This report argues that gender transformation is both an important condition and a potential end goal of effective climate change responses and poverty reduction. It highlights the need to put people at the centre of climate change responses, and to pay particular attention to the challenges and opportunities that climate change presents in the struggle for gender equality.
The report draws on research, evidence and examples of good practice at local and national levels. It is the result of a two-year international collaboration that involved contributors from a range of non-governmental, multilateral and bilateral organisations.
Climate change is often viewed as a scientific and technical phenomenon. Yet it is also a social, economic and political phenomenon with profound implications for social justice and gender equality. Both women’s and men’s needs and knowledge need to be taken into account by climate change policymaking institutions and processes at all levels.
Economic constraints and cultural norms mean that women’s livelihoods are particularly dependent on climate-sensitive sectors, such as subsistence agriculture or water collection. However, gender inequalities mean that their choices are severely constrained in the face of climate change. For example, land ownership restrictions for rural women mean that they might not have access to productive farmland, whilst a lack of financial capital means they cannot easily diversify their livelihoods.
Climate change responses can play a transformative role by challenging existing gender imbalances and contributing to greater gender equality. However, the gender disparity in decision-making around climate change is a significant contributing factor to the ‘gender blindness’ of climate change policies. At the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Conferences of the Parties in 2010 (COP 16), women accounted for just 30 per cent of all delegation parties. Such gender imbalances result in unrepresentative policies. In addition:
- Many climate change policies are still largely gender blind. The UNFCC, for example, is the overarching international framework but makes no reference to gender.
- Market-based policies around mitigation and low carbon development are also gender blind. Poor and landless people, often women, who depend on products from the forests for their livelihoods rarely benefit from the economic incentives offered from such schemes.
- Climate adaptation policies too often treat women only as vulnerable beneficiaries: the role that women currently play in developing sustainable climate adaptation is not recognised.
It is imperative to create stronger links between global policy and local level realities. This will ensure that policies are informed by the voices of the women and men who deal with the consequences of climate change every day. Recommendations include:
- Moving beyond a purely technical analysis, including social and gender dimensions and ensuring that climate change policies and processes are gender-aware from the outset.
- Highlighting women’s agency in climate change adaptation and mitigation by integrating their valuable knowledge and practical experience into policymaking processes.
- Enabling the equal participation of women in decision-making related to climate change at local, national and international levels.
- Promoting rights-based approaches, as opposed to market-based approaches, that are based on lessons learned from climate change mitigation and adaptation at a local level.
- Building an evidence base for gender-aware climate change, including data on the social and gender dimensions of climate change.
- Funding civil society organisations to hold climate change policymakers to account on issues of gender equality.