Gender and climate change policies

Women’s empowerment and gender sensitive policies can help countries better cope with climate change impacts. 

Adapting to climate change

Until recently gender issues have not been considered in climate change strategies and initiatives. However, after several years of advocacy, capacity building, and awareness raising, governments have agreed that gender equality is key to achieving climate change goals.
Since 2008 more than 60 official gender references have entered the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiation text, and the final outcomes of the Cancun (2010) and Durban (2011) conferences included eight and 17 references to gender, respectively.
Although the acceptance of gender aspects is increasing, international responses to the impacts of climate change are still largely focused on mitigation (reduction of greenhouse emissions) than on adapting to adverse climate change impacts on food, livelihoods and human welfare.
Women’s participation is crucial to achieve sustainable development and poverty alleviation goals as women and children are largely affected by climate change.
Women often lead the way in adapting to climate change impacts, but they also play a key role in mitigating climate change by using using low carbon-footprint energy sources and techniques, and influencing a household’s and community’s consumption patterns.
Women constitute up to 80% of refugee and displaced populations worldwide, and in emergency situations women and children may typically make up 70% to 80% of those needing assistance.
Commonly men migrate more often than women. In dryland areas, for example, the households headed by women that are left behind are often the poorest, and wives of seasonal migrants may have no other source of income.
In this way, climate change exacerbates both natural and social disasters and conflicts over resources. Without secure access to and control over natural resources (land, water, livestock, forest) women are less likely to be able to cope with permanent climatic impacts.
As men and women bring different skills to their households, communities and countries, there is a need to address gender inequality in climate change programmes and policies.
The Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), of which IUCN is a member of the Steering Committee, along with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) works towards four objectives:
Integrate a gender perspective into policy and decision-making in order to ensure the full implementation of UN mandates and agreements on gender equality;
Build capacities at global, regional, national and local levels to design and implement gender-responsive climate change policies, strategies and programmes;
Ensure that climate change finance mechanisms equitably address the needs of poor women and men;
Establish a network for learning, knowledge exchange and advocacy on gender and climate change.
The GGCA has raised awareness and built capacity to address the links between gender and climate change through a comprehensive strategy. This incorporates advocacy, capacity-building, women’s leadership, climate finance, national and regional climate change plans and programmes and knowledge generation.
Following work carried out by IUCN on behalf of the GGCA in various countries, IUCN will once again develop a Climate Change and Gender Action Plan (ccGAP) at the request of the Government of Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is widely regarded as one of the world’s most vulnerable countries in terms of climate change impacts. This Acion Plan will build on the revised edition of the country’s Climate Change Strategy released in 2009 which identifies several areas for intervention including food security, social protection and health; comprehensive disaster management; infrastructure; mitigation and low carbon development; capacity building and institutional strengthening.
The development of ccGAPs in several countries has proved the potential of gender as a common area of interest that helps coordinate the activities of various stakeholders in coping with the impacts of climate change.

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