Toronto, May 27 (IPS) – Although the climate crisis affects practically all aspects of life, its impacts are not felt equally.
A person’s vulnerability to climate change varies depending on their position in society, such as socioeconomic status, dependence on natural resources, and ability to respond to natural hazards. Since different genders often experience different social positions, gender has become a key element to consider for effective climate planning and adaptation.
Angie Dazé, Director of Gender Equality and Social Inclusion at the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), says that social norms linked to gender in their communities and households influence people’s different roles.
“Gender influences how people experience the impacts of climate change and also influences their ability to respond,” Dazé told IPS in an interview. “Because people play different roles, they are affected differently by the same effects of climate change.”
While experiences of climate change are varied and context specific, a growing body of research suggests that women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Higher levels of poverty and lower socioeconomic power make recovery from natural disasters more difficult for women. UN figures also show that women and girls make up 80 per cent of people displaced by climate change.
“Gender inequalities create barriers that can exacerbate people’s vulnerability to climate change. And this most often affects women and girls,” said Dazé.
Because social groups experience climate change differently, gender has become more central in the United Nations (UN) climate process and in the international discourse on climate action.
Target 13.b of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on climate action recognizes the nexus between gender and the environment. It states that focusing on women is key to increasing capacity for climate change planning and management.
Key frameworks that foster the integration of gender considerations for climate action, such as the enhanced Lima Work Program on Gender and its Gender Action Plan, have also been established at recent UN Climate Change Conferences. Agreed at COP 25 in 2019, these frameworks promote gender mainstreaming for parties and the integration of gender considerations throughout the work and processes of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). .
Still, gender representation remains limited in climate decision-making spaces, and gender considerations in national policy are inconsistent.
Even though men make up just over half of registered government delegates at UNFCCC plenary meetings from May to June 2021, according to an UNFCCC analysis, they spoke 74 percent of the time. Attendance at COP gender-related events is also low.
At the national level, only 15 percent of environment ministries are headed by women, and only a third of national energy frameworks contain gender considerations. An International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) study of 89 Nationally Determined Contributions revealed that almost a quarter have no references to gender.
Pointing to the harm of gender-blind approaches in climate policy, Christina Kwauk, a gender, education and climate change specialist, told IPS that “the policies we create could have unintended consequences that perpetuate structures of discrimination or inequality, or gender norms. and harmful gender-based practices.
“Current policies, solutions or actions could exacerbate women’s time poverty or exclude women’s access. Women may not have as much access to these different solutions because of existing gender norms.”
Kwauk sees the progress toward gender mainstreaming as significant, but believes it has not caught up at the pace needed to see significant impact.
Current gender-sensitive climate policies, Kwauk explained, “all point in the right direction. But the underlying systems of inequality and the underlying structures of inequality remain. And as long as those issues are still there, the politics, the discourse, these are good moves in the right direction, but they’re not enough. Real lived experiences, social norms and social barriers to participation are not changing.”
As an ecofeminist and climate change activist working on access to land for women, Adenike Oladosu is familiar with the intersections of gender and the environment. In an interview with IPS, she emphasized the need for countries to better integrate gender in various sectors and, pointing to her home country of Nigeria, the need for governments to legalize and implement their gender action plan in all sectors.
Oladosu believes that this action is essential to improve the representation of women in global forums.
“When we see that gender is important in different sectors, it improves the representation of women at conferences because we can execute every action we take in a gender-sensitive way,” Oladosu said. “Everything has to start from individual countries, trying to improve gender sensitivity in their barriers, or trying to integrate gender-sensitive approaches in their various sectors.”
Empowering women can also help create new solutions to mitigate the climate crisis. Building on her advocacy work, Oladosu emphasized that harnessing indigenous knowledge of women as stewards of the land and facilitating access to land for women leads to new solutions to mitigate the climate crisis.
UN data shows that when women receive the same resources as men, they can increase agricultural yields by 20-30%, reducing hunger.
In general, gender is key to consider, and women are paramount to engage, for a just and equitable fight against climate change.
“Women make up half of the world’s population,” Oladosu said. “So if you take them away or leave them behind to solve the defining problem of our time, it will definitely affect whatever solutions are put forward, or by now we would have achieved climate justice.”
Report of the UN Office of IPS
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