Issue 29: 2015

Global Insights

Women and Climate Change

Although disproportionately affected by catastrophic weather events, women could nevertheless play a crucial role in creating a more secure future for us all.

A farmer in her cornfield in rural Uganda. (Simon Rawles/Getty Images)

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From this winter’s unusually powerful snowstorms in the Northeast to the prolonged drought conditions in the West, climate change is now a part of America’s national conversation.

As we come to grips with how a rise in the frequency of unpredictable and severe weather events could affect communities here at home, “we must also consider their impact on people in the developing world, especially women, who are considered unusually vulnerable,” says Jackie VanderBrug, co-chair of the Impact Investment Council at U.S. Trust.

Yet while women are most at risk, they are also an underutilized resource for climate-change mitigation, VanderBrug says, “and that makes them an important part of the picture for clients who are considering gender-focused or climate-related investments.”

Gender and climate dangers

Women are considerably more vulnerable than men to the effects of shifts in weather as “they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change,” according to a United Nations report.1 These vulnerabilities are evident in areas such as the following.

Food, water and fuel. In many regions, a family’s primary caregiver is a woman who might spend up to eight hours a day cooking and searching for food, water or fuel;2 also, women farmers currently account for 45% to 80% of all food production in developing countries, depending on the region, according to the U.N. report.3 Climate change will almost certainly make women’s work more demanding, says VanderBrug, “leaving them less time to earn a living, potentially causing more poverty, exhaustion and disease.”

Hunger. Scarce food can affect an entire population, yet women “face hunger more often than men, due to disparities in income, limited access to employment or means of production, and cultural practices that put them last or allow them smaller portions when food is in short supply,” according to Oxfam International.4 When hungry or malnourished, “women may be too weak to respond effectively during a storm or afterward to travel to receive food, water or medical attention,” says VanderBrug.

Freedom of movement. Cultural norms may prohibit women from leaving home unaccompanied or learning skills that could save their lives, such as driving or swimming. Says VanderBrug: “Constraints such as these are why women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die when a catastrophe strikes.”5

Property ownership. After a natural disaster, a family may be forced to abandon a property, “and women can face additional hardships trying to resettle in regions where only a male head of household is permitted to have land tenure,” VanderBrug says. In rural areas, nearly 90% of land titles are held in men’s names, the U.N. estimates, less than 10% are held in women’s names, and the remainder are jointly held.6

Women as part of the solution

Women in developing nations could play crucial roles in mitigating climate change and helping communities adapt to its effects. Here are some examples.

Stoves. About 3 billion people, mostly women, use inefficient cooking stoves that not only create hazardous conditions in homes but also produce significant amounts of CO2, a major contributor to climate change.7

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and similar initiatives are developing stoves that burn fuel up to 80% more efficiently than traditional stoves, potentially reducing global CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons a year.8 (For comparison, all U.S. coal-fired power plants produced about 1.7 billion tons of CO2 in 2013.)9 “Women are expected to play a key role in stove distribution,” VanderBrug says. “And their input in the design process is critical to ensuring stove adoption.” 

Forests. In Mali, India and elsewhere, women are spearheading projects designed to improve forest sustainability.10 Ensuring more trees, or limiting their destruction, could help lower global greenhouse gas levels. Trees soak up atmospheric CO2 and produce oxygen as part of photosynthesis. And widespread burning of forests, to make room for crops or livestock, produces one-tenth of polluting CO2 — so less deforestation should mean less greenhouse pollution.11

Agriculture and land. Women make up a large portion of the agricultural labor force — more than 90% in some African countries — yet they have less access than men to fertilizers and other vital farming resources.12,13 With equal access, women farmers could increase their yields by almost one-third.14 As the global population expands from what the U.N. estimates is more than 7 billion today to 9.6 billion by 2050, says VanderBrug, “the role of the woman farmer should prove more vital than ever.”

Investing in women and climate

“Despite the long list of disadvantages women face,” says VanderBrug, “they may bring a strength and knowledge to a community in the aftermath of any devastation. Their experience and leadership are critical to our collective success in limiting climate change.”

