Of all the ‘fragile’ actors affected by climate change, women are the most affected, due to discrimination and social conventions. An inclusive climate strategy should consider the different needs and contributions between genders, not only to be effective in combating climate change but also to help reduce social inequalities by promoting women’s rights. A meeting in Bonn that brought together representatives of the three Conventions adopted at the 1992 UN Conference on Environment and Development (or Earth Summit) reminded us of the long and difficult road to acceptance of this awareness.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)

As early as 1992, the CBD recognised the crucial importance of women in the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. The Preamble promotes the full participation of women at all levels in the formulation of policies and implementation of actions for the conservation of biodiversity.

Based on ideas and policies such as the “Towards a Gender-Responsive Implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity“, a guidebook published by the CBD Secretariat in 2018, the Convention adopted during COP15 in December 2022 its Gender Action Plan. This plan emphasises the importance of promoting efforts towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, which are considered crucial for the effective implementation of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework: an ambitious plan to realise the vision of a world in harmony with nature by 2050 (we discussed it here)To achieve this goal, the CBD adopts two distinct strategies. The first aims to optimise synergies between gender equality, biodiversity, climate change and land degradation, promoting coherence and coordination with the 2030 Agenda and fostering a human rights-based approach. The second strategy, on the other hand, aims to ensure meaningful and concrete involvement of women and girls from indigenous peoples and local communities.

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

In the years following the Rio Summit, the UNCCD was developed and entered into force in 1996. The Convention repeatedly emphasises the key role played by women in regions affected by desertification and/or drought, especially in rural areas of developing countries. The importance of ensuring women’s full participation at all levels in programmes to combat desertification and mitigate the effects of drought is highlighted.

However, gender inclusion has faced difficulties and despite the stated goals, 70% of delegates are still men. The first Gender Action Plan was approved and adopted in 2017, but the following two years saw no significant changes until the UNCCD established a Gender Caucus at COP14 in India in 2019. This allowed every delegate or COP participant to examine all decisions, not just those related to gender, through a gender perspective.

The Secretariat also commissioned a study on the differential impacts of desertification and drought on women and men, and the results are worrying. One-third of women are employed in agriculture, but despite the economic importance of the sector, their role is often marginalised. Women are often excluded from participation in and management of natural resources and have no access to training or credit, and they also face social barriers in decision-making processes.

The goal is, therefore, to strengthen women’s property rights, including access to resources and services, improve access to innovation, knowledge, and appropriate technologies, promote economic empowerment and eradicate poverty and malnutrition.

The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC)

Unlike the other two Conventions adopted at the 1992 Earth Summit, the UNFCCC did not initially include provisions on women’s rights or gender equality. This trend has remained unchanged for almost a decade.

The first significant recognition of the link between climate and gender came in 2001 at COP7 in Marrakesh, where Parties were invited to consider appointing women to elective positions in any body established by the UNFCCC. The establishment in 2009 of the Women and Gender Constituency (of which ICN is a member), helped to strengthen the presence of female experts, activists and researchers in the COP negotiation processes. Since then, significant progress has been made in mainstreaming the gender perspective into all thematic areas of the negotiations.

The 2014 Lima Work Programme on Gender (LWPG) is an example of this evolution. Created to stimulate a gender balance, it worked to make gender considerations a focal point in the activities of the Parties and the Secretariat in the implementation of the Convention and the Paris Agreement. The Gender Action Plan (GAP), adopted in 2017, was a further step forward, providing a specific tool to create the conditions in which gender issues could be integrated into climate policies and actions.

Over time, revisions and updates of the LWPG and GAP developed, such as the one at COP25 where Parties agreed on an enhanced 5-year work programme. Another mid-term review will take place next year, which promises further opportunities to refine and strengthen the gender centrality of actions to address climate change.

The dialogue in Bonn was a crucial opportunity to explore new strategies and innovations that can break down persistent inequalities. The meeting allowed for the sharing of ideas on how to improve collaboration and policy alignment among key actors, promoting more effective implementation of gender and climate change initiatives within the UNFCCC and other international frameworks. In this scenario, Gender Action Plans are not seen as an end, but as tools to fill gaps and mainstream a gender perspective into climate policies and actions. The goal is to change systems and structures to enable women and girls to actively participate and lead these initiatives, but there is still much to be done.

Article by Camilla Pollera, ICN Volunteer

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