How to advance gender equality in climate change response

Climate change disproportionately affects women, youth and Indigenous peoples. Yet while 45% of the COP26 team are now women, almost all of the senior public-facing roles are taken by men, despite the fact that in certain countries only 56% of men consider climate change a serious problem — against 83% of women. In 2021, an estimated four million young people took to the streets across the world, demonstrating an unprecedented level of leadership in tackling the climate crisis.
Illustration of five diverse people: one carrying a sun, one a tree, one a droplet of water, and one the recyling symbol. This illustration is related to the climate change conference

To redress this gender injustice in leadership recognition and representation, and advance gender equality in the governmental and corporate climate change response, UNESCO’s Social and Human Sciences Programme and the Permanent Delegation of Iceland to UNESCO led a high-level side event to the 66th Commission on the Status of Women on 22 March 2022.

80% of those displaced by climate-related disasters and changes around the world are women and girls. Thus, we need a gender lens in climate action to ensure girls' full and equal participation in decision-making in the field. Regarding youth, they need full support in discovering solutions to the challenges they face and UNESCO is advancing a great scheme to support youth researchers
Gabriela Ramos Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO

Experts agreed on the importance of bolstering and investing in gender statistics and data to underpin evidence-based feminist climate actions. Moreover, women and youth groups need to have better access to resources and spaces to share their expertise. The experts agreed that indigenous peoples’ rights must also be protected and prioritized to promote indigenous people as rights holders in combatting climate change.

Iceland commits more than 90% of its bilateral cooperation to gender and more than 50% to environmental questions.
Unnur Orradóttir-Ramette Ambassador of Iceland to France, Permanent Delegate of Iceland to the OECD and UNESCO, Co-Chair of the UNESCO Group of Friends for Gender Equality

Experts emphasized that, because the climate crisis is also linked to colonialism, capitalism, domination, and patriarchal gender norms and masculinities, climate justice cannot be achieved without gender justice and vice versa. They called for:

  • feminist and youth-led principles and financing mechanisms in climate action;
  • improvements in gender-disaggregated data and evidence bases; and
  • better awareness-raising on women’s and youth leadership.

Gabriela Ramos (Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences, UNESCO),  Unnur Orradóttir-Ramette (Ambassador of Iceland to France, Permanent Delegate of Iceland to the OECD and UNESCO, Co-Chair of the UNESCO Group of Friends for Gender Equality), and Ivan Ivanisevic (Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Montenegro to France, Permanent Delegate of Montenegro to UNESCO) were joined by global experts: Francisco Calí Tzay (UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples), Sarah Hendriks (Director of the Programme, Policy and Intergovernmental Division, UN Women), Michèle Nken (Youth UNESCO Climate Action Network [YoU-CAN]) and Sohanur Rahman (Leader in Fridays For Future, Member of the MenEngage Alliance's Climate Justice Working Group). The discussion was moderated by Humberto Carolo (Executive Director of White Ribbon in Canada and Global Co-Chair of the MenEngage Alliance).