Of all the actions President Trump has taken in his chaotic first months in office, moving to roll back the previous administration’s environmental and climate rules may have the greatest impact on future generations. Against the overwhelming evidence, scientific consensus, and trends in public opinion, Trump threatens to dramatically reshape climate and environmental policies – many of which will lead to disparate outcomes for men and women. The Trump Administration has made announcements and taken actions to slow or repeal Obama-era environmental protections related to coal mining waste, clean water, oil and gas drilling, vehicle emissions, and power plant carbon dioxide emissions. By some estimates, Trump rolled back 23 environmental rules in his first 100 days. The Administration has also removed information on climate change from EPA websites, proposed a budget that would significantly cut back federal funding for environmental protection and clean energy research, made significant cuts to the scientific advisory boards to the EPA, and nominated individuals with notable anti-environmental regulation positions for key regulatory positions.
“We will get our people off of welfare and back to work rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor,” said President Trump, in his inaugural address, referring to his plans to invest in infrastructure spending. As with many of his proclamations, it is yet unclear what this means in policy and practice but it is worth looking at some of the possible implications for gender equity.
The Democrats, Republicans, and the White House are in the midst of hashing out a large scale infrastructure bill in the coming weeks and months. Aside from addressing the maintenance needs of much of the United States, infrastructure spending is billed as a way to boost jobs, and stimulate the economy. President Trump has also called cities dangerous war zones throughout the campaign and since taking office – a claim that has been challenged. While he has not focused in his statements on violence against women within urban areas, it is possible that his proposed new infrastructure spending could be an opportunity to address gender-based violence and some of its affects.
Climate change and gender equality are fundamentally linked. The effects of climate change are, and will continue to be, disproportionately experienced by women. Climate vulnerability is not gender-neutral because women have higher levels of poverty, greater reliance on climate-vulnerable natural resources, fewer legal rights, less access to international institutions and finance, and often face more restrictive cultural norms.
But women also hold critical capacity to make the response to climate change more effective in agricultural production, household energy use, community management, natural-resource and biodiversity management, and education of children, among other channels (UNDP).
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