Gender and climate change: reflection

by | Apr 1, 2019 | Women & The Energy Transition | 0 comments

Taken from “Gender and Climate: ‘The effect of climate change policy on gender (in)equality’”: Karlijn Van den Broeck, academic year 2016-2017-Master thesis

Although gender was not present in the original UNFCC treaty, many years later, gender has been to some extent been integrated in the UNFCCC framework, with the COP21 in Paris being a consequence of that. As a result, gender has been integrated quite clearly into the Paris Agreement negotiated at the COP21 (see infra IV.4).The preamble of the Paris Agreement contains a reference to gender equality and the empowerment of women:

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity,”

In the operative body of the Paris Agreement, we can find references to gender in two articles:

Firstly, gender has been included in the area of adaptation, namely in article 7.5 of the Paris Agreement “Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based on and guided by the best available science and, as appropriate, traditional knowledge, knowledge of indigenous peoples and local knowledge systems, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions, where appropriate.”

Later on, the treaty also states that capacity building should be gender-responsive in article 11.2: “Capacity-building should be country-driven, based on and responsive to national needs, and foster country ownership of Parties, in particular, for developing country Parties, including at the national, subnational and local levels. Capacity-building should be guided by lessons learned, including those from capacity-building activities under the Convention, and should be an effective, iterative process that is participatory, cross-cutting and gender-responsive.

The Gender Action Plan

At the COP22 in Marrakech the development of a Gender Action Plan was requested. This Gender Action Plan (hereafter: GAP) has to propose concrete actions for gender-responsive climate measures in all areas of the UNFCCC and needs to indicate the priority areas of gender and climate. The GAP also has to tackle the issue of women’s participation in the decision making process by asking regular reporting from the UNFCCC bodies on their gender promotion.

In May 2017, a workshop was organised with the subsidiary UNFCCC bodies in Bonn, Germany. This workshop would define the necessary elements for the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan. During this workshop, the participants agreed on several priority areas and necessary actions. An example of such priority area is the field of capacity building, knowledge sharing and communication. In this area, there should be a systematic integration of gender. This can for example be done through pilot projects at a local level. These projects would enable the exchange of knowledge and experiences between official institutions and the local people of the community, including indigenous traditions and strategies.

The GAP should also focus on gender balance, participation and women’s leadership. An example target in this field is reaching a 50% representation of women in all Party delegations and constituted bodies under the UNFCCC by 2019. The GAP needs to build the grounds for a stronger integration of gender consideration within the UNFCCC framework and bodies. This can be done by developing gender checklists for the use in all UNFCCC activities. Ensuring domestic gender-responsive implementation should also be a focus of the GAP.


To guarantee gender-sensitive national policies it is important that women are represented in the decision-making processes on climate change. Including more women leads to a stronger climate change regime, since in countries where women are highly represented the ratification of environmental agreements and protection of land areas is more likely. Other research has shown that women are important leaders in times of climate change crisis. Yet, sadly, only 12 percent of heads of environmental ministries are women. Another important factor in countries is whether there is a cooperation between the environmental ministry and ministries like Women or Gender affairs or other national institutions that are put in place for the protection of women’s rights and gender equality. The National Climate Change Gender Action Plan (hereafter: ccGAP) often plays an important role in creating such a multi-sectoral cooperation for the first time. This kind of cross-sectoral and mutual capacity building is necessary to create effective and comprehensive national climate change policy. Some countries have made sure that women’s affairs representatives are actively participating in climate change planning. As a result, a steady increase in the recognition of gender concerns and gender action in the climate change sector plans is realised.


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