Climate change affects natural resources, human settlements and community infrastructure, often in settings where people have limited ability to respond to droughts, landslides, floods, and hurricanes. Increased floods and droughts have far-reaching consequences, especially for women and girls who are usually responsible for household food and water security. Social, economic, and political barriers limit women's and girls’ capacity to cope with shocks, due to their lack of participation in formal decision-making, climate-related planning, policy-making, and implementation.
While women are vulnerable to climate change, they are also effective change agents in their households and communities. Women have a wealth of knowledge and practical skills which can help with climate change mitigation, disaster reduction, and adaptation. As stewards of natural resources in households and communities, women are well-positioned to contribute to livelihood strategies adapted to changing environmental realities.
Climate change increases biodiversity loss, land degradation, and social, political, and economic tensions. With this squeeze on global resources, women and girls can become more vulnerable to conflict, migration, hunger, and violence. Long-standing gender inequalities have created disparities in information, mobility, decision-making, resources, and training, making women less likely to survive and more likely to be injured in disasters. For example, in many societies, women and girls do not learn to swim. In the aftermath of a crisis, women and girls have less access to aid, making it more difficult to re-establish their livelihoods, restore wellbeing, and recover their assets, creating a vicious cycle of disaster vulnerability. Climate change disasters limit access to health care for women and girls, and increase maternal and child health risks. Extreme heat increases stillbirths, and climate change spreads vector-borne diseases like malaria and dengue fever.
Women can play a critical role in climate change response due to their local knowledge and leadership in sustainable resource management and household and community practices. Women's political participation has increased responsiveness to citizen needs, increased cooperation across party and ethnic lines, and delivered more sustainable peace. Locally, women's leadership has improved climate projects and policies.
Parties to the UNFCCC’s Paris Agreement have noted the urgency of involving women and men equally in UNFCCC processes and in the design and implementation of gender-responsive national climate policies. At COP 23 in Bonn, the Gender Action Plan was adopted, which outlines priority areas of action, including gender-responsive implementation of the Paris Agreement and gender balance, participation, and women's leadership. The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) and the Government of Grenada co-hosted a COP23 side event on gender-responsive climate action, bringing together experts to discuss women's empowerment, inclusive policy-making, and innovative practices to advance gender-responsive climate action.
Key elements of gender-responsive climate action include:
- Recognizing gender differences in needs, opportunities, and capacities related to climate action;
- Equitable participation and influence by women and men in climate-related decision-making processes;
- Enhancing gender-equitable access to financial resources and other benefits, such as climate information, technologies, and services.
The recent IUCN report, on Gender and national climate planning focuses on gender integration in the revision of Nationally Determined Contributions, and reveals how gender inclusion has grown through each revision of the nationally-defined climate action plans under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement and its implementation guidelines. The research shows that countries around the world increasingly recognize women as important climate stakeholders and change agents.
The study's key findings suggest a move toward greater alignment with international standards and Parties' own commitments on gender equality, as reflected in the Paris Agreement, its Rulebook guidance, and the Enhanced Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWPG) and its Gender Action Plan (GAP). This signals the importance of Party-led commitments in ensuring gender equality goals are integrated into climate actions, as seen in the various examples of how gender equality can be mainstreamed in climate change policies and planning processes.
Nevertheless, a quarter of revised NDCs make no reference to gender, and many countries have not yet submitted updated plans, so there is still an opportunity for countries to identify and close such gaps. Countries still in their revision processes can review the above guiding frameworks and draw inspiration from the country examples in the IUCN report to integrate gender in their submissions, including the enabling conditions for gender-responsive implementation, impact reporting, and learning.
Action is now needed to address the gender gap in climate action.
As policies and actions are developed, it is important to integrate gender balance in L&D, NDCs, NAPs, and ensure finance is available for gender action plans. At COP25 a five-year Lima work program on gender and its gender action plan was adopted. Parties at COP25 decided that an intermediate review of the progress of implementation of activities contained in the GAP will be conducted at SB56. As we move towards COP27, we must follow-up on the Lima Work Programme and the GAP and make sure it doesn’t lose ground.
In this context and in view of COP27, Parties and key stakeholders are invited to take stock and map progress and implementation challenges in line with the gender action plan's priority areas and submit updates on the GAP's implementation. The ILO is also asked to explore links between gender-responsive climate action and just transition. COP27, the African COP, and Together for Implementation can elevate and empower women and girls as climate changemakers in their communities, recognising their primacy in leading resilient, local, and rights-based climate adaptation solutions.