Women are on the front lines of climate change — often the first to face its impacts on their livelihoods and very lives.
Women’s everyday activities as managers of household resources — such as water, fuel and food — become increasingly burdensome. As small-scale farmers, they endure environmental stress more often, with far fewer resources than men to cope. As migrants and refugees pushed from areas of climatic stress, they are at higher risk of disease and violence. And during natural disasters like floods and hurricanes, they count higher among the dead.
Conversely, as farmers, entrepreneurs, managers of households, scientists and politicians, women are poised to drive positive change and contribute to the vast portfolio of strategies needed to address this threat. Women’s empowerment reaps benefits across the climate-related terrain: in ecological health, food security, disaster preparedness and increased community resiliency to natural disasters, as well as reduction in the carbon footprints of households, communities and countries.
The stakes are higher than ever to empower women and ensure they are equal actors and benefactors in order to truly mitigate and cope with climate change. UN Women has partnered with the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) to support the inclusion of gender considerations in a new climate agreement, working closely with other UN agencies and an advocacy team, co-lead by the Women’s Environment and Development Organization and Energia.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in force since 1994, sets the overall agenda for global efforts to tackle the challenges posed by climate change. With the Kyoto Protocol to the Convention, state Parties committed to binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions over the five-year period 2008-2012. Negotiations at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-15) in December 2009 resulted in a Copenhagen Accord, which set an unbinding target of limiting global warming to no more than 2 degrees Celsius and pledged increased funding for developing countries to mitigate and adapt to climate change. However, this accord was only ‘noted’ by Parties and not adopted, therefore efforts are still ongoing to reach a comprehensive and legally binding agreement on a post-2012 framework, which may be concluded at the next Conference of Parties (COP-17) in Durban to be held from 28 November to 9 December 2011.
UN Women and its partners have stressed that the response set out in a new climate agreement must be gender-sensitive. Women’s concerns must be heard and their participation as stakeholders ensured. The agreement’s measures should be consistent with the principles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); gender equity should be an integral part of its effective implementation; and sex-disaggregated data should be used for policy design, monitoring and reporting.
At COP-15 in Copenhagen, governments in the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention (AWG-LCA) worked on a series of texts which became Addendums to the LCA outcome Draft decision CP.15, and which are expected to remain as the building blocks for the expected final outcome of the continuing negotiations. Although obstacles to its eventual adoption persist, the text has potential to become a comprehensive and ambitious agreement. While the Kyoto Protocol is silent on gender considerations, the draft decisions currently contain a number of gender-specific references that would have profound implications, if included in the final agreement, for generations of women as they cope with the impacts of climate change.
Following the round of talks in Bonn, Germany in June 2010, the Long-Term Cooperative Action (LCA) text to facilitate negotiations includes six direct references to gender and women, in five key sections: Shared Vision; Adaptation; Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD); Capacity-Building; and Social and Economic Consequences of Response Measures.