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The U.N. Men's Club

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U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced an important new climate change financing group yesterday but, out of the 19 people named, no women were included. This is unfortunate because women will bear the brunt of the effects of climate change and are key to any mitigation and adaptation efforts.

The group is tasked with investigating potential sources of revenue to support developing countries in their efforts to cope with the impacts of climate change and shift to low-carbon development pathways. The Copenhagen negotiations in December called for $30 billion in climate financing for 2010-2012, ramping up to $100 billion annually by 2020.

The Secretary General's choices for the advisory group will bring intellectual energy and political gravitas. The group is chaired by UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi. It includes two additional heads of state, ministers of finance, and leaders of central banks. Taking part are financier and philanthropist George Soros and economist Sir Nicholas Stern. It includes equal representation between industrialized countries and developing countries. But what it does not include, is women.

The decision to leave women out is unfortunate and reflects a persistent bias in climate change decision-making roles. It is also unwise given the ultimate objective of the advisory group. This elite club will frame and shape climate change financial flows to the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. We know that women are disproportionately represented among both of these groups. We also know that women are frequently the decision-makers about household consumption, and represent an increasing share of wealth around the world. By leaving their voices out of the critical tasks before this advisory group, the Secretary General is closing out opportunities to explore the widest possible range of creative and innovative sources of revenue on the scale that is needed to address climate change.

The Secretary General himself has noted the need to include women in all aspects of decision-making on climate change. In a speech last September, he called on member states "to foster an environment where women are key decision-makers on climate change, and play an equally central role in carrying out these decisions.... We must do more to give greater say to women in addressing the climate challenge." So, why have they been ignored yet again?

The Secretary General and the co-chairs of the advisory group can correct this by expanding the membership of the group to include meaningful representation of female officials before the group's first meeting in London at the end of the month.

It is impossible to believe that the Secretary General couldn't find any women with expertise to participate. We hope the Secretary General reconsiders the membership of this important group.

By Elizabeth Becker, a member of the board of Oxfam America and Suzanne Ehlers, interim president of Population Action International.

*Cross-posted on Grist

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