Gender and climate governance

While responses to climate change informed by gender analysis often focus on differentiated vulnerabilities, there is evidence that women and men have different consumption patterns (leading to different emissions), use energy and transport differently and may have different attitudes and perceptions towards climate policies (EIGE, 2012).

To address gender-based inequalities and vulnerabilities from climate change, the development and implementation of adaptation plans and programmes should include the participation of women’s groups as well as gender specialists. The 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change cited robust evidence for ‘increased or heightened [gender inequality] as a result of weather events and climate-related disasters intertwined with socioeconomic, institutional, cultural, and political drivers that perpetuate differential vulnerabilities’ (UNFCCC, 2016). The GSDRC Topic Guide on Gender notes that climate change can exacerbate existing inequalities by making natural resource-based livelihoods ‒ on which women are more likely to rely ‒ more difficult through scarcity. Natural disasters also kill more women than men. For political and cultural reasons, women often have unequal access to mobility, knowledge and money ‒ owing to lower-paying jobs and less access to loans. Finance targeting resilience should target not only socioeconomic and public service vulnerabilities but also the gendered access to adaptation responses. Men are more likely to be able to migrate to new locations to find new livelihoods, for instance (Kangas et al., 2015).

Where necessary, national institutions may need mandates as well capacity-building, incentives and personnel to enable the full participation of women’s groups ‒ across ages and ethnicities ‒ in climate change planning and implementation. ‘Gender mainstreaming’ refers to assessing the implications on women and men of policies, legislation, programmes or any other actions equally and considering their different experiences and needs through design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation so as to not perpetuate gender inequality (UNFCCC, 2016).

A 2016 technical paper by the UNFCCC Secretariat draws on tools and guidelines developed by UN bodies and international organisation to mainstream gender into climate change policies and programmes. These various tools seek to build knowledge and capacity for countries to develop and implement gender-responsive climate policies. The technical note identifies the following sequence to gender mainstreaming in common among the approaches:

  • Gender analysis: Considered a cornerstone of gender mainstreaming, gender analysis draws on quantitative and qualitative data to understand ‘if, how, and why, women and men are affected differentially in a particular context or sector’ (UNFCCC, 2016: 7). In theory, it reveals potential institutional, socioeconomic and cultural barriers that prevent equitable adaptation to climate change impacts. Beyond the programme or project level, it should also assess the political and institutional landscape to identify constraints, entry points and key actors who could affect the integration of gender considerations into planning, budgeting and other decision-making around resilience and low-carbon development.
  • Design and preparation of policies, programmes and projects: Merely achieving a gender balance is insufficient; capacity-building and awareness-raising are often also required. A gender goal backed by clear commitments should be integrated. Disaggregating groups make it possible to determine differential impacts, and so to design programmes to more specifically meet gendered capacity-building needs. This can then serve to identify specific areas to allocate resources to ensure the project/programme/policy addresses gender inequalities instead of reinforcing them. Finally, gender indicators should track progress along the lines of inclusion and access to resources.
  • Gender-responsive budgeting: The process of translating gender commitments into public budgeting commitments starts with ensuring the budgeting process is transparent and decision-makers are made accountable to their commitments. It also requires building the capacity of civil society and other gender advocates to engage with budgetary processes. Institutionally, this process is likely to be more impactful if located within the ministry of finance, which typically has more political influence than the ministry of environment. Having high-level representatives of multiple ministries at the table can also enable mainstreaming.
  • Implementation: Implementing agencies and personnel will need training in gender expertise, enabling systems and the collaboration of civil society.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: Gender-responsive indicators should be developed early in the process to provide a baseline for measurement of future progress. Indicators should be linked to gender goals and targets.