Eva Cox AO

on Sunday, 20 May 2012. Posted in Expert Climate Change Panel

Eva Cox AO

Eva Cox was born Eva Hauser in Vienna in 1938, and was soon declared stateless by Hitler so grew up as a refugee in England, till 1946, Italy and then Australia from age 10. She remembers being cross in Kindergarten that boys were offered drums, and girls the tambourine or triangle. All these early experiences primed her political activism and made her an irrepressible advocate for making societies fairer. She is an unabashed feminist and passionately promotes inclusive, diverse and equitable ways of living together. She was the ABC Boyer Lecturer (1995) on making societies more civil. Her 1996 book (Leading Women) explained why women who made a difference were usually labelled as difficult, a label she wears. She has been an academic, political adviser, public servant, and runs a small research and policy consultancy. A sociologist by trade, she promotes ideas widely and eclectically in books, on line, in journals and other media. Eva has been recognised in various ways: Australian Humanist of the Year, a Distinguished Alumnus at UNSW and an Edna Grand Stirrer award.  She also stirs through being a Fellow of the Centre for Policy Development and as a Research Fellow at Jumbunna Indigenous House of Learning (UTS).

 Interview with Eva Cox 

Do you believe in climate change? Why or why not?

I do believe in human contribution to climate change because there is evidence enough that we are producing toxic excesses.  We need to adopt the precautionary principle, not absolute proof because it is sensible to look at high probabilities and act on them.

In light of international gender inequalities such as food security, poverty, levels of household work and access to decision-making prevailing, what do you think needs to be done before climate change intensifies these existing inequalities?  

I have said for many years that people will not commit to better ways of dealing with environmental issues unless we fix our social relationships. If we frighten people who are already socially disconnected, people will not act collectively for the common good. So we need to put some social equity goals before environmental ones, eg fairness and equity. Then people are more likely to adopt difficult changes that may require some limits to growth. 

How do you regard the usefulness of the village or local approach in creating localised sustainable environments to deal with climate change?  Do you think that women need to direct their efforts into a community led, localised approach more so than a regional or international one?  

Women need to be involved and operate at all levels. If we focus on the local, those at higher levels will undermine and destroy the local as power is usually downwards. So we need to make sure we are heard and involved at all levels. 

In relation to the social impacts of climate change such as stress, welfare and decline of community relationships, how can women of different backgrounds and communities mitigate and plan for the impacts of climate change?  

Am not sure why backgrounds are the issue, we need to work together and to do so, we need to act on the issues that divide us, including fear and the self interest that often is the result of fear.  

In the absence of a gender perspective in the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change indicating that climate change has differential impacts on societies varying among regions, generations, ages, classes, income groups, occupations and gender lines,

a)How can women's voices be heard and included in decision making in global policies on climate change? 
b) How can this be done in Australia

We need to raise our game and make sure we are there. Women's groups  are too likely to avoid unfamiliar areas and stay out of the battles, so we need to up our game.  

What do you find to be most significant about current research findings that relates to examining the differential social impacts of climate change?  Are there any examples where policy is proving to be successful in empowering people and building their adaptive capacities?

Am not familiar with this literature, what works more generally is genuine devolution of decision making and control. 

If you were to develop a socially responsive climate change policy for Australia, what would be the key principles that you would base it on?

Fairness and deliberate engagement of all significant groups.  

What is your opinion of there being a lack of bipartisan support in Australia for the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS), the cap-and-trade emissions trading scheme (ETS) which was rejected in the Parliament in August and December 2009? 

How would you like the Gillard Government to move forward on this issue? 

By getting some guts and not constantly compromising with the powerful.