How women and men are affected differently by climate policy

Women are more engaged in climate issues than men – but men have greater influence in the industries where climate issues have to be solved. Few women have influence in the energy transition, and only one in three Nordic green workers is a woman. A new Nordic knowledge hub on gender and climate is being launched today containing new research overviews showing that climate policy needs to become more gender-equal.
As things currently stand, 25 percent of people in the Nordics are employed in green jobs, which is a good figure compared to the rest of the OECD.

It’s a measure of how far countries have come in the green transition and how well they’re doing in shifting from fossil-dependent sectors to more sustainable ones.

Nordic knowledge hub – A green and equal Nordic Region
More men in polluting industries – and in green jobs
Industries with high levels of emissions – such as transport, energy, agriculture, and construction – are all male-dominated. That’s why the transformation of these industries has the greatest impact on men’s working lives. Workers here face a huge challenge to reskill in order not to lose their job.

Green jobs involve producing goods and services in a new way that replaces our old dependence on fossil fuels. These jobs can involve building energy-efficient homes, mining metals for EV batteries, installing solar panels, and building wind farms.

In these jobs, men make up 70 percent of the workforce in the Nordic Region.

“Opportunity to bring in women”
“So far this hasn’t been explicitly addressed in the political debate in the Nordic Region. With greater political awareness, the green transition should be an opportunity for employers to leverage more out of innovation by focusing on encouraging more women – often both highly educated and climate-aware – into these industries, while also breaking down the heavily gender-segregated labour market,” says Kristinn Hróbjartsson, General Manager of the Icelandic innovation company Running Tide, which is developing methods to sequester carbon in the oceans.

Energy sector as a growth engine
If this opportunity is missed, the risk is that the green transition could cement or increase gender segregation in the labour market, according to one of the reports that forms part of the knowledge hub, Bridging the Green Jobs Divide.

The transition to sustainable energy systems is a growth engine in the green economy, but only five percent of top executives in Nordic energy companies are women, and women make up only one-third of the full-time employees in energy companies.

That’s why a strong under-representation of women in the energy sector risks widening the gender pay gap.

Lifestyle changes needed
At the same time, there’s a shift in the perception of green jobs, and companies have started to demand skills other than technical ones, specifically knowledge of how to change people’s lifestyles, habits, and behaviours.

According to the UN climate panel IPCC, such lifestyle changes can reduce global emissions between 40 and 70 percent by 2050, as long as the necessary policies, infrastructure, and technology are in place.

Women eat and travel more sustainably
As a group, men have a greater carbon footprint than women, especially when it comes to food consumption and transport.

The knowledge hub includes a new Nordic research overview from the University of Gothenburg, indicating that individuals who take on greater caregiving responsibilities – regardless of sex – tend to be more engaged in sustainability and climate issues.

Why women are more climate aware
“The same gender norms that, for example, make women primarily responsible for unpaid household work and care duties have consequences for individuals’ different impacts on the climate. Promoting men’s responsibility and care for the home, children, and the elderly would likely have an effect on their climate impact,” says Jimmy Sand, analyst at the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research, University of Gothenburg.

Iceland’s Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate launches knowledge hub
The knowledge hub will be launched and discussed on 8 December at the COP28 climate conference in Dubai.

Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Iceland’s Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate, says that gender equality has so far been part of the Nordic Region’s success.

“For the green transition to be effective, we need to utilise all our brain power, not just half of it. To succeed, we all need everyone to participate. Gender equality is a win-win for everyone,” says Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson.

Facts/Nordic knowledge hub on gender and climate
In 2022, the Nordic ministers for gender equality and LGBTI decided to acquire more knowledge about the interconnection between gender and climate in the Nordic Region.

A few months later, the ministers for gender equality received broad political support from the Nordic governments for the ambitions of A Green and Gender-equal Nordic Region, namely that Nordic co-operation must develop knowledge in order to integrate gender equality into climate policy.

The knowledge hub contains new Nordic knowledge about gender equality in green jobs, the energy sector, consumption patterns, the blue and green economy, and climate policy.

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