Can climate finance contribute to gender equity in developing countries?

Sam Wong


Climate finance is generally known as financial flows mobilised by industrialised country governments and private entities that support climate change mitigation and adaptation in developing countries. This paper raises questions as to whether climate finance creates a level playing field as women and men decide how climate resources are used, and whether climate funds are able to challenge gender discrimination. The paper conducts an extensive review of literature on forest sequestration, climate-smart agriculture and information communication as case studies of mitigation, adaptation and disaster management respectively in order to explore the mechanisms and outcomes of how gender relationships are changed, challenged and reproduced when climate finance is channelled to climate change-related strategies.

The paper is based on a common framework in the literature which considers three levels of analysis: contextual, procedural and distributive. Contextual equity touches on the capacities of different actors and examines how existing social and institutional conditions shape people’s access to resources. Procedural equity is concerned with the decision-making process in participatory space. It highlights inclusion/exclusion, representation and accountability. Distributive equity explores how costs, benefits and risks are shared amongst group members and examines elements of fairness in the distribution process. The paper considers gender as an additional level at which to analyse equity.

The examples considered in the paper illustrate that the costs and benefits of formal participation and resource allocations are not often evenly distributed between women and men. Greater participation amongst women, without adequate understanding of underlying factors, would simply increase their workloads, without empowering them. However, the analysis in the paper show that climate finance, especially Green Climate Fund, has the potential to strengthen the resources and rights of both previously-deprived women and men, and consequently to achieve gender equity, if climate finance is willing to take up the challenges of addressing gender discrimination.

More attention and resources are needed to tackle the deeply rooted social structures that have left the majority of women insecure in terms of land tenure. Some of the strategies could be re-designed by better incorporating gendered behaviours and knowledge in land and water management. A more critical power analysis would also help enhance the effectiveness of community involvement in mitigative and adaptive capacity building.


Wong, S. (2016). Can climate finance contribute to gender equity in developing countries? Journal of International Development, 28(3), 428-444.