Basque women follow more sustainable patterns of mobility and food but suffer most from energy poverty



Women living in the Basque Country follow more sustainable patterns regarding mobility and food. Largely conditioned by the role they play around care and household chores, they make shorter journeys and they do so on foot or public transport, while men prioritize the use of the private vehicle to a greater extent. Likewise, a majority of women base their diet on plant-based foods compared to those of animal origin.

This report also points out that women are the ones who suffer the most from energy poverty, which places them in a situation of greater vulnerability towards climate change and its most direct consequences. Basically, this is mainly due to structural inequalities in the distribution of income. In this regard, it is also noted that their options for investing in renewable energy or energy efficiency are more limited.

These are some of the conclusions of the report “Climate change in the Basque Country from a gender point of view”, prepared by Ihobe, the Basque Government’s Public Environmental Management Company, in collaboration with the Basque Women’s Institute-Emakunde, which analyses the causes, effects, leadership and involvement in climate action from a gender point of view. The document, released today by the Deputy Minister of Environmental Sustainability, Amaia Barredo, and by Emakunde´s director, Miren Elgarresta, focuses on analysing who contributes to a greater extent in climate change, on whom its negative impacts fall and what role women and men adopt facing this process.

Main results of the diagnosis

Men and women contribute unequally to climate change conditioned by social norms and gender roles, which imply differences in the patterns that both replicate in their living habits, consumption and even in the way they see and relate to the planet and its resources.

The mobility and transport sector is the one with the greatest weight in the greenhouse effect emissions of the Basque Country, and 60% of the total emissions of this field corresponds to the transport of people. In this sense, it can be stated that, at present, women contribute to a decrease in emissions through more sustainable mobility patterns, based on walking or in public transport. The use of the private vehicle has traditionally been more associated with men, who are still those who have a vehicle and a driving license in a greater proportion than women, or who drive more regularly within the family framework.

On the other hand, energy poverty in the Basque Country affects women to a greater extent, limiting their ability to invest in more sustainable resources such as renewable energy or energy efficiency. As stated in the study, addressing energy poverty requires a gender approach and comprehensive solutions that address social issues while facilitating women's access to modern, reliable and affordable energy solutions.

Regarding consumption habits and waste management, in general, men and women maintain similar trends. However, regarding food consumption, it can be said that women's eating patterns are more sustainable, being based on a higher consumption of fruit and vegetables and a lower consumption of meat products.

Regarding the relationship between extreme weather phenomena and health, although there are no conclusive data from the autonomous area, international studies indicate that women are more vulnerable than men to extreme temperature events. The fact that the majority of women assume household chores and the care of dependent people makes them spend more time at home than men. In this context, women who are in poverty and whose homes have poor quality insulation are therefore are more vulnerable to the effects of high temperatures.

Equal participation in decision-making as a key factor in addressing climate change is also addressed in the report. Some studies show that women show a greater concern and willingness to adopt actions to change habits and a greater commitment and availability towards more sustainable lifestyles.

It is also pointed out that women would act differently than men in decision-making related to climate change in management positions; however, the reality today is that women are underrepresented in decision-making bodies on climate change, both in the administration and at different government levels. Therefore, they are a minority among those who set the course for climate and energy action at global level. 

Opportunity gaps in climate action in the Basque Country

The report Climate change in the Basque Country from a gender point of view aims to serve as a starting point when it comes to effectively integrate mainstreaming of gender dimension in energy transition and climate change policies. Its results can be crucial in facilitating the integration of the gender perspective in the Energy Transition and Climate Change Roadmap of the Basque Country 2050, currently under development.

The study considers 4 major challenges, deployed in some twenty key actions, to ensure the gender point of view in climate action and the energy transition in the territory. The challenges are specified, first of all, in incorporating the gender approach and the ecofeminist vision in the spaces of reflection and decision on climate change and energy transition. Second, the focus is on the need to bet on more sustainable social and economic models that put people at the centre before economic interests. The third challenge seeks to respond to the need for a gender perspective in the adaptation measures in climate change. The fourth and final challenge seeks to emphasize the need for both climate and energy transition, as well as the gender and its combination to permeate the administration in a transversal way due to its importance and incidence in most socio-economic areas.

The report also describes the beneficial effects that some specific measures could have. Thus, local energy communities can help mitigate energy poverty. In this sense, the Energy Transition and Climate Change Plan of the CAPV 2021-2024 provides for the implementation of at least 400 self-consumption facilities per year and envisages that by 2023 between 12,000 and 20,000 people will be members of an energy community in the Basque Country. To this end, it is essential to incorporate women in these projects from the design stage and guarantee their access to the decision-making spaces of these communities to ensure that their specific interests and needs are visible and incorporate their vision when providing solutions.                                                                                

Task sharing and co-responsibility, particularly regarding care, can help change mobility patterns and thus help reduce the impact on emissions. Betting on compact urban models that take into account the gender approach and put life and people at the centre can also contribute to reducing greenhouse gas emissions.