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Ending global poverty begins with women’s rights

Women and Climate Change

Women and Climate Change

November 26, 2010

Women & climate change

When natural disasters strike, they hit poor communities first and worst. And since women make up an estimated 70 percent of those living below the poverty line, they are most likely to bear the heaviest burdens.

Additionally, women are responsible for the majority of food production in many developing countries despite typically having restricted access to markets, land and credit. This lack of access means they face a double whammy: they are more dependent on the natural resources, that are under threat from climate change, but they are limited in what they can do to cope.

Women are also often left out of planning and management processes regarding global climate institutions and finance, even though they are at times in the best position to provide solutions.

COP decisions in Cancun can directly address these inequalities and engage women as critical agents of change.

Key reasons why gender equality must be incorporated into a global climate agreement:

  • Women are often the linchpins of communities, families, and local economies. They are the key providers for the household, and raise the children, care for the old and the sick. As a result, they are on the front lines of the devastating effects of climate change, and largely define the community’s ability to adapt or recover from a disaster.
  • Women produce up to 60 to 80 percent of the food in most developing countries. They regularly do the jobs, such as cultivating crops, and collecting water and fuel, which are most affected by climate change. Women’s entrepreneurship in agriculture could make significant contributions to both climate adaptation.
  • Women are disproportionately represented among the poor, making up roughly 70% of those living below the poverty line. They often have less access to resources and essential services before and after disaster strikes, and are more likely to die during natural disasters than men.
  • Women often struggle to get their voices heard in the climate debate. Given their central role in the family and community, women have invaluable knowledge about creating and implementing innovative ways to adapt to a changing climate, yet their opinions and experience are all too often overlooked.
  • Other international agreements specifically address gender. Of the legally binding agreements that resulted from the 1992 Earth Summit, the UNFCCC is the only convention not to incorporate gender issues. The Convention on Biological Diversity has incorporated a gender plan of action that recognizes women’s traditional knowledge and access to land assets.

State of Play

  • Key negotiating texts in the long-term cooperative action track (LCA) have retained references to women and gender equality in areas such as shared vision, adaptation, and technology transfer. These references were originally added to the text by countries in negotiating sessions leading up to COP 15 in Copenhagen. 
  •  In other key negotiating texts – particularly Finance – there are no references to gender. It is critical to address this gap, especially taking gender into consideration in the policies and programs of a Global Climate Fund, including equal access to financing, and ensuring equitable gender representation on the board of that Fund. 

Gender equality at Cancun and beyond

Gender equality is integral to meeting global goals on poverty eradication and sustainable development. A gender perspective should be explicitly included in any texts on climate change adaptation, mitigation, technology, and finance, recognizing gender-differentiated impacts, as well as women’s and men’s capacity to participate and act as agents for change in climate change solutions. Specifically, parties in Cancun must ensure that:

  •  Language in key sections of the LCA text are retained pertaining to shared vision, adaptation, capacity building, and development and transfer of technologies. These references recognize the differentiated impacts of climate change on vulnerable populations, groups and communities, prioritize the most vulnerable in channelling resources, and promote the active participation of women in decision-making, planning, implementation and evaluation measures.
  • A Global Climate Fund must be established that reflects principles of gender equality at all levels. The Fund should have equality of gender representation on its Board and should ensure accessibility of its financing to women and other marginalised groups. Resources from the climate finance mechanism need to be delivered in a way that is accessible and driven by the engagement of developing country governments and citizens, particularly women. Such a Fund should have separate windows or sub-funds for adaptation and mitigation. In addition, the Global Climate Fund should specifically provide for: 

               -full participation of affected communities and populations, including women,  in the design and implementation of programs and activities, and mechanisms to ensure accountability to these populations; and     

               -take gender into account in all policies and programs, including ensuring equal access to financing.             

  •  Developed countries must follow-through on the delivery of fast-start and long-term finance to developing countries to support adaptation and mitigation actions in developing countries. All of the finance delivered for adaptation needs must come from public sources in the form of grants to ensure that resources are available to and effectively directed toward women and other marginalized communities.           © Oxfam International November 2010

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