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Paris. Women. Now what?

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women farmingIn Mali, a women’s collective helps enhance their resilience by strengthening food security. Photo: Imen Meliane / UNDP Mali

Coming off the heels of the climate change negotiations in Paris in December, which led to a momentous agreement for acting collectively on climate change, we have reason to feel proud and energized.

Now our focus shifts to how we can support countries in implementing their climate targets or Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).  This will only be possible if we tap the knowledge, foresight, engagement, and action of all segments of our societies, especially those of women.

As we have seen in our work on climate change, there is a direct relationship between gender equality, women’s empowerment, and climate change. As the key household energy managers and food producers in the developing world, women are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of climate change. This can exacerbate and perpetuate existing gender disparities.

Once empowered as agents of change, however, we have seen women introducing clean technologies or climate-sensitive practices in their communities. Women often play a transformational role, and it is important to incorporate gender into climate action to successfully deliver climate-resilient development in the long-term.

According to IUCN, 37.5 percent of the submitted INDCs explicitly mention gender or women in the context of their national priorities. The Paris Climate Change Agreement itself includes references to gender-balance, gender-responsive action, and gender-equality, relating not only to the activities on the ground but also the institutional environments and decision-making bodies themselves. This represents a major shift from less than 10 years ago, when gender was absent from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and sets a clear signal to view gender equality not only as as stepping stone but a crucial and necessary component towards achieving true sustainable development.

We have a challenging task ahead over the coming months as countries revisit their INDCs and begin preparations for implementation. This task, as exciting or daunting as it may seem, presents an excellent opportunity to further strengthen national efforts to strive for gender equality and reduced inequalities.

For example, in Bhutan a rapid gender assessment was able to identify gender gaps in planned climate actions and recommend concrete steps to promote gender-responsive planning going forward.

To start, it is essential to analyze the iNDCs’ gender inclusion and provide countries with concrete ways to bring in a nuanced gender-responsive approach to mitigation and adaptation. Our Gender Team and the UNDP Low Emission Capacity Building Programme are currently assessing all submitted iNDCs to determine the scope of expected gender-aware activities and identify concrete ways to incorporate gender equality into the implementation of iNDCs.

Since each countries’ INDC is unique to their national circumstances, gender-responsive actions will vary but may include:

  • Ensuring women are not just considered as beneficiaries of smart climate actions but as entrepreneurs of clean energy technologies;
  • Guaranteeing that women, with their unique skills and knowledge, are incorporated into program design and implementation;
  • Pledging to re-examine the diversity of our decision-making bodies, asking who is at the table and who is absent as we develop roadmaps for implementing these climate targets.

At this pivotal juncture, it is essential to involve women as agents of change and not solely as vulnerable parties.  

As we acknowledge that women and men play different roles in society and are therefore impacted differently, we can take advantage of their unique perspectives to craft solutions. The implementation of the Paris Agreement provides us with a unique opportunity to create roadmaps for not just climate-sensitive but also gender-just sustainable development.

Allison Towle Blog post Climate change and disaster risk reduction Energy Gender equality Women's empowerment Sustainable development Climate change