Unleashing the Power of Women in Climate Action: Equality today for a sustainable tomorrow

March 8, 2022

Basma at one of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources project locations

Amman, Jordan - Across the world, women and girls face greater vulnerability and exposure to disasters, and conflicts, and yet they remain largely ignored in developing solutions and their capabilities are often under-utilized. As the most impacted, women are also a critical part of the solution. Women and girls have the experience to stand as leaders and change-makers for Climate Adaptation, as they are more vulnerable to climate impacts than men and more dependent on the earth's natural resources. Jordan is facing severe climate change risks, and this has exacerbated water scarcity in the country impacting rural and urban household safety, health, and livelihoods.

In Jordan, information and data is still not disaggregated by gender, but we understand from an exploratory study conducted by UNDP on Gender Equality and Climate Change, that women are impacted differently and that they have a role to play in adaptation and mitigation strategies to combat climate change. Existing gender inequalities will deepen with climate change threats.

Women assume more home responsibilities than men and have to cope with shortages of water, energy, waste management and changing environment around them. Women in Jordan have a significant role in the sustainable energy sector but are limited at the same time as these sectors are mainly occupied by men, hence limiting the role of women in governance and technical roles, as well as their participation in developing gender responsive policies. As the most impacted, women are also a critical part of the solution, and women in Jordan are leading the efforts against climate change through adaptation, mitigation, and evidence-based response. On the fifth floor in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources in the capital of Jordan, Amman sets Basma Al-Shatti as the head of the Corporate Social Responsibilities Division in the Jordan Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Fund (JREEEF). As an engineer, Basma never thought that she will be leading such a vital position in the Ministry. 

From Deir Alla Near Eastern town in Balqa Governorate, Basma started her journey to leading climate action in the energy sector at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources. Basma is a mother of two girls, she obtained a scholarship to study engineering at the University of Jordan. “Back then it was crucial for me to work hard and get a scholarship to obtain my bachelor’s degree. my passion to work in mechanics, production, and energy was a future path for me that I wanted to achieve that”, Basma said. 

Basma leads an important division in the Jordan Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Fund which serves as a connection point between the community and the fund. The fund leads national efforts to optimize and utilize energy consumption by providing the necessary funding to advance and implement sustainable solutions to enhance energy efficiency and increase the use of renewable energy in coordination with local and international institutions and stakeholders.

Basma manages and oversees the projects that are implemented under the fund, with her background experience in managing projects and the energy sector her role was a crucial one in the ministry. The energy sector is one of the main contributors to climate change globally, and the main source of emissions in Jordan, where it contributes to over 76% of total national greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in 2016 “the local community in rural areas are the most affected by climate change, and through the division, we look at opportunities where we can minimize the energy consumption in these areas through installing solar panels”, Basma added. 

“I want people to look at me as a qualified engineer in the energy sector, who is an expert in the field, and not criticize or observe me as a woman”, Basma said. As the head of the division in the ministry, she runs two main projects in Amman, one of them being with the healthcare sector. The Covid-19 pandemic has imposed several obstacles to the healthcare system and energy consumption plays a major role in these institutions and the services they provide. The Jordan Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Fund (JREEEF). has provided these institutions with sustainable measures for cooling and heating such as photovoltaic systems which transform solar energy into renewable electricity.I

Women have shown various achievements in the energy sector and proven that women can be at the frontline for climate mitigation, Basma added, “Let’s not look at numbers, because empowering women in the Energy and environment sector has a different perceptive and angle. This perspective provides a different approach to the projects and policies in the energy sector”. According to the gender analysis UNDP conducted in Climate Change Action, although women and men are both impacted by changes that are brought about by climate change, women tend to manage the household sphere more than the public sphere, which is primarily for men.  Inside their homes, women are more involved in water management compared to energy.  In general, men deal with all activities relating to public sphere.   As a result, we are losing a very important perspective – many women practice and have knowledge that can help us advance our efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate threats, but we have barriers to overcome in order to help ensure that women are engaged.

The Jordan Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Fund (JREEEF) at the ministry plays a big role in combatting the impacts of increased CO2 globally and is essential to decrease Jordan’s CO2 footprint and reduce household energy bills. Jordan is committed to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 31% by 2030 as per its updated NDCs which were submitted at the end of 2021. A proportion of these emission reductions in Jordan is being achieved under the Sustainable Urbanization and Resource Efficiency (SURE) project as part of the UNDP-GEF project designed to promote low-carbon buildings and sustainable cities. The project aims to achieve its goals through the updating and application of Building Energy Codes, and in particular the Thermal Insulation Code for new buildings and retrofit guidelines for existing buildings. SURE also achieves its objective through a variety of systemic approaches to sustainability such as developing a licensing scheme for Energy Service Companies (ESCOs), and a framework for De-Risking Energy Efficiency Investment (DEEI) which are both being closely implemented with JREEEF. The project will directly support the implementation of the National Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2016, and the National Green Growth Plan 2016.

Climate change is not gender neutral and action should not be either. Women have different experiences, knowledge, and coping mechanism to deal with a changing climate.  They bring a different perspective and insight; hence, they need to be viewed as active change agents that can contribute to solutions that lead to environmental justice and more gender responsive solutions just as Basma is doing.