COP26: 4 Takeaways on the Value of Diversity and Inclusion in Solving the World’s Climate Crisis

COP26: 4 Takeaways on the Value of Diversity and Inclusion in Solving the World’s Climate Crisis

According to the United Nations, 80% of people displaced by the effects of climate change around the globe are women. This is because they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and their livelihood depends on natural resources that are threatened by climate change. Up until now, many of the decisions pertaining to the current climate crisis have been made by men.


Despite making up 48% of the global labor force, the International Energy Agency (IEA) found that women only account for 22% of the traditional energy sector. As far as leadership roles, women comprise 12.1% of senior roles in oil and gas, 10.8% in renewable energy and 10.6% in the coal sector.To solve the greatest crisis of our time, we need diverse solutions.


Here are a few takeaways from FQ’s Equality Lounge at COP26 on the future of energy and how we can change the equation on accelerating the transition to a clean and renewable future.


1. Collaboration between men and women is necessary to create sustainable solutions

“During COP, I noticed the majority of speakers were men. I was perhaps the only female CEO under 30. We need balance in order to solve the hardest problem on the planet. We need collaboration to complete our mission,” said Christel Mathiesen, CEO, Energi.AI at the Equality Lounge @ COP26.


When it comes to creating sustainable solutions, it is necessary for women and men to work together. Real change happens when we choose community and collaboration. 


“We are in a real transition for the industry but also for gender, diversity and inclusion,” said Paula Fitzpatrick, VP, Growth & Development, Conventional Energy Americas, Wood Plc. “But this is not good enough nor are we moving fast enough for race, for age, for gender, for all the things that mean inclusivity. The time for talk has passed.”

2. Male allies must be willing to take a step back

Although climate change uniquely and disproportionately affects women, they are often left out of the conversation to create solutions for the world’s greatest problem. Male allies must take a step back so that women can speak to the effects of climate change that are largely impacting them. 


“We need to speak to our male colleagues and our male allies. We are not going to go fast enough if we don’t have our male allies join us,” said Rebecca Williams, Global Wind and Energy Council. “For them, it does kind of involve sacrifice. We need to make some tricky decisions here and our male allies will have to step back a little to enable the change we need to see.”


3. Diversification is the key

“What we need is multiple technologies and multiple elevations coming together and further down the line we will have the opportunity to scale,” said Susan Hunter, Partner, People Advisory Services, EY.


In the energy transition, we need a variety of solutions and reliable energy sources at the table. This includes incorporating the oil and gas sector into the conversation on renewable energy. 


“Increasingly, we are seeing big oil and gas moving into the renewable space because they recognize that renewable energy is the future. It’s all about diversification for them. We do need different people at the table and we do need different sets of expertise,” said Rebecca Williams, Global Wind and Energy Council.


4. In order to create global climate change, we have to start with systemic change

Climate change is a systemic problem that needs systemic answers. The same applies to the lack of diversity in the energy and sustainable solutions industries. Although we must all do our own part, we also have to work together to create systemic solutions to solve for this. 


“I see a lot of parallels between the climate change movement and the conversation on inclusion. The way we have disrupted the energy sector is we have worked with governments, and we have had partnerships with the private sector and the public sector to really push them to put in place the policies to drive systemic change,” said Rebecca Williams, Global Wind and Energy Council. “Unless we do that in this sphere, we are not going to achieve anything. We can push all we like to get more women at the table, but it needs a systemic answer. If we can take one action forward, it would be to push our elected representatives and to lobby and advocate for the systemic change we need.”


As we “race toward zero” and look toward a future of sustainable transportation and alternative energy sources, women must have a seat at the table. 

Written by

Stephanie, who affectionately goes by Stevie, is a walking paradox. A vagabond soul who craves adventure (she's crossed off 38 states on her travel list) but has a longing for a sense of home more than anything else. A lover of style, but adverse to shopping and price tags. A vegetarian with an appreciation for the smell of bacon. She has lived a number of lives from an event assistant to a creative writing teacher in juvenile halls to the former Online Managing Editor at Darling Magazine.