President Biden’s order to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord on the first day of his presidency was a necessary step in recommitting the United States to multilateral cooperation on climate. Along with halting the Keystone XL pipeline and taking steps to reverse the devastating and widespread consequences of the Trump administration’s anti-environmental policies—that rolled back regulations on everything from air and water quality to wildlife protections and oil leases—it is an important first step in putting words into action.
But, focusing on climate change without an intersectional justice, gender, and equity lens is inadequate. Climate change has a disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, people of color, gender non-conforming people, and women and girls, interfering with their exercise of human rights in daily life.
The Biden administration should draw on the intersectional analysis in the globally-sourced Feminist Green New Deal principles to work across issues such as bodily autonomy, ecological sustainability, the care economy, and just financial flows in addressing climate change. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the broken nature of care, health, food, and labor systems, that should support people in crises, are clearer than ever. It is time for action. Here are a few ways that the Biden administration and new US Congress should support a Feminist Green New Deal.
Advance reproductive justice.
Reproductive justice is about more than deciding if/when/how to have a child. It includes the right and ability to raise children in a safe environment. To address climate change in a way that promotes gender equality and justice, we must approach it with an intersectional and reproductive justice lens. Specifically, the Biden administration should work with Congress to: support and enact policy and regulatory reform to end pro-industry bias and center environmental health, social justice, and racial equity; prevent toxic industrial and agricultural chemicals from reaching food and water systems that disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and Latinx women and girls, including their reproductive health; and ensure polluting industry and waste infrastructure are not built in black and brown communities. The executive order highlighting environmental justice is a step in the right direction.
At the same time, we must strengthen public health systems to center equity, bodily autonomy, human rights, well-being, and access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services, especially in underserved urban and rural communities.
To further advance reproductive justice and sexual and reproductive rights at home and abroad, the Biden administration should rescind the Global Gag Rule, work with Congress toward a repeal of the Helms Amendment, and support passage of the Global HER Act to ensure access to safe abortion care, as highlighted in the Blueprint for Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice.
Further, Congress should focus on enacting domestic health reform, including universal health coverage, to ensure all people who can become pregnant are empowered to make their own decisions. The administration should enhance self-care options, removing unnecessary restrictions and barriers to self-managed abortion.
Create regenerative economies that center systemic, feminist alternatives.
This begins with positioning care jobs as green jobs. They are low carbon, community-based, and directly contribute to well-being of current and future generations. These care roles must ensure a living wage and benefits, which means revaluing the care work—and the care workers—that are the foundation of our economy and society.
We must invest in care infrastructure that supports individuals and families – often women – with unpaid care responsibilities for children, older adults and persons with disabilities through social protection, labor policies, and public services.
Ensure democratically controlled, community-led solutions.
All of this work should be done directly with women’s groups and local movements to ensure that the development of all levels of climate policy, is informed by their expertise and builds on existing community-led solutions to the climate crisis. They should additionally ensure equitable, inclusive, accountable financing for community- and women-led solutions that support a just transition.
In all the work, both the administration and Congress should look to frontline, feminist, Black, Indigenous, people of color, LGBTQ+, youth, and migrant movements and leaders for direction in ensuring intersectional, intergenerational climate justice.
Change is possible.
As the Biden administration takes the first steps in an ambitious climate agenda, there is reason for optimism. A more resilient and sustainable world is possible if we act with an intersectional approach, center feminist principles, and listen to solutions from the most impacted communities.
Photo: Ollivier Girard/CIFOR