Experts call for stepped-up gender-responsive climate policy and action

Date: 19 October 2015

On the eve of the last negotiation session before Parties meet to adopt a new climate agreement at the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in December 2015, experts issued recommendations to encourage and facilitate the incorporation of gender perspectives in related mechanisms and processes.

The three-day meeting in Bonn, Germany, from 14-16 October was convened by UN Women in collaboration with the Secretariat of the UNFCCC and UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), and brought together some 25 experts from relevant fields, including governments, Parties, academia, women’s organizations, climate finance bodies, and the UN system. The meeting was a contribution to the implementation of the Lima Work Programme on Gender adopted at COP 20 in Lima in 2014.

The year 2015 is critical for climate policy and the broader sustainable development agenda. Women are agents of change and leaders that play a crucial, yet often unrecognized, role in climate action. Women are key to the management of natural resources and to spearheading sustainable practices, including through the use and development of technology, at the household, community, national and global levels to respond to and find common solutions to climate-related crises.

The Expert Group Meeting discussions highlighted common elements and principles for gender mainstreaming across various UNFCCC processes. A range of country case studies, including from Mexico, Nepal, Malawi and Sudan served as illustrative examples of climate change gender action plans and their impact on national climate policy frameworks. Experts also identified opportunities for incorporating gender equality considerations in the operations of the Green Climate Fund and in technology needs assessments. 

Liane Schalatek, of the Heinrich Böll Stiftung (a German independent political foundation) and author of one of the background papers for the event, praised the meeting as “a unique opportunity [with] real potential to set new international best practice in the operations of a climate finance mechanism and the implementation of gender-responsive climate actions. This opportunity must not be missed.” 

Experts underlined the crucial importance of the outcome of COP 21 for gender equality and women’s empowerment. “The climate agreement to be adopted in Paris in December 2015 must be coherent with and reflect the outcomes of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development,” said Lorena Aguilar, of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and one of the Co-Chairs’ of the event. “These outcomes strongly committed to ensuring gender equality and girls’ and women’s empowerment and enjoyment of their human rights. These commitments must also be reflected in the forthcoming climate agreement.”

Also in Bonn, a few days later, a UN Women team led by Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri took part in the final negotiations, beginning on 19 October. The team aims to provide technical inputs, substantiation and evidence to support advocacy for gender equality and women’s empowerment in the new climate agreement.

Ms. Puri led the UN Women team in advocating for a stronger reflection of gender equality and women's empowerment in the new agreement. Reaching out to over 30 parties, including groups of countries and their representatives such as the G77, EU, AOSIS, LDC Group, Arab Group, African Group, Ms. Puri said: “We cannot fully realize goals in adaptation, mitigation and resilience-building without addressing the specific needs and differentiated impact of climate change on women or without recognizing and supporting their leadership and agency in climate responses.”