Five things the UN climate negotiators could do for gender equality

A woman looks at a map during the second day of COP21 in Paris

The international climate negotiations, taking place in Paris from 30 November to 11 December, are expected to complete a new, legally binding, international agreement for the first time in over two decades.

It’s a big task and for a truly transformational agreement, political commitment to gender equality is needed. Here are five priorities that policy-makers should be taking into account, all drawn from the BRIDGE Gender and Climate Change Cutting Edge Pack.

1. Change the way climate change and its responses are framed 

It’s time to move beyond technical analyses to a focus on the social and gender dimensions of climate change.

There are multiple aspects of women’s and men’s experiences of climate change on the ground.  We need investment in building the evidence base around these, and adequate methodologies need to be developed to measure the gender impacts of climate change at local, national and international levels.

We also need to move beyond simple assumptions about women’s vulnerability to highlight women’s agency in adapting to and mitigating climate change. This will involve integrating women’s valuable knowledge and practical experience into policymaking processes, as well as respecting traditional local knowledge of women and men. 

2. Create gender-aware policies and institutions 

In order to create an enabling environment for people-focused, gender transformative climate change interventions,  institutions need to critically examine their own structures, processes and policies, identifying and addressing ways in which they may create or reproduce gender inequalities, and identifying ways to address these..

There also needs to be more funding for civil society institutions at international, national and local levels to hold climate change policymakers to account on their political commitments to gender equality.

3. Advocate for stronger participation of women in climate change institutions and processes 

There needs to be equal participation of women and men in climate change processes at local, national and international levels, in decision-making on both mitigation and adaptation. It is essential to advocate for greater presence of women at the negotiating tables, whether at international meetings such as the one taking place in Paris, or at national and regional dialogues on climate change.  Social and gender audits can help to assess levels of gender blindness in climate change institutions and architecture. 

4. Promote alternatives to market-based responses 

Where possible, alternative approaches to mitigation and climate financing should be sought that do not exclude women or exacerbate gender inequalities, replicate or rely on inequalities between developed and developing countries.

If market-based approaches are used to address climate change mitigation, measures are needed to ensure they do not exclude or further disadvantage women, and that women and men benefit equally from them.

5. Move beyond generalisations that place women and men in two polarised groups 

Gender stereotypes are not helpful in understanding complex realities where both women and men are both vulnerable to the effects of climate change and – in many cases – also actors in managing its responses. While it is true that climate change has increased many women’s vulnerability and deepened their existing levels of poverty in many cases, it is important to see this in social terms – through an intersectional lens – this way they can encompass a wide diversity of experiences due to age, ethnicity, class, and in particular, gender which can prevent women and men from exercising their full rights. 

Find out more

Further recommendations, including for donors, researchers, civil society and NGOs – as well as decision-makers – can be found in the BRIDGE Gender and Climate Change Cutting Edge Pack.

BRIDGE Gender and Climate Change topic page.

Three reasons gender matters at the Paris climate talks’ 

Francophone countries organise around COP21

During the COP21 climate talks, various organisations working in Francophone countries have organised a number of initiatives, actions, capacity building events. Many publications, resources, and toolkits have also been produced in French. The French group Genre et Justice climatique (Gender and Climate justice), Genre en Action and several some other organisations set up meetings before the the negotiations to gather examples of good practice, experiences and opinions.  

All of those initiatives can be found in a thematic dossier here on the Médiaterre website