Investing in Women and Timberland Read more
Investing in Women and Timberland

“Many clients purchase timberland for its potential for steady returns, portfolio diversification, tax efficiency and as a hedge against inflation,” says Mindi Bressler, national sales executive for Specialty Asset Management group at U.S Trust. But lately, “more clients, women in particular, have told us they’re also drawn to it because forests, through replanting or natural regeneration, are sustainable,” Bressler says. In the 2014 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth® survey, 61% of women and 41% of men responded that they consider environmental impact important. Bressler suggests that the trend may have “more women considering timberland for their portfolios.”

Speak with your advisor for more information on timberland as an investable asset.

Photo: Shoula/Getty Images

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Investing involves risk. There is always the potential of losing money when you invest insecurities.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Asset allocation, diversification and rebalancingdo not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.

Any information presented about tax considerations affecting client financial transactions or arrangements is not intended as tax advice and should not be relied upon for the purpose of avoiding any tax penalties. Neither U.S. Trust and its representatives nor its advisors provide tax, accounting or legal advice. Clients should review any planned financial transactions or arrangements that may have tax, accounting or legal implications with their personal professional advisors.

Always consult with your independent attorney, tax advisor, investment manager and insurance agent for final recommendations and before changing or implementing any financial, tax or estate planning strategy.

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

International Investing International investing involves special risks, including foreign taxation, currency risks, risks associated with possible differences in financial standards, and other risks associated with future political and economic developments. Investing in emerging markets may involve greater risks than investing in more developed countries. In addition, concentration of investments in a single region may result in greater volatility..

Other Nonfinancial assets, such as closely held businesses, real estate, oil, gas and mineral properties, and timber, farm and ranch land, are complex in nature and involve risks, including total loss of value. Special risk considerations include natural events (for example, earthquakes or fires), complex tax considerations and lack of liquidity. Nonfinancial assets are not suitable for all investors.

There is a growing range of investment strategies that may offer the opportunity to improve the welfare and productiveness of women or help mitigate CO2 production. Among them are U.S. Trust’s Women and Girls Equality strategy and Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability strategy, along with Osmosis Investment Management’s Model of Resource Efficiency strategy. To learn whether these strategies are appropriate for your overall investment goals, please contact your U.S. Trust advisor.

Photos: Woman: Michael Dunning/Getty Images; Fish: Carol Adam/Getty Images

1,3,12 “Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change,” WomenWatch, U.N., 2014.

2,7 Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, cleancookstoves.org, 2014.

4 “Hidden Hunger in South Africa,” Oxfam International, 2014.

5 “Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction,” UNDP, 2014.

6 “The World’s Women 2010: Key Findings for Asia and the Pacific,” U.N. Statistics Division, 2011. (Latest available data.)

8 Stockholm Environment Institute, 2013.

9 U.S. Energy Information Agency, 2013.

10 “Climate Change Connections,” U.N. Population Fund and Women’s Environment & Development Organization, 2009. (Latest available data.)

11 “Forests,” World Resources Institute, 2014.

13 “The State of Food and Agriculture, 2010–11,” FAO, 2012.

14 “Men and Women in Agriculture: Closing the Gap,” Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2015.

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Investing involves risk. There is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities.

Projections made may not come to pass due to market conditions and fluctuations. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Always consult with your independent attorney, tax advisor, investment manager and insurance agent for final recommendations and before changing or implementing any financial, tax or estate planning strategy.

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

International Investing International investing involves special risks, including foreign taxation, currency risks, risks associated with possible differences in financial standards, and other risks associated with future political and economic developments. Investing in emerging markets may involve greater risks than investing in more developed countries. In addition, concentration of investments in a single region may result in greater volatility.

Commodities Trading in commodities, such as gold, is speculative and can be extremely volatile. There are special risks associated with an investment in commodities, including market price fluctuations, regulatory changes, interest-rate changes, credit risk, economic changes and the impact of adverse political or financial factors. Tangible assets can fluctuate with supply and demand, such as commodities, which are liquid investments, unlike most other tangible investments.

