Politics of Poverty

Gender matters in the fight against climate change

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Ricardina Sune Llasa holds a thermometer used at a weather station in the Peruvian highlands. Oxfam America has been supporting rural indigenous people in the mountainous region of Espinar, Peru to become more resilient in the face of rainfall shortages, extreme cold, and other life-threatening consequences of climate change. From 2009-2012, Oxfam’s local partners worked with farmers in 22 communities to pilot reservoirs to conserve water, pressure-powered sprinkler irrigation systems, and hardier grasses for animals. The project also trained farmers to monitor weather data and to respond to climate-related emergencies. Photo: Percy Ramírez / Oxfam America

Multilateral donor enacts policies to boost equality in access to aid.

Annaka Peterson is the Senior Program Officer of the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative, led by the World Resources InstituteOverseas Development Institute, and Oxfam.

Men and women experience the effects of climate change differently, and in many contexts women are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men. When coupled with the fact that women usually have unequal access to resources and decision making processes, they are at a disadvantage when responding to the effects of climate change.

But women are more than just vulnerable to climate change, they are important actors in addressing climate change.  Last Thursday, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) became  the first multilateral climate fund to recognize this as well. Before its operations begin, the donor has a gender policy and action plan in place. It’s important to recognize this achievement and the years of advocacy that went into realizing this critical step.

Last week’s decision to adopt the gender policy and action plan was hard fought. Oxfam campaigned for the establishment of the GCF, worked hard to ensure the Fund would aim for gender balance in its own governance and operations and would commit to a gender sensitive approach, and fought to make sure the GCF would operationalize the commitment to gender spelled out in its governing instrument.

The adoption of the Fund’s gender policy and action plan marks a major milestone in our efforts to ensure that the GCF becomes the best multilateral climate fund for women. But the GCF must do more than just ‘tick the gender box.’ The GCF will not only need to engage women in climate change adaptation, but also ensure that efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions involve women in decision making and take into account gender roles in the consumption and management of energy sources.

We need to continue to raise awareness about why looking at gender issues and engaging men and women is a core part of achieving the objectives of the Green Climate Fund, i.e. to promote the paradigm shift towards low-emission and climate-resilient development pathways.

There is still a lot of work to translate the Fund’s commitment to gender into equitable outcomes for men and women, but for today, let’s acknowledge all the hard work that it took to get this far, and recommit ourselves to continuing to push the Green Climate Fund to respond to women’s needs in the face of climate change.

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