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Transport, gender and climate change

Copyright under Creative Commons by Meena Kadri

The transport sector's contribution to worldwide carbon dioxide emissions accounts for about 24.5% in Annex I countries and 14.5% in Non-Annex I countries. In the EU, transport is the second largest source of GHG emissions. Most GHG emissions from transport are caused by road transport  (74%), followed by shipping (14%) and aviation (11% and increasing). Rail transport, on the other hand, accounts for only 1%.

The desire to be independent from oil prices and oil exporting countries, as well as an increasing awareness of the need to urgently mitigate climate change, have led to the recent boom in biofuel production worldwide. However, the production of biofuels often leads to negative outcomes such as monocultures, increased use of pesticides and illegal deforestation, which in turn negatively affect many poor and indigenous people, who depend heavily on their natural environment.


Gender dimensions

Due to economic, cultural and social factors, women's access to mobility is limited in most regions of the world – both in terms of individual means of transport and public transport services.

In developing countries, women and girls bear most of the burden of transport in rural areas. Walking remains a predominant mode of transport among rural and poor urban populations, with women typically accounting for a disproportionate share of people who use walking as transport. Women are responsible for almost all domestic travel, which is by far the most energy- and time-consuming category in rural areas. Often they spend over 65% of their household time on transport.

In industrialised countries, it is also low-income groups who are twice as likely to use public transport as higher income groups. Additionally, transport patterns of women and men differ. Women's trips are significantly more complex than those made by men, especially when employment activities are added to the family care activities. Due to their intense travel patterns and frequent use of individual cars, male energy consumption from transport – and thus carbon emissions – is much higher than female.

Transport has gendered impacts on human health. For instance, the following aspects of transport may have particular gender dimensions: women's transportation of heavy loads over long distances; inadequate road safety for pedestrians; contamination through air pollution; sexual violence against women in transport systems and remote areas; and speeding in cars.

Unsustainable urban planning in many parts of the world has increased travel distances and encouraged settlement in ever more remote destinations. The geographical separation of many of our daily needs and tasks (such as living, working and shopping) has caused a greater need for mobility and a higher dependency on transport options. Speeding cars, narrow walkways and concerns about children's safety affect women and urge them to adopt male patterns of mobility.

Gender differences in the use, patterns and means of transportation are rarely considered in the development and planning of transport systems. The share of female employees in the transport sector is low. Male domination in this sector, particularly in decision-making positions, leads to the marginalization of women's interests and needs.


Response

It is evident that women's lack of access to mobility and different means of transport have a positive effect on emissions. The differences between women and men are so large that they cannot be ignored in mitigation efforts in the transport sector.

Gender and transport is a well developed issue compared to most of the other areas of action, at least in industrialised countries. Nevertheless, there is no systematic implementation of existing gender knowledge in policies, programmes and other measures.

Additionally, there has been no systematic attempt by any development agency to incorporate women's experiences and knowledge of the transport system through the development of user groups with appropriate gender representation.

It needs to be carefully considered how the interests and needs of women can be met without promoting unsustainable means of transport. In industrialised countries, a crucial question is how to make women's more environmentally friendly behaviour a benchmark for all – how to support such behaviour instead of hampering it and forcing women to adopt male behaviour.

Transport systems in both urban and rural areas must be oriented towards women's needs and transport requirements to improve their economic situation and support sustainable livelihoods. Therefore, grassroots women and women's organisations should directly be involved in the design and operationalisation of transport solutions.

Although there are similarities in gender issues in transport between regions, cities and countries, gender-sensitive transport strategies still need to be developed for individual locations because of the multiple and varying cultural, social, economic and topographical factors that play a role.