Implementation of climate finance / Gender

Why gender responsiveness is crucial for equitable, effective and efficient climate finance

Women’s role in climate finance need to be strengthened. Photo: C. Krackhardt / Brot für die Welt

Women all over the world suffer from the impacts of climate change. They are often more severely affected by climate change impacts as they aggravate existing gender inequalities. In 2018, world hunger rose to 821 million people, particularly affecting agrarian countries that are dependent on rainfall or experience drought. This hits women and girls the hardest as they are often the last to eat, have to travel greater distances to collect water, and are carrying an increasing burden of ensuring rural livelihoods. Women are also engaged in strategies to cope with and adapt to climate change. As farmers, entrepreneurs, producers, consumers and household managers, women are powerful stakeholders in implementing low-carbon pathways in developing countries. This makes women important agents of change in the fight against global warming in the Global South.

The international climate conference in Cancun in 2010 acknowledged that gender equality and the effective participation of women are important for all aspects of climate change, in particular through a gender-sensitive approach in the framing of National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). Gender equality and the empowerment of women was also anchored as a core principle in the Paris Agreement’s pre-amble. Yet, a UNDP review in 2016 found that only 0.01 % of all funding worldwide supports projects that address both climate change and women’s rights. A CARE review from 2018 also highlighted that international climate finance falls short of adequately integrating gender into their adaptation-related finance.

Key factors for gender-differentiated climate change impacts

Climate change impacts are different based on one’s gender. These differences are due to long-standing gender inequalities which in turn are exacerbated by the consequences of climate change. Gender gaps continue to exist worldwide in education and employment opportunities; access to, use of and control over resources; and participation in decision-making between women, men, girls and boys.

Three key factors explain why women and girls are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than men.

  • Women and girls do most of the subsistence farming in poor countries and are the primary providers of food, water and fuel, which become scarce due to climate change. Women play a central role for food security of entire continents. As they often do not have the economic resources to benefit from technical improvements, such as installing irrigation systems, women smallholder farmers are dependent on rapidly degrading natural resources. The FAO estimates that if women had the same access to productive resources as men, their yields could increase by 20–30 percent.
  • The climate crisis exacerbates gender inequality and makes it harder to achieve gender justice. Children, and mostly girls, are often kept out of schools to help with domestic tasks that are affected by climate change. Around 132 million girls cannot attend schools and in conflict-ridden contexts, girls are more than twice as likely to be out of school than girls living in non-affected countries. In addition, when a family’s income from farming is reduced by droughts or floods, families can no longer afford school fees or marry off their girls early.
  • Social and cultural norms and barriers mean that women are less likely to be involved in decisions about how to cope with climate change. Within household and communities, decision-making over use of household income, assets and time is often led by men, and without women’s involvement. Women are less likely to have access to and control over the resources they need to prepare for and adapt to climate change, to recover from its impacts and to transform their lives. In addition, women’s roles and responsibilities (e.g. caring for children) often act as barriers to their involvement in public life.

A strategic approach for gender in climate finance

Women have faced many challenges in accessing climate finance, thus, it is critical to simplify funding requirements for them to scale up and replicate successful pilot models. It needs more women’s participation and leadership in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of climate related projects and programmes to ensure that they reduce climate related risks and barriers to gender equality. If gender is strategically integrated into climate change adaptation and mitigation projects and programmes, they can have long-lasting positive impacts on communities’ capacity to absorb climate shocks and on moving towards gender equality. There are numerous examples illustrating how this can work.

  • In many regions, farmers, pastoralists and fishers all live from the same resources, but have different needs that can lead to conflicts over land use. When yields and production are decreasing due to overexploitation, environmental degradation, and/or excessive droughts and floods, the situation is making the local people, particularly women, children and the elderly, vulnerable to increased levels of poverty. They are more exposed to shocks and stresses or forced to leave their homes. Reorganizing community groups into coalitions from the village and municipality up to the provincial level can build civil society organizations’ capacity to solve land-use conflicts. Training on land tenure system and relevant laws, with a particular focus on women who are not allowed to cultivate a piece of land following their husbands’ passing, enables them to advocate for the proper application of these laws. When women have rightful ownership of land, they can invest in plots for vegetable gardening, allowing them to diversify sources of income and directly interact with elected officials (see also CARE’s “She leads in crisis”).
  • Walking and mass transport are the means of transport for most people in developing cities. A sound business and social case can be made for addressing gender in urban transportation, for example through investments in cleaner public systems such as bus-rapid transit (BRT). Men and women have different needs for mass transit with respect to affordability, schedule flexibility, trip length and frequency, geographical coverage and density of the transit network as well as gender-specific security concerns. Addressing these different needs in designing urban transport will result in multiple wins: It can increase ridership as well as the profitability of mass transport systems., and it can contribute to increased access for women to employment, education and services as women are often more dependent on public transport options than men (see also Climate Finance Fundamentals 10).

