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Many opportunities for women to contribute to climate action after Paris

This blog, from Ana Rojas of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), looks at how gender dimensions can be integrated into the design and implementation of climate change policies following the Paris Agreement, which only partially reflected the importance of gender equality moving forward.

Today, we know that climate change is not only a technical environmental problem but a social challenge. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has recognized that climate change will have differentiated impacts not only on different countries and social sectors, but also on women and men. The reason lies in their differentiated access to resources —knowledge, skills, information, and finance—that enable women and men to better prepare and adapt to climatic impacts.

Moreover, women and men can contribute to and benefit from climate change mitigation initiatives in different ways. For example, it is estimated that women in developing countries own half of the solar home systems in use, and that efficiency of improved cooking and heating technologies will have a direct impact on the lives of millions of women who are traditionally in-charge of collecting firewood and cooking for their families. In addition, women in developed countries tend to favor the use of renewable energy technologies in slightly higher percentages than men and, given that they are the ones making 80% of consumer decisions, have a strong say in choosing less carbon intensive products.

It is clear that by including a gender dimension when designing and implementing climate change policies, we can visualize women as significant agents of change, contributing to the solution of climate change through their participation in mitigation and adaptation initiatives.

UNFCCC gender decisions

The past decade has seen an upward trend in gender equality under the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its mechanisms –recognizing that the manner in which social roles shape how women and men relate to each other and within society is an important aspect to account for in order to increase the effectiveness of climate change initiatives. Currently, there are 45 decisions under the UNFCCC addressing gender equality, with adaptation as the area that has built the most robust, gender-inclusive language so far. Some of these decisions have helped shape many of the implementation mechanisms under the Convention, including the Technology Mechanism and the Green Climate Fund, which are mandated to address and support gender responsive initiatives.

The need to support implementation of these decisions was the driving force behind the Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWPG), agreed during COP 20 in 2014. The work programme mandates the UNFCCC Secretariat to organize technical workshops for Parties to identify tools and good practices that can inform Parties in the design of gender responsive climate change policies. During 2014, Parties reflected on how gender responsiveness can take shape on mitigation and technology development and transfer policies. The workshop was a breakthrough moment, as these topics have traditionally been labelled as “gender neutral” –i.e., considered to produce equal impacts, whether positive or negative, on women and men. The recommendations of the workshop are expected to increase awareness on how women can contribute to and benefit from climate change initiatives.

gender and leds climate change

The increase in gender decisions within the UNFCCC is the result of a series of strategies, including a coordinated advocacy effort since COP 13 in Bali, which allowed the gender and climate change community to come together in a more structured manner, triggering the establishment of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC). The Women and Gender Constituency allows women voice and the recognition of being a key stakeholder at the negotiation table.

However, advocacy alone is not sufficient. The past decade has seen an increase in the number of gender-aware negotiators and decision makers, thanks both to the commitment of Parties to address gender equality as a key component of their sustainable development agenda and the capacity building support provided by international stakeholders, including the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA). In addition, the development and testing of gender methodologies for climate change actions have increased the evidence base on benefits generated when applying a gender lens to these actions.

Taking stock after COP 21

The recently adopted Paris Agreement only partially reflects the importance of gender equality but failed to fully recognize advances on this front. Indeed, its preamble includes gender equality and the empowerment of women as one of the guiding principles of the Agreement, and the sections on adaptation and capacity building specify that actions must be implemented in a gender responsive manner.  However, important text on gender equality was lost in the final hours of negotiation on the sections related to technology transfer and finance, and most importantly in article 2 which defines the objectives of the new agreement.

When I look back at Paris, I cannot deny I recall it with some sadness, in the knowledge that the agreement could have been more ambitious in terms of ensuing equal access to benefits from mitigation, technology transfer, adaptation and capacity building for women and men, supported by a financial structure that would include safeguards to ensure implementation.

With that said, there is a silver lining in the post-Paris scenario, which calls for effective implementation of climate change actions.  Of the 160 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs now NDCs) submitted in preparation for and during COP 21, 61 of them recognized the gender dimension of their national commitments. It is noteworthy that all of these National Determined Contributions were put forward by developing countries and are evidence of how these Parties see climate change initiatives as an opportunity to reshape their development pathways, while reducing poverty and inequalities in their territories.

gender climate change

What IUCN’s gender assessment of Nationally Determined Contributions shows (Figure 2) is that Parties to the UNFCCC have committed towards the achievement of gender equality on their own accord and as a matter of their national priorities. This is invigorating and shows that Parties are moving towards an implementation phase where gender equality will play key role. In Asia, these gender front-runners include Cambodia, India, Myanmar, Philippines, Tajikistan, Vietnam, and Indonesia – which is one of the four countries that recognized women’s role specifically in mitigation actions.

Moving forward

Parties have a range of gender methodologies and tools that can be used to ensure that the implementation of their commitments will deliver on both environmental and social fronts. Moreover, there are projects such as IUCN’s Gender Equality for Climate Change Opportunities (GECCO), a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) supported initiative, which works with governments and project implementers to address gender equality in their activities – such as in designing climate change gender action plans; considering gender in REDD+ plans and renewable energy policies; and addressing gender in mitigation projects, policies and investment tools through its Gender and Renewable Energy (G-REEN) Platform.

For more information about my work with the GECCO initiative, please visit us here and don’t forget to visit our webinar page for the latest discussion on gender, energy and mitigation!

This is an except from a blog that was originally posted on the Asia LEDS Partnership website and can be found here: Gender in the UNFCCC: A process towards inclusive climate change policies

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