From this winter’s unusually powerful snowstorms in the Northeast to the prolonged drought conditions in the West, climate change is now a part of America’s national conversation.

As we come to grips with how a rise in the frequency of unpredictable and severe weather events could affect communities here at home, “we must also consider their impact on people in the developing world, especially women, who are considered unusually vulnerable,” says Jackie VanderBrug, co-chair of the Impact Investment Council at U.S. Trust.

Yet while women are most at risk, they are also an underutilized resource for climate-change mitigation, VanderBrug says, “and that makes them an important part of the picture for clients who are considering gender-focused or climate-related investments.”

Gender and climate dangers

Women are considerably more vulnerable than men to the effects of shifts in weather as “they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on natural resources that are threatened by climate change,” according to a United Nations report.1 These vulnerabilities are evident in areas such as the following.

Food, water and fuel. In many regions, a family’s primary caregiver is a woman who might spend up to eight hours a day cooking and searching for food, water or fuel;2 also, women farmers currently account for 45% to 80% of all food production in developing countries, depending on the region, according to the U.N. report.3 Climate change will almost certainly make women’s work more demanding, says VanderBrug, “leaving them less time to earn a living, potentially causing more poverty, exhaustion and disease.”

Hunger. Scarce food can affect an entire population, yet women “face hunger more often than men, due to disparities in income, limited access to employment or means of production, and cultural practices that put them last or allow them smaller portions when food is in short supply,” according to Oxfam International.4 When hungry or malnourished, “women may be too weak to respond effectively during a storm or afterward to travel to receive food, water or medical attention,” says VanderBrug.

Freedom of movement. Cultural norms may prohibit women from leaving home unaccompanied or learning skills that could save their lives, such as driving or swimming. Says VanderBrug: “Constraints such as these are why women and children are 14 times more likely than men to die when a catastrophe strikes.”5

Property ownership. After a natural disaster, a family may be forced to abandon a property, “and women can face additional hardships trying to resettle in regions where only a male head of household is permitted to have land tenure,” VanderBrug says. In rural areas, nearly 90% of land titles are held in men’s names, the U.N. estimates, less than 10% are held in women’s names, and the remainder are jointly held.6

Women as part of the solution

Women in developing nations could play crucial roles in mitigating climate change and helping communities adapt to its effects. Here are some examples.

Stoves. About 3 billion people, mostly women, use inefficient cooking stoves that not only create hazardous conditions in homes but also produce significant amounts of CO2, a major contributor to climate change.7

The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves and similar initiatives are developing stoves that burn fuel up to 80% more efficiently than traditional stoves, potentially reducing global CO2 emissions by 1 billion tons a year.8 (For comparison, all U.S. coal-fired power plants produced about 1.7 billion tons of CO2 in 2013.)9 “Women are expected to play a key role in stove distribution,” VanderBrug says. “And their input in the design process is critical to ensuring stove adoption.” 

Forests. In Mali, India and elsewhere, women are spearheading projects designed to improve forest sustainability.10 Ensuring more trees, or limiting their destruction, could help lower global greenhouse gas levels. Trees soak up atmospheric CO2 and produce oxygen as part of photosynthesis. And widespread burning of forests, to make room for crops or livestock, produces one-tenth of polluting CO2 — so less deforestation should mean less greenhouse pollution.11

Agriculture and land. Women make up a large portion of the agricultural labor force — more than 90% in some African countries — yet they have less access than men to fertilizers and other vital farming resources.12,13 With equal access, women farmers could increase their yields by almost one-third.14 As the global population expands from what the U.N. estimates is more than 7 billion today to 9.6 billion by 2050, says VanderBrug, “the role of the woman farmer should prove more vital than ever.”

Investing in women and climate

“Despite the long list of disadvantages women face,” says VanderBrug, “they may bring a strength and knowledge to a community in the aftermath of any devastation. Their experience and leadership are critical to our collective success in limiting climate change.”

