Climate change and gender equality

River and forest, Brazil

© UNESCO/L Alberto
River and forest, Brazil

UNESCO, and its Division for Gender Equality, are committed to the mainstreaming of gender equality considerations throughout all of its actions to mitigate and/or adapt to global climate change. This is its role as the co-convener of the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender Equality  (IANWGE) Task Team on Gender Equality and Climate Change, and as a member of the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA).

The impact of climate change differs between regions affecting men  and women differently according to generations, age, classes, income groups and occupations.

Gender specific issues at stake include:  

  1. women are affected differently and more severely by climate change and its impact on agriculture, natural disasters, climate change induced migrations because of social roles, discrimination and poverty;  
  2. women are largely under-represented in decision-making processes regarding climate change, greenhouse gas emissions and adaptation/migration;
  3. there are significant gender biases in carbon emissions and hence carbon footprints due to women’s and men’s economic production and consumption patterns.  

As women suffer disproportionably from poverty, they will also suffer most when erratic weather brings droughts or floods to marginal lands or crowded urban areas where poverty is most felt. While existing evidence underscores the vulnerability of women to climate change, there is also a wealth of evidence which underlines that women play an important role in supporting households and communities to mitigate the effects and adapt to climate change. Women are most of the world’s farmers, household resource managers and caregivers; and women have led – and continue to lead – many of the most innovative responses to environmental challenges. At the local level, women provide particular kinds of social capital for mitigation, adaptation and coping with environmental change, actively organizing themselves during and after disasters to help their household and community. Women are also in the best position to influence changes in behaviour for better disaster risk management as well as participate in and manage post-disaster efforts.  

Women are also able to map risks and vulnerabilities from their own standpoint and to play an important role in early warning. Women’s knowledge in adaptation (traditional and community specific) is an important resource in education for sustainable development.  

Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA)

In the spirit of “Delivering as One”, UNESCO collaborated with several UN and other agencies, namely FAO, WMO, GGCA, UNDP, IUCN and UNEP, in organizing  the “Gender and Climate Forum”, which was held on 1 September 2009, at WWC–3, Geneva, Switzerland. The Forum explored the linkages between gender and climate issues in order to inform the discussions of WCC–3. Ultimately, this session intends to lead to the adoption of a “gendered approach” to the expected results and outcomes of the World Climate Conference.  

UNESCO collaborated in the production and translation in French of the "Training Manual on Gender and Climate Change" led by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. This first-of-its-kind publication responds to the needs of policy makers and climate change scientists to better understand and address the gender dimensions of climate change. It clarifies the linkages between gender and climate change mitigation and adaptation. It is a practical tool to increase the capacity of policy and decision makers to develop gender-responsive climate change policies and strategies.  

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