Interview with Gotelind Alber, GenderCC: Climate policy must eliminate gender-specific disadvantages

A woman speaking

Gotelind Alber. Photo: Gender CC

Gotelind Alber is the cofounder of the non-governmental organisation GenderCC – Women for Climate Justice e.V., that fights for gender equality in climate policy. She has many years of experience as an independent researcher and advisor on the topics of energy and climate policy, energy efficiency and renewable energies, multi-level governance, gender and climate justice.

GenderCC is the implementing organisation for the Gender Into Urban Climate Change project, which is being funded by the German Federal Environment Ministry via its International Climate Initiative (IKI) with approximately EUR 1 million. IKI has also provided financial support to two previous projects implemented by GenderCC: Gender Equality in the Climate Debate, which was carried out in partnership with Life e.V. and received EUR 132,500, and Integration of Gender Aspects in Adaptation to Climate Change and Low-Carbon Development, which received EUR 452,000.

What role does gender play in climate change and international climate policy?

Effective climate policy must understand the target groups and address their specific climate change concerns, preferences and opportunities for action. Gender plays a particular role in this, in addition to other social differentiations.
The gender dimension is particularly important primarily with regard to vulnerability and adaptation to climate change, but also in many areas of climate change mitigation, such as mobility, consumer behaviour or in general in the preferences for certain strategies or technologies that sometimes vary drastically between women and men.
Gender is now being recognised and incorporated as an important topic in international climate policy, for example through the Lima Work Programme on gender, which was adopted last December. It aims not only at improving the balance in the participation of women and men, but also at developing a comprehensive gender-equitable approach, both in the area of vulnerability and adaptation as well as in climate change mitigation and the development and transfer of technologies.

How can initiatives that deal with gender and climate change at national and international level be strengthened?

Primarily through project support that prioritises the integration of gender equality. For example, from the outset it was stipulated that the Green Climate Fund must incorporate gender. However, this is not sufficiently incorporated in practice. Gender experts have already developed recommendations on how workflows and guidelines should be structured in order to ensure gender-equitable involvement in decision-making and a just distribution of support benefits.
It would also be desirable for IKI to initiate such a discussion. For example, in our view criteria should be established that make it possible to take gender aspects into account in the evaluation of project proposals.

What exactly do you mean by gender equality in climate policy?

It initially refers to preventing climate change and climate policy from exacerbating gender-specific disadvantages. Climate policy should be designed to help eliminate such disadvantages. And ultimately it aims at a transformation to a low-emission, resilient, inclusive, and socially and gender-equitable society.

Were your expectations for COP21 fulfilled? What steps would you like to see European and German policy-makers take next?

It was extremely significant that consensus was achieved at all; however, the agreement in its current form is still insufficient considering the ultimate aim. Furthermore, there are significant weaknesses with regard to the incorporation of human rights and social and gender equality. By the end of negotiations, such aspects are often abandoned in the heat of the moment, including by European negotiators, unfortunately.
What steps would we like to see European and national policy-makers take? The topic of gender is already well-known and widely accepted in international cooperation. Gender equality must be mainstreamed in climate policy here and gender-sensitive programmes and projects must be implemented consistently.
We have unfortunately not achieved this yet in national policy; we still need to do a great deal of work at all levels to raise awareness of the link between gender and climate. We ultimately want to ensure that priorities and measures are evaluated for their gender relevance and modified if necessary. The aim is to determine, for example, whether the different preferences of women and men are addressed, who benefits from the funding, and the extent to which women and men benefit equally from newly created jobs.

How can women on the ground reduce carbon emissions and encourage sustainable development?

In principle, exactly as men do of course, if they have the funds to purchase new energy-saving devices or solar panels, for example. In most societies, family/care duties fall to the women, even in societies with a high level of gender equality. In this respect, women usually play a special role with regard to specific options for reducing emissions in households, and they must therefore be involved in the development and implementation of climate policy. According to numerous studies, women are generally more environmentally conscious than men and thus more likely to change their behaviour. This means that men often have some catching up to do. This must be taken into account in climate policy. Measures should be prioritised and designed to take into consideration the behaviours, needs, and options for action of women and men and they should eliminate instead of exacerbate gender-specific disadvantages.

Where is the GenderCC project being implemented?

In cities, which are becoming increasingly involved in climate policy. Gender aspects are becoming especially prominent at local level, but are rarely being included explicitly in urbanclimate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.

Why were the partner countries India, Indonesia, and South Africa selected?

There are various reasons for this. First, these are countries in which community engagement in climate policy is both required and promoted by the national governments, both in adaptation as well as in the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Second, these are important countries in which there is great potential for replication and an opportunity to influence other countries. Third, we have strong partner organisations in all three countries, which already have climate policy experience in some areas.