Gender Equality and Climate Action

By Renata Koch Alvarenga, Director of EmpoderaClima

Gender Equality, Sustainable Development Goal 5 of the United Nations 2030 Agenda. Climate Action,  Sustainable Development Goal 13 of the UN. Two different goals of the most important global agenda of our time, but that together, represent a fundamental issue: climate justice.

The Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice set the principles of climate justice, based on International Human Rights Law, which include: respect and protect human rights; support the right to development; share benefits and burdens equitably; ensure that decisions on climate change are participatory, transparent and accountable; highlight gender equality and equity; harness the transformative power of education for climate stewardship; and use effective partnerships to secure climate justice.

Climate justice represents a human approach to the climate change issue, taking into account the most vulnerable groups to the impacts of environmental disasters - who, at the same time, are the least responsible for their causes. It is essential that climate justice is achieved for gender equality, because a sustainable future, so desired by world leaders, depends on it.

But what do women actually have to do with climate change? Women have a special vulnerability to climate change, that goes beyond the biological vulnerabilities, also including cultural and social vulnerabilities. For example, in scenarios of environmental disasters, especially in developing countries, women suffer more with food insecurity. This happens because, in many situations, women are responsible for staying at home and taking care of their kids, while it is also dangerous for them to walk outside alone - which restrains them when they have to look for food in a chaotic scenario of a disaster caused by climate change.

Due to the patriarchal context societies were developed in, even today, women are at a disadvantage when it comes to their financial resources and quality education, in comparison to men. Poverty increases the vulnerability of people to environmental disasters, and therefore, as there are more opportunities of social mobility for women, mainly in the Global South, female resilience to the impacts of climate change also increases.

It is important to remember that women are not just victims of climate change, but also an important representation of strength for the solution of this global issue. Women, especially black and indigenous women, must be present in decision-making environments, both at the local and regional levels, and at the national and global levels. This means mobilizing feminist groups so that more delegations of the United Nations Conferences on Climate Change, the COPs, have women on their teams.

Diversity, not just of women in general, but of people and group that are extremely affected by climate change (such as island countries and indigenous peoples), is fundamental for just and inclusive climate change mitigation and adaptation policies. In order for that to happen, the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) negotiators must make human rights a priority when developing global policy mechanisms about the climate; which is already happening, with the inclusion of the term "climate justice" in the Paris Agreement, adopted at COP21, and the implementation of the Gender Action Plan (GAP), adopted at COP23.

Furthermore, actions in your community that seek to raise awareness to the feminine role of action against the effects of climate change as just as important as global policies of the UN! EmpoderaClima will assist you in learning more about this topic in the next few months, so please follow us in this challenging yet essential journey toward sustainable development.