Investing in Women and Timberland Read more
Investing in Women and Timberland

“Many clients purchase timberland for its potential for steady returns, portfolio diversification, tax efficiency and as a hedge against inflation,” says Mindi Bressler, national sales executive for Specialty Asset Management group at U.S Trust. But lately, “more clients, women in particular, have told us they’re also drawn to it because forests, through replanting or natural regeneration, are sustainable,” Bressler says. In the 2014 U.S. Trust Insights on Wealth and Worth® survey, 61% of women and 41% of men responded that they consider environmental impact important. Bressler suggests that the trend may have “more women considering timberland for their portfolios.”

Speak with your advisor for more information on timberland as an investable asset.

Photo: Shoula/Getty Images

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Investing involves risk. There is always the potential of losing money when you invest insecurities.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Asset allocation, diversification and rebalancingdo not ensure a profit or protect against loss in declining markets.

Any information presented about tax considerations affecting client financial transactions or arrangements is not intended as tax advice and should not be relied upon for the purpose of avoiding any tax penalties. Neither U.S. Trust and its representatives nor its advisors provide tax, accounting or legal advice. Clients should review any planned financial transactions or arrangements that may have tax, accounting or legal implications with their personal professional advisors.

Always consult with your independent attorney, tax advisor, investment manager and insurance agent for final recommendations and before changing or implementing any financial, tax or estate planning strategy.

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

International Investing International investing involves special risks, including foreign taxation, currency risks, risks associated with possible differences in financial standards, and other risks associated with future political and economic developments. Investing in emerging markets may involve greater risks than investing in more developed countries. In addition, concentration of investments in a single region may result in greater volatility..

Other Nonfinancial assets, such as closely held businesses, real estate, oil, gas and mineral properties, and timber, farm and ranch land, are complex in nature and involve risks, including total loss of value. Special risk considerations include natural events (for example, earthquakes or fires), complex tax considerations and lack of liquidity. Nonfinancial assets are not suitable for all investors.

There is a growing range of investment strategies that may offer the opportunity to improve the welfare and productiveness of women or help mitigate CO2 production. Among them are U.S. Trust’s Women and Girls Equality strategy and Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability strategy, along with Osmosis Investment Management’s Model of Resource Efficiency strategy. To learn whether these strategies are appropriate for your overall investment goals, please contact your U.S. Trust advisor.

Photos: Woman: Michael Dunning/Getty Images; Fish: Carol Adam/Getty Images

1,3,12 “Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change,” WomenWatch, U.N., 2014.

2,7 Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, cleancookstoves.org, 2014.

4 “Hidden Hunger in South Africa,” Oxfam International, 2014.

5 “Gender and Disaster Risk Reduction,” UNDP, 2014.

6 “The World’s Women 2010: Key Findings for Asia and the Pacific,” U.N. Statistics Division, 2011. (Latest available data.)

8 Stockholm Environment Institute, 2013.

9 U.S. Energy Information Agency, 2013.

10 “Climate Change Connections,” U.N. Population Fund and Women’s Environment & Development Organization, 2009. (Latest available data.)

11 “Forests,” World Resources Institute, 2014.

13 “The State of Food and Agriculture, 2010–11,” FAO, 2012.

14 “Future Finance,” Inter-American Bank (IDP), 2014

IMPORTANT INFORMATION

Investing involves risk. There is always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities.

Projections made may not come to pass due to market conditions and fluctuations. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Always consult with your independent attorney, tax advisor, investment manager and insurance agent for final recommendations and before changing or implementing any financial, tax or estate planning strategy.

OTHER IMPORTANT INFORMATION

International Investing International investing involves special risks, including foreign taxation, currency risks, risks associated with possible differences in financial standards, and other risks associated with future political and economic developments. Investing in emerging markets may involve greater risks than investing in more developed countries. In addition, concentration of investments in a single region may result in greater volatility.

Commodities Trading in commodities, such as gold, is speculative and can be extremely volatile. There are special risks associated with an investment in commodities, including market price fluctuations, regulatory changes, interest-rate changes, credit risk, economic changes and the impact of adverse political or financial factors. Tangible assets can fluctuate with supply and demand, such as commodities, which are liquid investments, unlike most other tangible investments.