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A student sits at her desk at Kibera School for Girls in Kibera, Nairobi, kenya, on Aug. 7, 2020.
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Ideas
April 14, 2021 5:27 PM EDT

Nakate is a climate-justice activist

When you think of climate solutions, you probably think of renewable energy or electric vehicles. But while we need these kinds of innovations, there are other powerful solutions we are not paying proper attention to.

There exists an environmental solution that can reduce inequality, build resilience to the climate crisis and reduce emissions all at the same time. It’s called educating girls and young women, and it needs to happen now.

If we are to limit global heating to 1.5°C above preindustrial levels, then educating girls is one of the best tools we have. According to nonprofit group Project Drawdown, investing in universal education and family planning in low- and middle-income countries could reduce emissions by 85.42 gigatons by 2050. That’s about a decade’s worth of China’s emissions.

Girls who have been to school grow up to be empowered women. They are not forced into early marriage, and they tend to have healthier, smaller families, reducing emissions well into the future.

Girls who have been to school have the tools they need to be more resilient to climate disasters. They are economically empowered, are empowered in their communities and know how to respond to extreme weather.

Girls who have been to school can grow up to be women leaders, who have been shown to be more likely to ratify environmental treaties. Think of Christiana Figueres, the U.N. diplomat who led negotiations for the Paris Agreement. Or Hilda Heine, the former President of the Marshall Islands, who has shown the world the impact climate change is having in the Pacific. Look too at the female leaders of the youth climate movement.

Educating a girl will give her a brighter future; educating girls will provide us all with a lifeline.

Contact us at letters@time.com.

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