Research shows that climate change has a bigger impact on women than on men. This happens for a number of reasons, including:

  • Climate change affects the poor disproportionately, and women make up 70% of the world’s poorest.
  • Women are more vulnerable and are statistically more likely to die, become victims of sex trafficking and even domestic violence in the aftermath of extreme weather events
  • Women’s livelihood is often based on subsistence agriculture, forestry and water, all sectors that are extremely climate-sensitive
  • About 80% of people displaced by climate change are women

And despite women experiencing the brunt of climate change, they can’t do much about it. Across the globe, they lack empowerment, access to education and leadership positions.

It’s evident that without gender-informed policies and approaches, we are ignoring most of the victims as well as those that could bring forward concrete and informed solutions. This is what gender day at COP should have tackled, but other than inspiring talks we have seen few commitments from those holding the power.

Women need investments, not donations

What it is about?

Like all the other parts of climate action, climate finance should recognise the gendered impacts of climate change and promote gender equality and women empowerment. However, to date, only 4% of Official Development Assistance (ODA)  directed at climate change targets gender equality, and the situation isn’t any better when funds come from the private sector or private foundations. Commitments made on Tuesday that tried to address the problem of gender and climate finance included:

  • Canada committed 80% of its $5.3 billion climate investments to target gender equality outcomes
  • The UK has set £160 million funding to address the dual challenges of gender inequality and climate change
  • The USA is investing at least $14 million toward gender-responsive climate programming; and further $20 million to increase women’s economic opportunities in the clean energy sector, strengthen action on gender-based violence and the environment, address barriers to women’s land rights, and support women farmers in East Africa to adapt to climate impacts.

Is the commitment bold enough?

Many countries have pledged and when not providing financial aid, have stepped in to promote the leadership of women and girls, as well as access to education, land ownership and embed gender equality within their climate action. Although some of the commitments are indeed quite bold and leave us with hope, the number of countries that pledged to take action is not nearly enough. Where are Europe and Australia? Where are the leaders of the Western World? We can only assume that this lack of interest mirrors the lack of initiative that has been taken in their own country to address the gender gap.

Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) make progress – but not a difference

What it is about?

Having established that we need a gendered perspective to tackle climate change, it’s disheartening to see how little improvement we’ve seen in NDCs. A study from IUCN on 89 NDCs found that although attention to gender seems to be improving overall, roughly a quarter of NDCs are entirely gender-blind. Only Moldova and Cambodia met all the 8 gender-responsive criteria components used in the analysis.

Who it will impact?

The same research from IUCN highlights how the 18 Parties that didn’t include gender in their NDCs emitted on average more than three times the amount of GHG emissions as the 69 Parties that included gender.

It’s evident how failure to include women in the research, solutions and policies to fight climate change will ultimately slow down (if not completely kill) our transition to a just, net zero society.

Is the commitment bold enough?

There has been progress in recognising the gendered aspects of climate change, however, gender is still mostly approached as a siloed issue. But equality is transversal to everything we do and can improve how we run a business, lead a country and fight climate change–Until all nations recognise this and apply it to their climate change responses we will be holding ourselves back.

It’s time to act on the gap

Women have been demonstrating resilience, entrepreneurship and adaptability for a long time. What they need now is access to education, leadership positions, a seat at the table.

The impact of climate change is harsher on women, but this doesn’t make them victims. Victims are generally seen as passive and helpless in the face of events bigger than they are. Women are agents of change, and their voices and experiences must be included in the transition to a net zero world.

By closing the gender gap, global GDP could increase by 26%. In the fight against climate change as well as in our desire for a more just, prosperous world, we can’t afford to leave women behind.

There has been undoubted progress in recognising the gendered aspects of climate change. However, we are now in the decade of climate action. The time for recognition and awareness is passed: we now need action plans and real change, and we need women to be included and empowered.

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We get that change is not easy. But we must be brave, challenge old ways, set new habits, embrace new thinking.