Mind the "GAP"! The programme for gender participation in climate policies

At the Conferences of the Parties (COP) for negotiations on climate policy for just under a decade various interest groups - referred to as 'Constituencies' - have existed and operate within the sphere of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to promote policies and projects relevant to their values and ideas.

These bodies include the Women and Gender Constituency, a particular interest group that promotes the inclusion of rights and interests of women and other gender groups within the sphere of climate and environmental issues. This Constituency, which began in 2009 with the participation of a small number of individuals and organisations, has become an increasingly important actor within the UNFCCC. It is also thanks to the work of this group if in 2015 civil society was able to voice its opinions in negotiations and succeeded in having principles relating to human rights included in the text of the Paris Agreement.

In this last week of negotiations, the Constituency achieved another important goal: the approval of the Gender Action Plan (GAP), a permanent programme aimed at ensuring an equal form of representation for women and men within the UNFCCC. In order to guarantee the same access opportunities to national delegations participating in the negotiations, the GAP will endeavour to raise awareness with regard to climate change and the mechanism of political participation with respect to both men and women. It will also continue to pursue its action to promote political pressure within the UNFCCC so that climate policies and financial programs are rendered more effective through the integration of gender perspectives.

The text of the programme is the result of intense work among the members of the Women and Gender Constituency, and despite the fact its approval may be considered as a positive example of democratic participation, a few issues still remain.

The document primarily refers to women as 'victims' of climate change, while their presentation as agents of change with entrepreneurial, scientific and political skills remains insufficient.

In addition, the text has been heavily reduced and the initial request for an explicit mention of the rights of indigenous women and human rights defenders within the framework of climate issues were not included in the final version.

The representative of the Kichwa indigenous population of Ecuador, Lina Gualinga, expressed her frustration on the day the GAP was approved, declaring that "the representation of female environmentalists and climate defenders is minimal at the COP conferences and the language of the negotiations has been elaborated and formulated, leaving no space to address our concerns."

Mary Robinson, President of the Mary Robinson Foundation and one of the political actors who has made the greatest efforts to ensure the Action Plan would be approved, also expressed her regret: "I would have expected a clear recognition of the importance of the needs, participation and traditional knowledge of indigenous and local women. We have worked hard to have these aspects included in the action plan. This did happen, but not to the extent we had hoped for. She went on to state that in any case adoption of the GAP may be definitely seen as "an important step forward."

The GAP nonetheless remains an instrument that will help to render operative and more substantial those principles already transversely present in the work of the UNFCCC. It is no surprise, therefore, that the text is not so innovative, but in any case, it remains an important achievement for the participation of women and other gender groups in the political arena of climate negotiations. So … mind the GAP! The process of change will not be stopped!

Chiara Soletti

Published for Italian Climate Network on Gli Stati Generali

Social justice involves access to renewable energy

During sessions of the Conferences of the Parties, the UNFCCC organises meetings dedicated to the most urgent climate issues. Yesterday a Gender Day was held at the COP23 Conference, a day dedicated to gender rights and the various adversities that women and men have to contend with in relation to climate change.

On this occasion, at one of the events occurring during the negotiations, Rachel Kyte (UN Special Representative for Sustainable Energy and CEO of Sustainable Energy for All) announced the launching of the 'People-Centered Accelerator', an important initiative aimed at facilitating access to energy for socially vulnerable groups.

Access to sustainable electricity is at the heart of economic and social well-being. However, more than 1 billion people still have no access to electricity and more than 3 billion have to cook with polluting and inefficient fuels, such as firewood. This poses particular issues and consequences for human rights and the health of people, and especially women, who remain culturally designated to the role of managing the family care and economy. Through the unlocking of both private and public funds, and facilitating collaboration among those who are involved in energy issues, gender policies and social justice, the People-Centered Accelerator intends to bring people back to the centre of development, guaranteeing them equal opportunities.

