Hana with her mentees

In the UAE, Women Lead on Climate Action

September 20, 2023

By: Hana AlHashimi, Chief Climate Negotiator, Office of the UAE Climate Change Special Envoy

Climate change presents the greatest challenge of our time, and while the latest science tells us that the window to act is narrowing, the solutions have never been clearer.

This year, the UAE is proud to invite the world to Unite, Act and Deliver at the 28th Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC – COP28, where we will address climate impacts that are affecting communities around the world. This includes mobilizing the response to the first Global Stocktake, an assessment of countries’ progress against the Paris Agreement’s emissions reduction goals.

In order to be successful, the UAE’s COP Presidency knows the team working to tackle climate change must reflect the diversity of those most impacted by this crisis. 

Two of the three COP28 Presidency officials – Youth Climate Champion H.E. Shamma Al Mazrui and UN Climate Change High-Level Champion H.E. Razan Al Mubarak – are women, along with two-thirds of our management and negotiations teams. The conference itself will integrate gender perspectives across all areas of the program, with a day dedicated to gender equality. Discussions will focus on gender-responsive policymaking and increased access to climate finance for women.

A Track Record of Women’s Leadership in the UAE

The gender balance on the COP28 team stems from the UAE’s long-standing commitment to women’s inclusion in all key areas of sustainable development, including in the fight against climate change.

These are just a few of the prominent female leaders who are paving the way for future generations with innovations in climate science, green business and philanthropic initiatives:

  • H.E. Mariam Almhieri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, leads the UAE’s national climate ambition, including our Net Zero pathway.
  • H.E. Dr. Nawal Al Hosany leads our multilateral cooperation on the just energy transition, as the UAE’s Permanent Representative to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
  • Maryam Hassani co-founded the innovative desalination company Hydro Wind Energy.
  • H.E. Habiba Al Mar’ashi, co-founder and Chairperson of Emirates Environmental Group (EEG), is working to protect the environment through education, action programs and community involvement.
  • H.E. Dr. Shaikha Al Dhaheri leads the largest environmental regulator in the UAE as Secretary General of the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi.

Blazing a Trail in Climate Diplomacy

We build our experience on the shoulders of those who have blazed a trail for progress on the global stage. I am honored to be the UAE’s Chief Climate Negotiator for COP28 through which I advocate for inclusive climate policies as we respond to the Global Stocktake.

My own climate journey began with project development for sustainable energy at the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), where I was fortunate to work with Rana Ghoneim, Chief of the Energy Systems and Infrastructure Division, on sustainable energy accelerators in the MENA region.

Following this, I benefited from supporting H.E. Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, UAE Permanent Representative to the UN, on facilitating multilateral negotiations. I was then appointed as team lead for Climate and Environmental Action and a member of the cabinet of the President of the 73rd Session of UN General Assembly.  

H.E. Maria Fernanda Espinosa, who has been a prominent woman leading climate action for over 30 years, entrusted me to lead her Climate and Environment Action Team. After that, I worked with H.E. Ohood Al Roumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Director General of the Prime Minister’s Office, later appointed Minister of State for Government Development and the Future.

Through my experiences with these impressive leaders, I have observed the value that female perspectives bring to solving complex challenges like climate change. This has inspired me to continue my career in climate policy and encourage future generations to do the same. 

Women Lead Effective Climate Action

Inclusion is essential to ensuring that we benefit from the brightest ideas and best solutions. A just and orderly transition to a more climate-resilient world requires women’s participation in the climate response.

A 2019 study found that expanding women’s representation in governing bodies is directly correlated to the adoption of more ambitious climate change policies — which means lower emissions and greater resilience.

Despite the progress, we have a long way to go to benefit from the full potential of women and girls. The United Nations estimates that 70 percent of the 1.3 billion people living in poverty are women – and while they manage the majority of the world’s food production, women own less than 10 percent of the land that it is grown on. For women to fulfill their full potential as agents for change, they need the right opportunities.

There is plenty of data to show the positive impact of inclusion on climate action; At local leadership levels, the presence of women in natural resource management is linked to superior conservation practices; UN Women also found that “expanding women’s access to productive resources can increase agricultural production and food security and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.”                                                                                                                                       

Living on the frontlines of climate impacts, women are too often left out of conversations surrounding climate action. COP28 is committed to forging a path towards gender equality in climate solutions. We will seek to deliver a truly inclusive COP that leaves a legacy of justice, equality and sustainability for generations to come.