For an inclusive and resilient city – a dialogue with Helen Fernández, mayor of Caracas

While covering only 2% of earth surface, cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and are responsible of more than 60% of global CO2 emissions. At the same time, they are particularly exposed to climate change impacts and to phenomena like sea level rise, storm surges, hurricanes and heatwaves. The role they can play in tackling climate change and in developing the resilience of the most vulnerable sectors of society is therefore crucial.
We met Helen Fernández , mayor of Caracas (Venezuela) here at COP23 and she explained to us why gender equality is important in building more sustainable, resilient and inclusive cities.

Why is gender equality fundamental in developing more resilient societies to climate change?

If we are talking about eradicating poverty, you need to consider that women are half of the world population: if policies are not really directed towards equity it will never be possible to reach the goal. In the fight against climate change, women play a transversal role. Women raise the family, they educate to values, they cook and they take the trash out. Women are also those who are more attentive to human rights as they are more sensitive. And in order to eradicate poverty, women’s participation is key as it’s women to take care of the family, raise children and go to the street to defend themselves. That is why it is important to build capacities and empower women so that they can stand up. And to break the paradigm for which it is either up to women or to men to act. We came to this world together and we complement each other.

What is the role of cities in the fight against climate change?

Cities grow and do not respect any limits. Similarly, climate change does not have frontiers. And if we don’t work towards having good cities that take climate change into consideration, we will always have a disequilibrium. This is what our planet is living today. It believe it is crucial to consider climate change as as a fundamental responsibility against which communities need to be directed and oriented. This is because we have a huge responsibility towards ourselves and our quality of life, but even bigger towards future generations. It will be our fault not to be able to leave them a better planet and better cities where they can live.

Where does your interest for climate change comes from?
Caracas has it all: it has biodiversity, water, oil, gold, bauxite. Caracas has two gifts, as I call them: its geopolitical position and wealth. Yet, for not being able to act responsibly, we got to the debacle we are living today, and we are classified as a country living in extreme poverty. 87% of the population lives in poverty, and among these, 93% lives in extreme poverty despite being a country that has all the resources to make it. We are a young country, we got use to live with easiness and to live upon the great richness generated by oil. But one day we found ourselves living in a regime that violates human rights. This regime has impoverished us. What can we learn from the fight and difficult moments Venezuelan people are living today? That we need to work for today and for tomorrow, that we need to get prepare our future. Because the future depends on the way we manage our water -and this is an asset that we have, but have never fully exploited-, on how we manage and conserve biodiversity, and we preserve green and public spaces. This is really what a city is responsible of. If we don’t work in this direction and keep on relying on a resource like oil that in 15 years will not take us anywhere, we will never get the country we want.

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