Rachel Kyle declared today during her report that "one of the objectives of the Paris agreement was to exclude no one. The world has become committed in this sense and in order to maintain this promise we have to think differently about how we offer accessible, reliable and modern energy services to the most discriminated people in the societies of the world. By promoting the inclusion of women and the most marginalised subjects in an attempt to attain universal access to energy, we can ensure that the transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy can really benefit everyone."

The project has attracted great interest, not only because it has the potential to facilitate the realisation of many of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals but also because it proposes an innovative approach to the involvement of women. Conventional energy policies tend to focus on the question of the supply of energy, with a limited focus on the entrepreneurial potential of women. The 'People-Centred Accelerator', on the other hand, considers 'non-technical' skills, such as a knowledge of the local territory and the community, this being a precious business advantage that makes women real agents of change.

Ajaita Shah, Administrative Director of the Frontier Market organisation and a founding partner of the initiative, finally stated that "We need to put women at the centre of energy access in order to achieve a more profound and broader impact. Investing in women is crucial not only for economic development, but this also plays a key role in overcoming barriers with respect to accessing sustainable energy."

Chiara Soletti

Published for Italian Climate Network on the association’s website.  

Bonn: US indecision and China and India's new leadership in the field of energy production

Two days after the end of the UNFCC intermediate negotiations held in Bonn, the debate continues with regard to the impact of the Trump Administration's decisions with respect to the environment. From the very beginning of the negotiations, the United States have sent out signals that are not very encouraging, participating in the discussions with a delegation of only seven members. The fact in itself is particularly important given that China and India, which are among the countries chiefly responsible for greenhouse gas emissions, were represented in Bonn by a significant number of delegates, forty of whom were from China alone.

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Advocacy for Gender Equality at the COP22

At the 22nd Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change a  Gender Day was once again specifically dedicated to raising awareness with respect to equality between the sexes within the sphere of climate change and environmental issues. The day began with a state-of-play and updating session concerning the work of the particular interest group dedicated to women's rights, the UN Women and Gender Constituency (WGC).

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Climate Amazons: Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim, a life dedicated to her people

With respect to matters relating to climate change women should be one of the first points of reference in every discussion on account of their central role in society and their greater vulnerability. On the contrary, in the international debate the representation of women is not proportionate to the risks women are exposed in the event of environmental disasters. In the context of the forthcoming COP22 conference in Marrakech it will be important to present the work of all those women, engaged in diplomatic fields or operating as local activists, who are gaining distinction in the field of climate justice.

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Climate justice: what it represents for women’s rights?

Climate justice is one of the most topical issues in the international debate on climate change. The weakest members of society should not suffer the consequences of uncontrolled economic development in the form of pollution, poverty and social oppression and, moreover, freedom from such adverse conditions is now deemed to be a fundamental human right, especially in the case of women and children. The theme of climate justice was, in fact, a primary issue of debate at the ‘COP 21’ conference on climate change organised by the United Nations in Paris in 2015.

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Climate change puts women's health increasingly in danger

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights published the first Report on the relationship between human rights and climate change at Geneva in March 2009. This was indeed an important moment for the international community because the social, cultural and economic consequences of the phenomenon were formally recognized.

Climate change exacerbates the state of discrimination and poverty in which millions of people find themselves. Moreover, paradoxically, these are people who have practically done nothing to cause the phenomenon. Women in developing countries are still among the groups subject to the highest degree of risk, with consequences that are often quite dramatic with respect to their sexual and reproductive health.

Sudden meteorological events may induce families to arrange for their daughters to get married at an early age so as to provide them with a safer future in economic terms. This often involves abandoning school, and the possibility of early pregnancies, which may involve risks and especially in the absence of access to appropriate health facilities.

The loss of ecosystems and fundamental resources for survival may result in a greater burden on women with respect to the need to secure a family's livelihood. Domestic work and caregiving are still predominantly female duties in many countries and walking an extra 10 kilometres every day to collect water may result in spontaneous miscarriages or in premature births with potentially fatal complications.

Women are more likely to suffer from malnutrition as there are still communities that resort to 'nutritional hierarchies', in which men have precedence over females in relation to food resources. According to the FAO, in South and Southeast Asia 45-60% of women of childbearing age are below their normal weight and 80% of pregnant women present iron deficiencies.