There are several strategic levers that need to be considered for mainstreaming gender equality in climate related interventions through a comprehensive approach. Climate related interventions need to explicitly challenge the traditional gender roles and highlight the important role of women as agents of change. Climate related interventions have to address women’s strategic interests and should aim for a better position for women and girls in the family and the society, thus leading to equal participation and decision-making power. Climate related interventions have to address equal access to and control over resources if gender equality and women‘s recognition as key actors in climate resilience is to become a reality. Demanding legal equality for women within climate related interventions means that equality is recognised by law and discrimination of women is banned. Finally, gender-based and sexualized violence should be addressed in all projects. In the current COVID 19 crisis such an awareness becomes even more crucial, as the crisis and the accompanying lockdown have brought an increase in gender-based and sexual violence against women and girls. Violence endangers women’s physical, mental and reproductive health and restricts their self-determination, physical integrity and participation in society in general and climate related decisions in particular.

Climate finance needs to step up for gender

A strategic approach to gender can make climate finance more equitable, effective and efficient. In order to achieve such a change, national and international actors involved in climate finance need to increase their efforts at different levels.

Governments, at local, national and international levels, need to systematically engage women and girls in the design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of ambition-raising public policies and actions on climate change: Climate and disaster risk reduction policies must be informed by rigorous gender analysis to ensure that they address existing gender inequalities and other forms of social exclusion. Policymakers must commit to increase the meaningful participation and representation of women and women’s groups, including youth representatives, in all global climate negotiations, negotiating bodies, in national processes such as the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and National Adaptation Plans (NAP). Gender responsiveness can be enhanced through better alignment between international commitments and national policies, increased institutional coordination between environment and women’s rights ministries, capacity building, collection of sex-disaggregated data and gender information, and dedicated financial resources.

Donor countries need to step up financial support to gender just climate action by ensuring that at least 85% of climate adaptation funding also aims to achieve gender equality. Increasing and accelerating climate action will also require channeling finance in the right direction. Developed countries need to continue increasing finance for mitigation, adaptation and loss and damage action beyond 2020, and this must support actions which integrate climate action and gender equality, including climate action undertaken by grassroot women’s organizations. Given their central role in local responses to the climate crisis, it is critical for women-led and women’s rights organizations to receive the required resources to fulfill their mandate.

International climate funds need to continue their efforts to integrate gender to various degrees in their procedures and project portfolio. The Global Environment Facility (GEF) as the longest standing international climate fund with its Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF) initially did not stand out with its gender policy. Since adopting its Policy on Gender Mainstreaming in 2011, it required all existing GEF agencies (mostly multilateral development banks and UN agencies) to demonstrate their gender capacity. In 2017 the GEF approved a new Policy on Gender Equality aiming at a more pro-active gender integration approach and improved reporting on gender-disaggregated targets and results. This is complemented by a GEF Gender Implementation Strategy, approved mid-2018, which outlines strategic entry points and target actions as well as a results framework. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was the first multilateral fund to start off with key building blocks for a comprehensive gender-responsive approach to its operations in place. It developed a GCF gender policy and action plan, but equally importantly integrated gender considerations in approved operational modalities and policies. These include the accreditation approach by requiring GCF implementing entities to have their own gender policies or action plans, the capacity and track record of implemented projects, as well as considering gender impacts of GCF funding proposals in the investment framework via several sub-criteria in a technical expert review. In November 2019, the GCF adopted a revised Gender Policy and a new Gender Action Plan (2020-2023) which increases capacity building support to developing countries to fulfil the gender mandates. However, the revision falls short of breaking new ground and is without progressive vision. The GCF appears to have lost its earlier status as a gender integration trendsetter in climate finance operations.

Key principles for operationalizing gender responsive climate finance

There are several key principles and fields of actions to operationalize gender equality and women’s empowerment for climate finance rooted in a human-rights based approach. Climate finance actors should adopt the following main areas of action for gender-responsive climate finance:

  • A people-centred approach that addresses women’s interest in a strategic way and works on changing the gender roles of women and men: This includes strengthening the role of women in adaptation projects and providing decentralized energy access via renewable energies to address the persistent energy poverty faced by many women. Particular attention should be paid to small-scale and community-based actions developed by women.
  • Advancing the strategic orientation of climate finance towards the needs and interests of women and girls: Climate finance needs to reflect more substantially, how it can contribute to gender equality. This also requires a higher sensitivity towards gender-based and sexual violence, thus reflecting the current changes from COVID 19 crisis and the rise of authoritarian and right-wing forces.
  • Gender mainstreaming in international climate finance: Bilateral donors and international funds should integrate gender-related criteria in the development of funding, accreditation, and programming guidelines and in all stages of project and programme implementation. This includes explicit gender-specific criteria in performance objectives and results measurement framework.
  • Gender expertise for national policy development: National governments need to ensure gender expertise and participation in the development of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) and National Adaptation Plans (NAP). They need to ensure a substantial participation of women as key stakeholders and beneficiaries in the national coordinating mechanisms as well as elaborate specific guidelines for integrating gender into the national policies and proposed interventions.
  • Increase access of local women’s groups to climate finance: Climate finance needs to be more easily accessible. Approaches such as small grant approaches and direct access in international funds efforts should be expanded. It can also involve more cooperation with non-governmental actors or international funds with experience in working with grassroots organizations and extremely vulnerable target groups.
  • Access to independent evaluation and recourse mechanisms of international funds: Groups and individuals, including women, that are affected by climate change funding in recipient countries need more options to allow them to voice their grievances and seek compensation and restitution where climate finance has negative effects on them.

Christine Lottje

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