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Climate Change, Energy and Gender

AGORA moderator's picture

There is a direct relationship between climate change and gender equality.  To be successful, strategies and programmes addressing the impacts of climate change must include the participation, experiences and voices of women – both because they are disproportionately impacted by climate change and because they have valuable knowledge and practical experiences to contribute to building resilience of communities and nations. 

Women and girls are on the first line of defense against the effects of climate change; they are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change because they tend to be more dependent on agricultural production and livestock, are more prone to poverty and food scarcity and receive less education.  They are also less likely to own land or personal property, and are especially vulnerable in the face of natural disasters.  Skewed power relations and cultural norms leave them underrepresented in decision-making, making it difficult for them to secure better opportunities.  

Commission on the Status of Women 58 - Fact Sheet (2014)

  • It is estimated that 60 percent of chronically hungry people are women and girls.
  • Women comprise, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labour force in developing countries. If they had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20–30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5–4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12–17 percent.
  • Women rely more heavily on forests and natural resources for their livelihood than men. Gender inequality and deforestation were causally related in more than 100 countries between 1990 and 2010.
  • Nearly 18 percent of global CO2 emissions are from developing countries’ residential usage. Biomass and coal cook stoves, which release high levels of CO2 and other pollutants, cause about 2 million deaths a year. The health burden of these cook stoves disproportionately fall on women and children.
  • A little over 33 percent of governments regularly generate statistics on citizens’ access to clean water. This is a gender issue as, especially in rural areas, women predominantly spend hours collecting water.  

Because of these limited adaptive capacities and the lack of available coping mechanisms, women and girls struggle to strengthen their resilience in the face of climate change.  As climate change impacts worsen, the gender gap is likely to grow. 

Current efforts to address climate change and energy issues do not yet fully acknowledge these gender dimensions.  As a result, national and global policy frameworks are not sufficiently gender-responsive and fail to offer women and girls the protection and opportunities they need.

UNDP Resource Guide on Gender and Climate Change

This resource guide aims to inform practitioners and policy makers of the linkages between gender equality and climate change and their importance in relation to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. It makes the case for why it is necessary to include women’s voices, needs and expertise in climate change policy and programming, and demonstrates how women’s contributions can strengthen the effectiveness of climate change measures. As the world moves towards a new global agreement on climate change, it is critical that women contribute to the effort and that their perspectives are equally represented in the debate.

To access this publication, please click here.

Parliamentarians are uniquely positioned to promote gender-responsive legislation on climate change and energy.  To do so effectively, however, existing approaches need to be revised and women need to be actively included in decision-making processes.

Engaging women in decision-making on climate change

While women are disproportionally vulnerable to the effects of climate change, they also play a pivotal role in the development of effective, sustainable solutions.  In rural areas in particular, women’s roles and experiences mean they have the knowledge and skills needed to design effective adaptation mechanisms.  The nature of their work and chores also means that they are quick to perceive changes in their environments, and can therefore help flag emerging threats such as water shortages, floods, and reduced crop yields.

UNEP: Women at the Frontline of Climate Change 

Women’s voices, responsibilities and knowledge on the environment and the challenges they face will need to be a central part of the adaptive response to a rapidly changing climate”

To consult this UNEP publication, please click here.  

Women are also crucial to the successful implementation of adaptation mechanisms, especially at the household level.  Switching to off-grid sources of renewable energy for cooking and lighting, growing more climate-resilient crops, relocating agricultural activities to new lands and so on only work when women are willing and able to embrace these changes.  Without their buy-in and cooperation, such solutions are likely to miss their mark.  Outreach, engagement and training are critical aspects of successful adaptation mechanisms, and policy-makers should provide for them accordingly. 
 
Mainstreaming gender in climate change and energy policies

Parliamentarians do not operate in a political vacuum and will need government support to affect substantial changes in policy-making. There are a number of ways in which they can help build that support and promote gender-responsive policies.  The parliamentary action points below offer some starting points:

  • Research: Call for the collection and use of gender-segregated data in parliamentary research and policy-making.  Without accurate information on how women and girls are being affected by climate change and energy shortages, appropriate policies cannot be developed and gender biases in policy-making will persist.  You may also want to commission studies or assessments on climate change and gender, with a view to developing appropriate policy responses. 
  • Asking parliamentary questions allows you to explore what policies are currently in place. It also puts some pressure on the relevant departments and government officials to take action.  Some sample questions:
    • What budget(s) have been set aside for gender-responsive action?
    • How are existing adaptation projects catering for women and girls? Are gender-specific initiatives being carried out? 
    • What research has been done on the linkages between climate change and gender? 
    • Do existing policies on climate change and energy address the needs of women and girls?  If so, what gender provisions are in place?
  • Advocacy: To truly impact policy-making processes, parliamentarians need the support of their peers.  To advocate for gender-responsive policy-making on climate change within your parliament, you can invite gender experts to speak in the relevant committees or, if possible, in plenary session.  You may also want to connect with civil society organizations to build public support and encourage parliamentarians to act. 
  • Outreach: Reach out to experts, civil society groups and aid agencies to identify the most pressing issues regarding gender and climate change.  What do they consider to be the most urgent needs?  What opportunities for gender-responsive adaptation exist?  Are there successful pilot projects that could be replicated?
  • Gender budgeting: Gender-responsive policies and projects can only deliver results if they are awarded the necessary funds.  Push for (greater) budget allocations for gender-responsive climate change policies and for increased public expenditure on climate initiatives that cater for women and girls.

