Gender perspective in public climate change mitigation policies: Why?

What is the relationship between gender perspective and climate change mitigation strategies? Why is it necessary? What does feminism have to do with environmental issues?

The answers to these questions can arise from detailed data analysis, theoretical arguments and legal justifications. However, an immediate response is simple: Integrating the gender perspective into climate change strategies is unavoidable because it is fair. That is, it is a matter of social justice and fundamental human rights. Gender as an analysis category has been used to make visible how public policies, programs and actions carried out by different countries can have different effects for women and men, subject to the context and vulnerability conditions of people.

Concerning climate change, the main argument to understand why these are currently indivisible issues is that, in all countries, their impacts are higher in the population whose subsistence relies on natural resources or those that are incapable of coping with environmental impacts such as floods, droughts or hurricanes. Women in poverty, generally face more significant risks and burdens from climate change impacts and, in some cases, the majority of people in poverty are women. According to UNWOMEN[1], for every 100 men living on less than $ 1.90, there are 104 women in the same condition.

The lack of access to land ownership, specialized technical capabilities, knowledge and decision-making in women, excludes them from becoming agents of change in climate change mitigation. Integrating the gender perspective into mitigation strategies aims not only to close these gaps but to prevent them from expanding, especially in less developed countries where climate change-related actions tend to affect vulnerable populations, women and girls, to a greater extent. However, it is essential to understand that the gender perspective seeks to balance power relations and its final goal, is to achieve equality between men and women.

The international gender mainstreaming strategy was designed to address the integration of the gender perspective in climate change issues and other sectors. The strategy was adopted in Beijing in 1995 by United Nations member countries. Still, its implementation took longer in some sectors than others. Such was the case of international climate change mitigation strategies, which was not addressed at the 2015 Paris Agreement.

It was only after the Paris Agreement, through COP 21[2] and COP 22[3] that the gender perspective strategy was established and included as a priority and transversal axis in all the actions of the countries related to climate change. Its objectives were: (1) increased participation of women in decision-making; (2) attention to gender mainstreaming and recognition of the importance of equality and social inclusion in strategies; (3) training of key actors and national communications and (4) the integration of the Gender Perspective into action plans and policies for climate change mitigation[4].

The Gender Perspective incorporation has been gradual and through different gender approaches. Just as public equality policy approaches have evolved, changes related to gender have also been included in climate change strategies, sometimes creating confusion or even reinforced gender stereotypes on the issue.

One of those approaches is Ecofeminism. The concept was used in the past decades following UN’s Women in Development (WID) strategy established in the 1970s up to the beginning of 1990s, when it transformed into the affirmative action approach and, subsequently, converted into a cross-cutting strategy called gender mainstreaming. It is in gender mainstreaming that the concept of our analysis: gender justice finds a place. Gender justice as a concept is better suited to explain and define why the gender perspective should be addressed as a public policy issue on climate change

The gender justice approach aims to analyze the effects of climate change mitigation strategies not only from a technical approach but as an instrument of analysis and design of public policy that improves social justice. A fundamental characteristic of this approach is that it contests essentialist and traditional positions, using the concept as a technical instrument of public policy to minimize existing inequalities and avoid reinforcement of gender stereotypes.

Gender Justice

According to Michael K; Shrivastava M; Hakhu A; and Bajaj K[5] (2019), the gender justice approach seeks to identify relevant forms of exclusion and then establish opportunities for the active participation – at all levels – of women in the mitigation policy cycle. If gender barriers are not considered for the meaningful involvement of women, the effectiveness of these policies is limited.

Nowadays, the negative impacts of gender inequality continue to fall on women due to how traditional gender roles are socially constructed. As the specialists argue, mitigation policies offer unique opportunities to go beyond highlighting the structures of gender injustices integrated into socio-economic systems to dismantle gender stereotypes. This can be achieved by recognizing women as key actors of the low carbon society and, mostly, by removing the structural causes that generate unequal power relations between genders. But it would require a reconceptualization of the process of capacity building for mitigation, identifying elements that prevent full gender justice (Michael K. et al, 2019) and, eliminating essentialist approaches that reinforce gender stereotypes.

One of the main objectives for the inclusion of gender mainstreaming into climate change strategies relates to the fact that once gender inequalities are surpassed, affirmative actions will disappear. This achievement will allow us to transit to a balanced approach where the implantation of those policies will not result in differentiated impacts for men and women. The aim of using the gender justice approach is to control risk on policy implementation to ensure that the process will not reinforce gender stereotypes or unequal power relations.

We are part of a momentous time for global feminism and climate change. The integration of both issues is primordial. Failing to address both problems, we risk facing a scenario where women will not be able to decide the strategies that affect their lives, communities and social conditions.

Why is this important? Because women represent half of the population. Because historically they have been denied access to the land they work, to decisions and property rights. Because gender equality and opportunities are required. Because equality is ruled by law. Because the domestic burden has fallen on women. Because climate change is men’s and women’s responsibility.

Because it is fair.

Authors: IDOM – Gender Issues

IDOM with the collaboration of our colleagues from  Gender Issues recognizes the importance of INCLUDING in all our Climate change mitigation and adaptation projects the gender component, and we are committed to consider the gender elements in al lof our projects.

[1] UNWOMEN. Why gender equality matters to achieving all 17 SGDs.

[2] The twenty-first Conference of the Parties (COP 21) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)

[3] Agreements derived from the 2015 Paris Agreement

[4] United Nations. Climate change and the environment

[5] Michael, K., Shrivastava, M. K., Hakhu, A., & Bajaj, K. (2019). A two-step approach to integrating gender justice into mitigation policy: Examples from India. Climate Policy, 1–15.

*For Spanish version click here


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