In the midst of the growing climate emergency, it’s worth noting that power and privilege play a crucial role in the crisis, with women and other minority groups largely experiencing a greater impact than men. This is why Michèle Sabban began the R20 Green Fund for Women, with the mission to empower and enable women and girls in the fight to save the planet.
Michèle Sabban is Chairwoman of R20 and President of the R20 Green Fund for Women. She has been Councillor of the Regional Council of Ile-de-France (France) since 1998 and President of FMDV-Global Fund for Cities Development since 2014. In 2010 she was a founding member of the R20 Regions of Climate Action, alongside California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and other various heads of regions.
Sabban is also on the Advisory Board and a speaker at the TRANSITION Forum, where global experts, innovators, movers and shakers gather to discuss concrete solutions and ideas to combat the global crisis. Following the 2019 edition of the Forum which took place from June 26-27, we spoke with Michèle Sabban to learn more about her work and ideas for climate action.
What motivated you to join the R20 Regions of Climate Action as a founding member in 2010?
In 2010, I was Vice President of the Ile-de-France Region and President of the Assembly of European Regions (AER), created at the time by Edgard Faure to help young people throughout regions learn about Europe. For this reason, I attended the COP15 in Copenhagen, which itself was a resounding failure, but for me it was the beginning of a great adventure.
In Copenhagen, civil society was put aside. The territories were however present, on the sidelines of the debates, and I had the opportunity to listen to the alarming speech given by the Governor of California, which deeply concerned me. While listening to him that I realized that we, the local elected officials, should act on a global scale to set up green and low carbon projects on the basis of a triptych of solidarity: companies, regions, experts. I then decided, with the help of my Executive Director Christophe Nuttall, to set up the R20 – Regions of Climate Action, and to propose to Mr. Schwarzenegger to preside as the chairman, which he accepted at the end of his governorship.
Alongside states, regional actors, through their involvement in the field, initiate, experiment and support strategies to combat climate change. They are the key players in a more sustainable development. We have to implement the principle of subsidiarity to allow a Bottom up effect.
In 2016 you launched the R20 Green Fund for Women. Can you tell us a bit about what the Green Fund for Women has accomplished since?
Among the world’s two billion poorest people who are most affected by the effects of climate change, the vast majority are women and girls. In view of this, the R20 committed itself to set up a Green Fund for Women to participate in their empowerment and to give them the means to lead on-the-ground ecological initiatives, responsible development and solidarity.
Last year in Monaco, during the first edition of TRANSITION Forum, I had the opportunity to present this Fund to everyone present. Throughout the year of 2018, we spent much of our time studying projects submitted by our field references in order to build a portfolio of bankable projects.
Among the files studied, the Undergrowth Ginger Farming Project, proposed by our Ivorian Coordination Office, particularly caught our attention. The general objective of the project is to develop an undergrowth ginger forest farm in the Bounkani and Kabadougou regions of the northern Ivory Coast.
The project consists of modifying traditional production structures in order to move towards a more environmentally-friendly agricultural model by focusing on short circuits, ecological farming systems (such as agroforestry, undergrowth) and an economy that is more moderate, more humane. We decided to fully support this project.
Thanks to our collaboration with the France Libertés Foundation, we have also been able to financially support three projects working to restore the climate and respect the water cycle thanks to the launch of a joint call for projects. This involves a project in South Sudan, a project in Uganda and a project in Sri Lanka.
You’ve stated that equality between women and men is an important part of the fight against climate change. Can you expand on how gender equality is part of the solution?
Today, women are affected by climate change differently and more harshly than men. Reasons include the impacts on agriculture, the frequency and severity of natural disasters, social constructs, the tasks they are assigned, discrimination and poverty.
Yet, women play a major role in the implementation of adaptation and mitigation strategies in the face of climate change and are more committed than men to finding concrete solutions for their community.
The vision of the R20 Green Fund for Women is a world where women and men have equal opportunities to access education, training and employment. It is also the vision of a cleaner world, more respectful of the environment.
Women and girls must have the power to make the changes they want and believe in, and we want to encourage them to do that. The R20 Green Fund for Women must deliver inclusive and sustainable changes for both the planet and humans.
You are on the advisory board and a speaker at the 2019 Transition Forum. Why, in your opinion, is the Forum so important and what do you hope to see come out of it this year?
TRANSITION Forum is important because it allows thinkers and doers to meet. TRANSITION Forum helps to raise awareness and achieve major environmental projects. The name of the Forum is perfectly chosen, because beyond the transmission, we must ensure the transition. Today, it is an obligation to be able to work with this new action-oriented community.
This interview has been translated from French to English.