Gender in the climate debate

Three women

Mujeres Yucaleras. Photo: Barbara Lehnebach

The Paris Agreement on climate action aims to limit global warming to less than 2°C. To this end, policy-makers and the private sector are particularly keen to use technological developments and increase efficiency. However, taking action to protect the climate is also a societal process which must critically examine existing behavioural patterns. The impacts of climate change spark conflicts over the distribution of resources, which raise questions of equity. Besides the issue of the North-South divide, it is also important to consider generational equity and, above all, gender equality.

Although the links between gender and the environment have been on the international climate protection agenda since the Rio Summit in 1992, the topic has attracted considerably more attention in recent years. For instance, as the first multilateral fund of its kind, the Green Climate Fund is expected to spend its money in a gender-sensitive way. And the Paris Agreement contains two explicit calls for a "gender-appropriate" approach in its sections on adaptation and capacity building. This is because climate change is having a different impact on groups of women and men, and on gender relations. For one thing, when it comes to political participation, women have fewer rights or opportunities to influence, shape and contribute to decisions. For another, according to the United Nations, women account for around 70 per cent of the world's poorest people and are hardest hit by extreme weather events like droughts and floods. In the context of international development it is generally more difficult for women to gain access to technologies and financial support, which means that their scope to propose or implement solutions, or to apply their own know-how, remains limited.

The International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Environment Ministry (BMUB) is running a project to support the integration of gender equality into climate protection strategies. The Gender into Urban Climate Change Initiative works with national women's organisations in India, Indonesia and South Africa to ensure gender equality in community-level climate programmes. The global network GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice is implementing the project and advising local organisations in six pilot cities (Mumbai, Calcutta, Jakarta, Makassar, Johannesburg and Tshwane) on the development of methods, strategies and practical approaches, as well as training and information material.