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Women and the climate crisis



Cathie Lloyd offers some environmental perspectives relevant to International Women's’ Day. The climate crisis and the green transition will impact women and men differently in line with differences in their social positions. This piece focusses on a range of issues which are relevant to our roles as care givers which puts us at forefront of the impact of the climate crisis here in Scotland.


Energy: Historically, energy production by fossil fuels has driven the pollution causing the climate and environmental crisis. Here in Scotland our electricity is increasingly produced by renewable technologies which generated the equivalent of 113% of Scotland’s overall electricity consumption in 2022.This is the highest recorded to date, and a 26% increase compared to 2021.


While we produce so much sustainable energy our bills remain high partly because it costs more for companies here to connect to the (privatised) ‘national’ grid than it costs south of the border. The National calculated that ‘for a Scots energy company to connect to the grid, it would cost £7.36 per megawatt-hour (MWh) in the north of Scotland and £4.70 per MWh in the Scottish Borders and Dumfries and Galloway'. By contrast, connecting to the grid in England and Wales costs just £0.49 per MWh. This helps to explain the high cost of the energy we produce on our own doorsteps, impacting on heating our homes, schools and workplaces. Last November the debt relief charity Step Change reported that the energy component was a significant part of the level of household debt for women seeking their advice.


Scottish government free insulation grants (solid, cavity wall and loft insulation) are targeted at households deemed to live in fuel poverty, which is defined as being where 10% of household income is needed to cover heating and electricity bills.


Transport: A Scottish Government report showed that in 2019 (the most recent year available), transport (including international shipping and aviation) accounted for 36% of Scotland's greenhouse gas emissions under the definition set out in the Climate Change Scotland Act.

 

The report showed that road transport made up 66% of greenhouse gas emissions. We are introducing Low Emission Zones in Scotland (the LEZ in Edinburgh will be enforced from 1st June this year).  Controversy south of the border has drawn attention to the health impacts of polluted air. This was highlighted in London by the campaign mounted by Rosamund Kissi-Debrah, whose nine-year old daughter Ella grew up by the south circular road. Ella suffered from acute asthma and her death has been proved to be linked to traffic generated air pollution. We now have more data on the effect of Low Emission Zones on levels of bronchial lung disease and even dementia.

 

How do women contribute to traffic related air pollution? Fewer women than men have a full driving licence (76% compared to 64% in 2018). Schemes to improve public transport, especially electric buses (with phone chargers for top ups useful for safety at work) are likely to benefit women who are more likely to use public transport especially buses than men.

 

 

Because of caring responsibilities, women’s expenditure on food per month is 12% higher than men’s, spending on average £326 on food, compared to men’s average food bill of £291. The Trussell Trust reported recently on the scale and drivers of food insecurity which had been experienced by 17% of the Scottish population.  Particularly affected were disabled people, households with children, and single working age adults (p.29). The report showed how low incomes, difficulty in accessing suitable jobs particularly affected mothers, and socially isolated people who had experienced adverse events like domestic violence (most likely to be women!). Some of this is alleviated by the £26.70 per week Scottish child payment which has helped some 327,000 young people.


Women’s Employment: Can women hope to find rewarding work in the green transition? Many of the openings in the construction industry and in insulation schemes are in traditionally male areas.  The Close the Gap blog and the Women’s Budget Group both focus on persistent inequalities rather than the specific impact of the climate crisis, but it does provide data on inequalities as to pension entitlement, safety at work and different forms of discrimination in the workplace which are useful in understanding the broader issues. Two years ago, the Women’s Budget group proposed a number of elements to structure ‘a green and caring economy’ from a feminist viewpoint. These are familiar parts of recent political aspirations here in Scotland. They recommended reorienting the economy around wellbeing, to move away from energy-intensive and polluting industries towards activities that care for people and planet – and ending GDP growth as our main economic objective.

 

This article is based on Cathie Lloyds’ March 2024 environment report to her SNP branch in Edinburgh.

 

 

 

 

 

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