Kathleen Rogers is the President of Earth Day Network, a non-profit that started the first ever Earth Day in 1970. The organization is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. She speaks below about the women who are leading the way on climate change.
Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention
on Climate Change, is charting a path for how the nations of the world can agree to lower
carbon emissions and save the planet from slow destruction.
Thuli Brilliance Makama, environmental attorney in Swaziland, is fighting for the
public’s right to participate in environmental decision making in her country, having
won a landmark case to get non-government organizations at the table in talks with the
Swaziland Environment Authority and having won a Goldman Environmental Award for
Lisa P. Jackson, administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is leading
the administration’s efforts in mitigating global warming by issuing tougher regulations
on six greenhouse gases as threats to human health, exercising the EPA’s traditional
authority over auto emissions and stationary sources of pollution.
Mindy S. Lubber, president of the Ceres sustainable investment coalition and the Investor
Network on Climate Risk, is leading investors representing $15 trillion in capital to
demand that governments act on climate change regulation now or jeopardize economic
recovery and bypassing opportunities in clean technology innovation.
And locally, entrepreneur Michele McGeoy has turned the city of Richmond, California,
into the state leader in solar electric system installations per capita, while Simone Bruni
of New Orleans has made sustainable reconstruction a women-led business and Lynn
Henning of rural Michigan has told the world that family farmers demand sustainable
farming practices by their big corporate neighbours.
While men in suits might have spent a lot of time arguing in Cancun, Mexico in early
December last year about climate change agreements just as they did in Copenhagen the year before, women are taking charge of the green economy and the imperative to mitigate climate
In the aftermath of the catastrophic lack of action taken in Cancun because heads of states do not agree to some accords on reducing green house gases, women are no longer waiting.
The woman-led Ceres and the Investor Network on Climate Risk issued a statement on
behalf of investors in charge of $15 trillion in assets to the U.S. Congress and negotiators
in Cancun, warning that lawmakers risk setting the economy back 20 percent over the
next several decades if they do not respond to the responsibility and opportunity to
regulate green house gas emissions. They said investment capital is ready to flow to low-
carbon technologies but awaiting certainty in policies.
“For the world’s governments to limit the rise of global temperatures to less than 2
degrees C, stem the climate damage that is already starting to occur, shift to a low-carbon
economy and seize the economic opportunities of clean energy and other climate related
activities, trillions of dollars of investment are required over the coming decades,” their
“Investors are concerned with the risks presented by climate change to regional and
global economies and to individual assets. At the same time, investors are interested in
the large potential economic opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy
present….Private investment will only flow at the scale and pace necessary if it is
supported by clear, credible and long term policy frameworks that shift the risk-reward
balance in favor of less carbon-intensive investments,” the group said and chided the U.S.
Congress for not providing stable policy frameworks.
Leaders behind this challenging statement are Ceres CEO Lubber and Calvert
Investments Chief Executive Officer Barbara Krumsiek.
“We cannot drag our feet on the issue of global climate change,” Krumsiek said when the
group released their statement Nov. 16.
And United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is also taking an active
position on climate change. Speaking in San Francisco last month, Secretary Clinton
said, “We either are going to be dependent on dirty oil from the gulf or dirty oil from
Canada unless we get our act together as a country and figure out that clean renewable
energy is in our economic interest and our interest as a planet.”
She acknowledged that the U.S. is near to bypassing great opportunity in letting China
take the lead in clean energy technology. If it becomes the global leader in clean
technology “then shame on us,” she said.
But she also said that the Obama administration is not giving up on setting policy on
greenhouse gas emissions. Citing “how deeply disappointed the President and I are about
our inability to get the kind of legislation through the Senate that the United States was
seeking, That hasn’t stopped what we are doing. We have moved a lot on the regulatory
front through the EPA.”
It is not surprising that women lead the effort to stop climate change because, as the
United Nations has noted, “the Threats of Climate Change are not Gender-Neutral.”
Rather, women are more susceptible to the disruptions and disease associated with
climate change because they make up a larger share of the poor in most countries of the
world and, in developing countries, women are more dependent than men on local natural
resources because of their traditional roles of procuring food and water for their families.
Women in many countries are also less likely to be in decision-making roles as regards to
how a country’s economic resources are used or how government regulates climate and
A number of today’s women leaders in stemming climate change come from
backgrounds that allow them to understand the disproportionate share of climate change
harm that land on women. Jackson, from the U.S. EPA, grew up in New Orleans and
watched her family suffer from Katrina. Figueres is from the small country of Costa
Rica and thus able to empathize with how hard it is for smaller countries or less powerful
voices to be heard at negotiating tables in places like Cancun.
With women in charge, now, in key junctures in the climate debate, perhaps we can hope
for some forward movement in reaching accords in Cancun and getting some business
done to ready investors, governments and ordinary citizens to take on the challenges of
Kathleen Rogers has worked more than 20 years as anenvironmental attorney and advocate, focusing on public policy, international law, litigation, andcommunity development. Under Kathleen’s leadership, Earth Day Network has taken the lead indefining the “new environmentalist” of the 21st century, transforming EDN into a dynamic team ofyear round activists that is reaching out to new constituencies, including young people and people ofcolor, and integrating civic participation into each of our programs and activities.