Building a better Scotland requires a Feminist Just Transition
Beth Cloughton, Freelance Researcher, discusses the need for transformative change that can be achieved with a Feminist Just Transition.
Many view gender equality and climate justice as separate problems. However, they are consequences of the same system and must be remedied in unison for genuine, tangible, thorough, and improved change. Such a change can happen through a Feminist Just Transition (FJT).
The system responsible for the ecological, racial, and gender harms of today is capitalism, which in its contemporary form of neoliberalism, has led to an intensification of pursuing profit over the wellbeing of people and planet. When profit reigns supreme, gendered, racial, classed, and ecological harms are overlooked in favour of continued financial expansion of a minority of people, primarily men (for instance, 22 men in the world have more wealth than all women in Africa[i]).
In light of this injustice, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group (SWBG) undertook a scoping review at the start of 2023 to investigate a Feminist Just Transition here in Scotland, reviewing both Governmental and Civil Society approaches. We published a longer discussion paper outlining in more detail the relationship between gender inequality and climate injustice, while looking at specific policies, funding approaches, and global relationships required for climate and gender justice to emerge. What we found was that across both Government and Civil Society, there was limited integration of enacting climate justice alongside eradicating gender inequality.
Scottish Government addresses climate justice mainly via Just Transition policies generating Green New Jobs (GNJ). These GNJ, though important, replicate existing gendered labour disparities as the most polluting industries transition. Such jobs are male-dominated while female-dominated forms of employment are already low-carbon work, like care and education (Diski, 2022). This means women miss out on funding, which perpetuates underinvestment in women overall. Consequently, gender inequalities become entrenched rather than remedied.
From a global perspective, the Scottish Government has a more interlinked gender and climate policy approach. A global perspective is an essential move to address colonial powers and intersecting oppressions. This is seen in things like the Glasgow Women’s Leadership Statement, Climate Justice Fund, Women in Conflict 1325 Fellowship, and undertaking research with ClimateXChange on international climate justice, conflict, and gender, adopting a feminist approach to foreign policy.
However, the Government fails to look domestically at the relationship between climate justice and gender. Existing domestic policies do not thoroughly consider the global impact of at-home transitions. For example, promoting the adoption of clean energy via batteries has devastating ecological and social impacts outwith Scotland. Batteries require the mining of high-value minerals, found in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo which has the largest reserves of materials used in ‘green’ solutions. This mining devastates social and ecological environments and perpetuates exploitation of landscape and locals. As we look forward, incorporating a global outlook is crucial to any feminist approach to prevent exacerbating harms to women elsewhere.
For Civil Society, our sisters at the UK Women’s Budget Group, produced a core report about a ‘Green and Caring Economy[ii]’ with the Women’s Environmental Network. The report outlines how a radical shift to a gender and climate-just society could look and routes to achieve this aim. Of central importance is the promotion of a caring economy.
Beyond these ideas, a FJT challenges deeply rooted, powerful and stereotyped understandings of what it means to be ‘strong’ (Meyer, 2021; Nagel & Lies, 2022). ‘Strong’ and ‘strength’, synonymous with powerful, are associated with traditionally masculine ideas, often relying on tactics of extraction. It is unsurprising that approaches centred around care, interdependence, and cooperation have been side-lined, considered unrealistic and weak because of a ‘naturalised’ association to femininity (Aggestam et al., 2019; Robinson, 2019; Sultana, 2021). Yet, recognising our mutual dependency and enhancing communality, globally, reorients the economy as benefitting all people justly, not for the few.
To end, a Feminist Just Transition is an intersectional and transformational approach to build a sustainable, green and caring economy. The proposed approach prioritises care for people and planet. Working to build equality of women and marginalised groups domestically and globally, a FJT disrupts patriarchal and colonial power structures. A FJT is accountable, transparent, and timely, and allocates significant resources to achieve equity-based goals. The longer discussion paper hopes to provoke debate and generate conversations about these themes, in the hope of making the Feminist Just Transition a reality in Scotland, for women here and elsewhere.
Aggestam, K., Bergman Rosamond, A., & Kronsell, A. (2019). Theorising feminist foreign policy. International Relations, 33(1), 23–39. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047117818811892
Campbell-Stephens, R. M. (2021). Introduction: Global Majority Decolonising Narratives. In R. M. Campbell-Stephens (Ed.), Educational Leadership and the Global Majority: Decolonising Narratives (pp. 1–21). Springer International Publishing. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-88282-2_1
Diski, R. (2022). A Green and Caring Economy. UK Women’s Budget Group & Women’s Environmental Network. https://wbg.org.uk/analysis/greenandcaringeconomy/
Nagel, J., & Lies, T. S. (2022). Re-gendering Climate Change: Men and Masculinity in Climate Research, Policy, and Practice. Frontiers in Climate, 4. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fclim.2022.856869
Robinson, F. (2019). Feminist foreign policy as ethical foreign policy? A care ethics perspective. Journal of International Political Theory, 17(1), 20–37. https://doi.org/10.1177/1755088219828768
Sultana, F. (2021). Climate change, COVID-19, and the co-production of injustices: A feminist reading of overlapping crises. Social & Cultural Geography, 22(4), 447–460. https://doi.org/10.1080/14649365.2021.1910994
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