent Secretary, Finnish Ministry for the Environment. Dr. Kaarin Taipale from Finland acted as moderator.


Annika Lindblom
Finnish Committe for Sustainable Development