 

Global Gender and Climate Alliance

The primary goal of the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) is to ensure that climate change policies, decision-making, and initiatives at the global, regional, and national levels are gender responsive. 

The GCCA works towards four complementary objectives:

  • Integrate a gender perspective into policy and decision making in order to ensure international mandates and other legal instruments on gender equality are fully implemented.
  • Ensure that financing mechanisms on mitigation and adaptation address the needs of poor women and men equitably.
  • Build capacity at all levels to design and implement gender-responsive climate change policies, strategies and programmes.
  • Develop, compile, and share practical tools, information, and methodologies to facilitate the integration of gender into policy and programming.

For more information, news, resources and contact details, please visit http://www.gender-climate.org/

Gender & Energy

The development of clean sources of energy holds enormous potential for meeting the energy needs of women and girls.  In many parts of the developing world, a combination of traditional gender roles and lack of modern energy services mean that women, and sometimes children, must travel considerable distances to gather fuel and water for cooking. For households without access to electricity, household chores are limited to daylight hours, as is reading for schoolwork. In colder regions, fuel must also be collected for heating.

Finally, the continued burning of traditional fuels in unventilated homes has serious health implications, the brunt of which is borne by women and girls.

In rural areas in particular, off-grid sources of renewable sources such as solar, wind, and thermal energy can provide life-changing access to electricity and heating.  More broadly, a stable energy supply provides is a huge catalyst for improved economic development and for the provision of basic education and health care facilities.

Policy Recommendations on Gender and Energy: the Pan-African Parliament

During a workshop organized by UNDP and Climate Parliament at the Pan-African Parliament, MPs adopted a set of policy recommendations for renewable energy development among Pan-African Parliament states:

  1. Mainstream renewable energy in short and long-term national developments plans and strategies;
  2. Identify barriers to the participation of women and girls in designing, formulating, training and capacity development on RE.
  3. To build gender sensitive policy frameworks that can deliver on the particular energy needs of women and girls.
  4. Put in place policies that regulate the renewable energy industry and promote its further development, so that Africa is better positioned to transition to sustainable energy and meet the continent’s growing energy needs;
  5. Adopt renewable energy as a strategic choice and develop comprehensive programs for renewable energy industries and markets.
  6. Encourage the Members of Parliament to urge their respective governments to commit a minimum of 1% of the national budget to the promotion of renewable energy.

To read the full recommendations, please click here.  

Mainstreaming gender in energy policies and programming is good social policy and would enhance the efficiency of energy policies. Incorporating gender perspectives in energy projects, policy and planning is critical in ensuring the effectiveness not just of energy programmes and policies, but of all development activities that involve energy use. Low-carbon, renewable and energy-efficient technologies can make a dramatic improvement to women’s lives, while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Off-grid renewable energy can be used to provide electricity in rural communities, for agricultural production and processing machinery, water pumps, communications technologies, and other equipment. This frees up women’s time, expands their access to information and provides new employment and business opportunities. Examples of these technologies include solar photovoltaic panels, small hydro systems, small-scale wind turbines, and biogas digesters fuelled by local animal wastes.

For more information on how policy-makers can promote renewable energy, please click here or consult the ‘How-To Guide: Renewable Energy for Parliamentarians’

Gender and the International Action Framework on Climate Change

In December 2015 international negotiators will meet in Paris to carve out a new climate change agreement for tackling global warming.  Curbing carbon emissions is the most critical item on the list, but in recent years gender has worked its way up the agenda.  In 2012, it became a permanent feature on UN climate conventions.  Most bodies that support and fund climate change action, such as the Global Environment Facility, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the Adaptation Fund now have gender strategies and seek to streamline gender across their services.

Interview COP19: Aira Kalela, Senior advicer, Finland

Pushing for gender provisions at the global level is crucial for boosting gender-responsive climate change at the national level.  The examples above illustrate that there are plenty of opportunities for such win-win strategies, but past experiences indicate that political support for gender strategies is not easily cemented.  Global endorsement of the need for gender-responsive climate change strategies would provide much-needed support for gender champions to take such initiatives forward in their national parliaments.  It would also lead donors and aid agencies to make more financial support available for relevant initiatives.

Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC

“It is critical that that new economy not only re-establish the relationship between man and nature, which has been thoroughly not respected, but it also re-establishes the balance that is needed between the genders.”