Summary: Women have emerged as the most influential figures in the UN’s Convention on climate change. Female diplomats from Saudi Arabia and New Zealand have been elected to co-chair the fledgling APA, which develop guidelines pursuant to the recent Paris Agreement.
By Bonnie Smith
For the first time ever, women dominate the most influential positions for the UN Climate Change negotiations. This significant change in leadership comports with the Preamble of the Paris Agreement, which states, “[p]arties shoul`d when taking action to address climate change, promote and consider their respective obligations…gender equality [and] empowerment of women.”
Significantly, Christiana Figueres, affectionately nicknamed the “Climate Queen” at SB44, stepped down from her six-year tenure as Executive Secretariat of the UNFCCC and welcomed Patricia Espinosa, Mexican ambassador to Berlin, as her successor. The Parties elected Sarah Baashan, a Saudi Arabian diplomat, and Jo Tyndall, a former climate ambassador from New Zealand, to serve as the first co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (“APA”), established to develop rules and guidelines under the Paris Agreement.
UNFCCC leaders, delegates, and civil society groups maintained the dialogue on gender and climate change from the opening of the SB44 Conference to its conclusion. Jo Tyndall concluded the APA Plenary Session by remarking on the “whirlwind couple of weeks” at SB44, during which time she and Sarah metaphorically got married, birthed the APA baby, and watched the baby take its first breaths. As she concluded the session she vowed that she and Sarah would not drop the newborn APA baby.