Gender, development and climate change 20 years on

Gender, development and climate change 20 years on

What does climate change have to do with gender? This was a typical question I was asked when I first edited a collection of works on gender and climate change at Oxfam in 2002 (see Gender, Development and Climate Change, 2002). Today we know a lot more both about climate change and the gendered vulnerabilities and outcomes associated with climate change. Climate crises amplify pre-existing gender inequalities (inequalities in access to, and use of resources, voice, agency and power), multiplying vulnerabilities, risks and threats related to livelihoods, health, safety and the possible futures of women and girls as well as other marginalised groups with intersecting disadvantages.  


As the 27th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27) commences in Sharm-El-Sheik, it is a good time to take stock of where best to put a spotlight on gender in the ensuing discussions. Much has been made of financial support for climate vulnerable countries by wealthier countries such as the costs framed in terms of mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage.  Mitigation in the sense of limiting the extent to which climate changes in ways that negatively impact societies, by focusing on greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets in nationally determined contributions. Adaptation responses in terms of capacity to adapt, be resilient and reduce vulnerability to climate change impacts encapsulated in national adaptation plans. Damage and loss to climate change relates to compensation linked to extreme weather and global warming associated with historical practices of wealthier nations.  This entails, rich nations paying cash to poorer climate-vulnerable countries confronting damage from climate fuelled disasters such as worsening floods, drought and sea level rise.


Typically, to date, the global response has focussed on mitigation at the expense of adaption. This has meant a focus on reducing emissions. For example, many large global companies have net zero commitments.  For COP27, Egypt has been pushing an agenda that brings to the forefront the needs and concerns of the global South focused on climate financing, adaptation and loss and damage.  With governments, international organisations, businesses and civil society (observed by the media) come together to reach some agreement on how to jointly respond to climate change here are a few areas that merit or warrant a spotlight on gender in climate just transitions:-


·       Global financing instruments and mechanisms for climate change: Avoid IFI policy type loans that have been shown to disproportionately impact women and marginalised groups negatively


·       Financial commitments to redressing climate change: Consider gender-aware climate finance for climate vulnerable countries. Explore innovative climate financing grants not loans. Require grant givers and receivers to demonstrate favourable gender impact in climate financing


·       Economic approaches to responding to climate change: Incentivise women and marginalised groups' employment in the green, blue and circular economies


·       Participation in climate planning processes: Engage communities in national planning paying specific attention to participatory processes that enable women and minoritised groups' participation and voice


·       Climate mitigation technologies: Develop renewable energy and other technologies that respond to women and marginalised groups' needs and include women in technological development as designers and creators


·       Building capacities for ecological risks and resilience: Attention to economic, social and economic development that enables and empowers women and marginalised groups to mitigate, adapt and recover from climate change crises