Women4Climate: Leading transformative global change

The Women4Climate Initiative, launched in 2017, has been a one-of-a-kind, transformative programme that has contributed to elevating women’s leadership worldwide. It has advanced inclusive and equitable approaches to climate action, both within C40 and its member cities.

Seven years of continued partnership with the L’Oréal Group, and then Fondation L’Oréal, enabled C40 to grow the Women4Climate community to over 1,000 women across 22 cities and five continents.

To celebrate the success of the programme as it draws to a close, C40 has published two groundbreaking new resources that capture institutional knowledge, best practices and lessons learned. They will enable cities and their partners to continue to champion and engage with marginalised groups that have previously been excluded from climate action decision-making. 

“Women bring both ambition and different perspectives and experiences to the table, enabling them to create nuanced and inclusive solutions to the climate crisis. Women’s participation and leadership are crucial to building healthy, resilient and fair cities.”

C40 Co-Chair Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr

C40 Co-Chair Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr. © Maurizio Martorana / C40
C40 Co-Chair Mayor of Freetown Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr. © Maurizio Martorana / C40

The international impact of Women4Climate 

When the Women4Climate programme was established by the first woman Chair of C40, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, global recognition of gender-inclusive approaches to climate action was limited. 

Gender-inclusive climate action works to ensure all people have access to newly created good, green jobs in sectors such as construction, energy and health and social care. It invests in women and marginalised communities to create a fair, resilient future for everyone – for example, by ensuring that all city residents have access to a safe and affordable public transport system. 

We know that climate breakdown disproportionately affects women, especially Black women, Indigenous women and women of colour, due to gender inequality, racism and discrimination. Yet women and people from marginalised communities are still underrepresented in urban sustainability sectors like energy and transport. 

Since it was established, the Women4Climate programme has worked to address these inequalities and make sure climate policies are designed so that everyone benefits from them. In order for this to happen, women and other underrepresented groups – including ethnic minorities, young people, and people who have migrated or been displaced – must be involved in decision-making. 

That’s why the vibrant Women4Climate community has: 

  • enhanced participation in urban climate action for women and people from marginalised communities, improving access to good, green jobs
  • implemented inclusive local climate solutions in cities across the globe
  • advanced innovative solutions through the Women4Climate Tech Challenge
  • hosted international events bringing together thousands of C40 mayors, industry and thought leaders, journalists, mentees and mentors
  • pushed gender-inclusive climate action higher up the political agenda, on a local and global scale 

“We cannot have climate justice without addressing the social, racial and gender injustices that exist within our cities. To tackle the climate crisis and its related social inequalities, we need our people and communities most impacted to participate in the decision-making process.”

Mayor of New Orleans LaToya Cantrell

Mayor of New Orleans LaToya Cantrell
Mayor of New Orleans LaToya Cantrell. © Richard King / C40

Empowering women climate leaders

The Women4Climate mentorship programme provided mentees with training, networking, and mentoring by city policy-makers and directors, entrepreneurs and community leaders.

The programme has supported a range of projects, including community-led initiatives, start-ups and research. Some outstanding examples of women-led action include: 

  • Teresa Poli’s work to integrate Māori knowledge (the Indigenous peoples of Aotearoa/ New Zealand) in engineering education helps tackle racism, supports the transition to green jobs, and is aligned with the Climate Action Plan of Auckland, New Zealand. 
  • Carla Ruiz’s project Wayru Peru provides portable showers to families experiencing socioeconomic hardship in Lima, Peru. The portable shower reduces residents’ water use and saves money. Wayru Peru also hosts workshops on hygiene, water scarcity and gender justice.
  • Namrutha Ramanathan‘s Upcyclie business, based in Chennai, India, diverts fabric waste from the oceans and landfills and provides women with good, green jobs that support the move to a circular economy.
  • Gaëlle Guillaume‘s first carbon-neutral community building in Saint-Michel, Montréal, Canada, brings together social economy enterprises and local community organisations under the same roof.

“My interactions with the many wonderful and inspiring women in the climate space, both within C40 and the other mentees and mentors, exposed me to various perspectives and innovative solutions to climate change that are being worked on across the globe,” says Prajna Aigal, an architect specialising in energy efficient and sustainable architecture and mentee in the 2022 Women4Climate Bengaluru cohort.

Headshot of Prajna Aigal, architect and 2022 Women4Climate cohort mentee.
Prajna Aigal, architect and 2022 Women4Climate cohort mentee.

The Women4Climate programme has helped improve women’s participation in climate crisis decision-making and their access to good, green jobs – 68% of mentees surveyed improved their climate programming and leadership skills. A huge 87% were able to raise the profile of their projects through the programme, with several mentees going on to receive critical acclaim for their initiatives.

“Being part of the Women4Climate Programme opens doors for you,” said Liliana Jaramillo, founder of NATIVUS, a start-up based in Quito, Ecuador, which creates green roofs using native plants. “It gives you more credibility in the face of the gender inequalities and stereotypes we face.”

Liliana Jaramillo, founder of NATIVUS at The 3rd Annual Women4Climate Conference in Paris, France on February 21st 2019 © Sarah BASTIN / C40
Liliana Jaramillo, founder of NATIVUS. © Sarah Bastin / C40

To further its impact beyond its mentorship programmes, Women4Climate introduced a free, four-week online course. ‘Developing Skills for Women Leadership in Climate Action’ has been successfully completed by hundreds worldwide, including 1,400 women from marginalised backgrounds in Bogotá, Colombia, who undertook a tailored version. Over 90% of participants said the training helped them see themselves as local climate leaders, and 94% said they now better understood the climate crisis.

The course will continue to be free and available online to anyone anywhere wishing to complete it, with a certificate offered at the end of the course.

Women4Climate has also developed research and resources in collaboration with cities. Sydney, Australia, explored the barriers to walking and cycling faced by women, and recommended solutions to make active travel more accessible to everyone. Other cities and their partners can learn from these resources to ensure they are green and equitable places to live. 

The city leaders behind Women4Climate

Women4Climate has been a whole of government activity, encouraging collaboration across city departments and raising public awareness of the importance of women’s climate action leadership.

“Women in cities are critical to delivering climate change solutions that will be just and equitable for all. That’s why I established the Women4Climate Initiative,” said Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, “to identify and support the next generation of women leaders globally, empower them to take bold climate action, and create opportunities for cities to deliver on the gender equality and climate action agendas together.”

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo. © Henri Garat, Ville de Paris

Cities such as Vancouver, Canada worked hard to tailor their Women4Climate mentorship programmes to their climate targets and priorities. Freetown, Sierra Leone closely aligned its mentorship programme with the climate resilience priorities of its Climate Action Strategy – including flooding, waste management, coastal erosion and landslides. 

Some C40 cities have incorporated a commitment to gender-inclusive climate action and empowering women leaders on climate action into official policy:

C40’s ongoing work to promote women’s climate leadership

C40 will continue to collaborate with member cities to develop and implement inclusive solutions to the climate crisis, building on C40 flagship programmes such as the Global Green New Deal Pilot Implementation Initiative and cities’ ambition to deliver 50 million good, green jobs.

Research shows that when women participate in climate decision-making, environmental outcomes are better, fairer, and more likely to be supported by the wider public. This will not only tackle the climate crisis, but also help transform gender norms, women’s representation and economic empowerment in cities, to create a future in which everyone can thrive.

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