Sociology Professor’s work instrumental in breaking down barriers to climate justice for women

Sociology professor Fiona Williams has been working with UN Women (the global champion for gender equality) to draw up a framework for a new feminist climate justice approach.

UN Women estimates that by 2050, climate change will push up to 158 million more women and girls into poverty and 236 million more women into hunger.

Emeritus Professor Fiona Williams OBE, of the School of Sociology, University of Leeds was approached by UN Women to draw up a framework for a new feminist climate justice approach following the publication of her book Social Policy – A Critical and Intersectional Analysis (Polity Press, 2021).

In June (or July 2023) Professor Williams took part in an expert consultation, meeting with women’s NGOs mainly based in the Global South to discuss the priorities for action for climate justice and its effects on women and children.

The UN Women’s report Feminist Climate Justice: A Framework for Action was launched on gender day, 4 December 2023, at the UN climate conference COP28. Feminist Climate Justice: A Framework for Action clarifies the barriers to climate justice for women globally and acts as a practical guide to break down those barriers.

The Three Global Crises

Professor William’s book, winner of the prestigious Peter Townsend Prize awarded by the British Academy, calls for a radical paradigm change in welfare principles, praxis and governance. In Social Policy – a Critical and Intersectional Analysis, Professor Williams examines the interplay between the three interlocking crises: the crisis of the planet, the crisis around migrants’ rights and the global crisis in care.

Fiona Williams’ work identified the two processes that are contributing to the global crisis of care: the devaluation of care (the lack of recognition for care – whether it is unpaid or poorly paid work) and the depletion of care across the world today  – put simply, lack of time and resources are diminishing people’s capacity to care, a problem exacerbated by many factors including austerity, the pandemic and the climate crisis.

What all three crises have in common is the need for an economic model that places care, humanity, and human and planetary flourishing at its centre.

Professor Fiona Williams

Confronting Past Injustices

The UN Women’s framework originally focused on three interlinked dimensions: the recognition of women’s rights (and the rights of other minorities), the redistribution of resources and the representation of women’s voices. To these three dimensions, Professor Williams added the area of reparation, to address the imbalance of climate change caused predominantly by developed countries in the global north, an imbalance rooted in colonialist and capitalist  extraction and exploitation of land and labour.

The creation of a long-awaited ‘loss and damage’ fund at COP28, the United Nations climate summit in Dubai, to source money from developed countries to pay for climate damage in less developed countries, has been hailed as a step in the right direction for reparations. Although only voluntary at present, the hope is that this will be mandatory in the future and framed as reparation rather than donation.

Further Information

The feminist climate justice framework will now inform the next edition of the UN Women’s flagship report Progress of the world’s women (the ninth edition which will be published in 2025) on gender equality in the age of climate crisis.

You can download Feminist climate justice: A framework for action here.