New Climate Agreement Increases Gender Equality Commitments

Date: 11 Jan 2012

Gender equality issues rose a step higher on the international climate change agenda at the recently concluded UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa. The Durban Platform that resulted from the meeting highlights an unprecedented 11 commitments to gender equality, including in a widely heralded new agreement to create an international Green Climate Fund.

Given the fraught and contentious nature of international climate talks in recent years, expectations for Durban were muted. But gender advocates focused on pushing forward commitments made a year earlier at negotiations in Cancun, including to create institutions in the critical areas of climate finance, technology and adaptation. Commitments to gender were subsequently secured in all three, with efforts by Delegations of Haiti, Finland, Ghana, Iceland, Malawi and Nepal among others.

The creation of the Green Climate Fund marks the first time that a climate finance mechanism will be established with gender aspects integrated from the onset, including in its objectives and guiding principles, operational modalities, and goal for gender balance on its board and secretariat. The fund is expected to channel much of the annual US $100 billion that developed countries have committed to mobilize for climate change by 2020. It will support efforts both to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, and adapt to the consequences of warming, from natural disasters to changes in agricultural productivity.

The Durban Platform also set up the Climate Technology Centre and Network. Its mandate includes making gender considerations part of broadening access to technology to manage climate change, such as through greater energy efficiency to cut emissions. The capacity for gender sensitivity will be factored into a process to select a host organization for the centre.

These steps recognize that the spread of technology will be most effective if it factors in the fact that men and women often have different needs and face varying impacts of climate change. For example, land use for large-scale energy projects effects women and men differently where they have different access and ownership of the land effected. Modern cook stoves, for example, can not only cut emissions levels, but also produce cleaner inside air and reduce the amount of time required to collect fuel—two issues that disproportionately affect poorer women.

Prominent women at the climate talks highlighted the roles that women play in climate change. “Many actors outside this process are ready to support our efforts, said Patricia Espinosa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Mexico and the former President of the Cancun negotiations, in her speech at the Opening Ceremony. “I have seen for example that women are actively seeking solutions and exercising leadership in their communities. Let us help empower them and boost their contributions.

Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland who now chairs the Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice, attended the opening ceremony and noted: “We have an opportunity if we link the leadership of women at the grass-roots, their wisdom, their knowledge, their coping mechanisms with the fact that more and more women are ministers and leaders who have access to the negotiating tables…where decisions are being taken.

Additional outcomes of the Durban talks include an agreement to work towards a legally binding climate treaty to be approved by 2015 and enforced in 2020; extension of the Kyoto Protocol, which has legally binding emissions caps for some countries, until 2017; and a new framework for reporting emissions reductions by both developed and developing countries. The next major round of negotiations will take place in Doha, Qatar, at the end of 2012.

In Durban, UN Women played a critical role in providing technical support to Delegations that intervened on behalf of gender dimensions and advocating for broader recognition of the gender dimensions of global warming, working with key partners that included the Global Gender Climate Alliance, the UNFCCC Women and Gender Constituency, and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. UN Women is an Official Observer to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), under which international climate talks take place.

For more information, including towards building the case for making gender equality integral to all future climate agreements, check out the facts and figures at Climate Change: Putting Gender Equality at the Centre.