All of this occurs as a result of cultural rules and discrimination and the definition of female gender roles whereby their capacity to cope with risky situations is determined. And yet, thanks to their profound knowledge of the communities they live in and their role in reproduction, women are central figures in development and also with respect to the possibility to establish greater resilience to climate change.

Data collected by the World Health Organization indicate that over 200 million women worldwide have no access to modern contraceptives. As a result, 76 million unintended pregnancies occur every year, involving very high human and economic costs. Avoiding pregnancy or an infectious disease during a period of scarce resources or during a catastrophic event involves a need to ensure greater security and economic independence for women and their families. Furthermore, avoiding such problematical conditions might also slow down the high rate of growth of populations, thereby reducing demographic pressure on the environment.

Yet when health concerns are considered within the framework of environmental and climate issues, sexuality and reproduction are still not considered to be fundamental factors in terms of people's rights. Most 'disaster relief packages', which provide personal supplies in emergency situations, do not include tampons and contraceptives without mentioning a frequent lack of gynaecological services and treatment during emergencies.

Making sure women have access to education and allowing couples to prevent unintentional pregnancies will result in an improvement of the socio-economic status of entire communities, reducing environmental pressure and enhancing the response to challenges deriving from climate change. However, this will occur only if climate and development policies and projects are integrated with a gender perspective, taking into account the role of women and their rights, including sexual and reproductive health.

Chiara Soletti


Defenders of the Earth: the environment is the new battleground for human rights

The integrity of the environment is a prerequisite for the full enjoyment of human rights: a degraded environment may indeed affect the exercise of fundamental freedoms, to the point of threatening, in severe cases, the right to life. It is in such a scenario that the struggle to defend human rights is intertwined with that relating to the protection of the environment, adopting an approach whereby the two strongly-interdependent areas may not be separated.

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Climate Amazons: Zakia Naznin, environmental migration and climate justice

With respect to matters relating to climate change women should be one of the first points of reference in every discussion on account of their central role in society and their greater vulnerability. On the contrary, in the international debate the representation of women is not proportionate to the risks women are exposed to in the event of environmental disasters. For this reason in the run-up to the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) it is important to present the work of female diplomatic representatives or local activists who are achieving outstanding results in the field of climate justice.

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Climate Amazons: Patricia Espinosa, good news for Climate Justice

Women should be one of the first points of reference in every discussion concerning matters relating to climate change on account of their central role in society and their greater vulnerability. However, in the international debate women are not represented in a manner proportionate to the risks they would be exposed to in the event of an environmental disaster. In the run-up to the 22nd session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) it is therefore important to present the work of female diplomatic representatives or local activists who are achieving outstanding results in the field of climate justice.

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Climate Justice and Gender Equality: the meeting with WEDO

The Women’s Environment & Development Organization (WEDO) is a global women’s advocacy organization based in New York. It is engaged in the field of human rights, women’s rights, gender equality and the integrity of the environment in international policies. The acronym contains the initial letters of the name of the organization ‘Women’s Environment & Development Organization’, which in itself draws attention to issues concerning the environment and sustainable development, the organization’s main areas of interest and action. In the commonly-adopted logo of the organisation the letters appear on two lines (“WE / DO”), thereby conveying a clear reference to its commitment in these fields.

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Gender equality: updates from COP21 Paris

The principle of Gender Equality: the situation emerging from the COP21 negotiations in Paris. Two days after the end of the COP21 negotiations it would appear that the principle of gender equality has a good chance of being included in various parts of the text of the Paris agreement.

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Gender and climate change: what do women have to do with this issue?

Although at first sight it may appear as a mere contrivance, the question immediately acquires a clearer and more precise outline if the concept proposed is considered with respect to developing countries, where women not only represent 43% of the agricultural workforce (with data ranging between 50% and 70% in sub-Saharan countries) but, for socio-cultural reasons are the members of their communities delegated to the preparation of daily food.

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