Advertisement
Environment

Action to cut household carbon emissions could ‘unfairly burden’ women

Experts have warned the government it must not risk widening the gender gap with its advice on how to cut carbon emissions domestically.

Solutions to the climate crisis could “unfairly burden” women if the reality of their lives is not taken into account, the government has been warned.

The report was commissioned and published by Westminster – before being removed hours later – as part of a mammoth net zero strategy launch ahead of global climate summit COP26. Researchers found evidence that well-intentioned policies to cut the UK’s carbon emissions risk widening the gender gap.

The gendered division of household chores means women engage in more “energy-intensive” domestic work, such as vacuuming and using cooking appliances, according to the report.

And they are also more likely to be balancing other responsibilities including unpaid care, so policies pressuring people to change how they organise their lives – such as using the dishwasher less frequently, or doing laundry outside of morning “peak” time – could deepen this inequality.

“Domestic gender roles impact women’s time availability and flexibility,” researchers said. “Targeting energy [use] flexibility … impacts personal economy, leisure time and comfort.

“Women are often left with the additional mental workload of organising domestic work (the ‘third shift’) and this burden could be compounded through interventions targeting women.

Advertisement
Advertisement

“As they are often the primary caregivers, women with young children are further limited in their flexibility since activities such as cooking and eating, cleaning, laundry and bathing are primarily organised around the needs of the children, school and other structural routines.”

While the UK faces a major overhaul if it is to reach its net zero target by 2050, policies which exacerbate inequalities risk being rejected by the public and being ineffective, according to the study by the Carbon Trust.

Research into the impact of the climate crisis which looks beyond the gender binary is lacking, researchers added, with little work done to investigate how transgender and non-binary people could be affected.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

From just £3 per week

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work. With each subscription we invest every penny back into supporting the network of sellers across the UK. A subscription also means you'll never miss the weekly editions of an award-winning publication, with each issue featuring the leading voices on life, culture, politics and social activism.

People from marginalised and minority groups should be included in all decision making processes in the climate crisis effort if the transition to net zero is to be a success, researchers concluded.

They referred to Sweden’s Gender Equality Council for Transport, created after the country’s government recognised a need for women to have influence over the transport system, as the “gold standard”.

And though gender audits in government decision making could contribute to a more inclusive climate plan, the perceived lack of political will and ongoing commitment could pose a significant barrier to their effectiveness.

Article continues below

“We need a whole systems approach for reducing our carbon emissions,” Sir Patrick Vallance, chief scientific adviser, said.

The government’s latest net zero strategy work “highlights the intensive activity needed in the next decade – from early-stage research to deployment of mature technologies, through to better understanding on how to help people make greener choices.”

The study found other examples in how household finances are managed, meaning women are less likely to have a say in buying low-carbon technology such as electric vehicles.

This could add to existing inequalities in how women are able to get around, they added. While men are more likely to have a “simple, twice-daily” commute to and from work, women more often have to balance trips for work, childcare and household responsibilities, and travel with buggies or shopping.

The Big Issue Shop

Eco-friendly gift hampers that make a positive impact

The Big Issue has collaborated with Social Stories Club to create limited edition gift hampers. Packed full of treats made by social ventures, this hamper would make the perfect gift for the festive season.

This combined with personal safety concerns mean women are limited in their travel options in terms of the times they set off, the routes and their mode of transport, meaning climate-friendly transport systems must cater to their needs to “avoid placing additional burdens and responsibility on women” to change their behaviour.

Some women could avoid cycling instead of driving out of concern over unwanted attention or harassment, researchers said.

COP26 will be held in Glasgow starting at the end of this month. Boris Johnson will present other world leaders with the UK’s plan to end its contribution to the climate emergency, which will be “paved with well-paid jobs, billions in investment and thriving green industries” while “supporting people along the way”.

Advertisement

Support your local vendor

Want to buy a copy of the magazine? We have over 1,200 Big Issue vendors in the UK. Each vendor buys a copy of the mag for £1.50 and sells it for £3, keeping the difference. Visit our interactive map to find your nearest vendor and support them today!

Recommended for you

Read All
The government has rejected calls to give the public more access to the English countryside
Right to roam

The government has rejected calls to give the public more access to the English countryside

New records were set in 2021 for rising sea levels, greenhouse gas and ocean heat
Climate crisis

New records were set in 2021 for rising sea levels, greenhouse gas and ocean heat

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly
Nature conservation

Exclusive: The UK's rarest and most threatened wildlife sites are not being protected properly

Why you should count your plastic waste to help fight pollution
Plastic pollution

Why you should count your plastic waste to help fight pollution

Most Popular

Read All
The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who
1.

The remarkable rise of Ncuti Gatwa: From sofa surfing and Sex Education to Doctor Who

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on
2.

Boris Johnson set to scrap plan to let workers keep tips despite admitting minimum wage isn’t enough to live on

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals
3.

Life On Mars sequel has ‘a lot of travelling in time and car chases’, John Simm reveals

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week
4.

The controversial new laws rushed through by the government this week

Keep up to date with The Big Issue. The leading voice on life, politics, culture and social activism direct to your inbox.