Placing Gender on the Front Burner of Climate Change Action

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There is a commitment from member countries at the ongoing Climate Change Conference (COP26) to promote gender-responsiveness programmes in climate change related activities. Ugo Aliogo reports from Glasgow, Scotland

Climate change has become one of the most defining policy issues of the 21st century. From changing weather patterns that threaten food security, to rising sea levels, that increase the risk of catastrophic flooding as well as increase in atmospheric temperature that results in global warming, the impacts of climate change are global in scope. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recognizes adaptation as a critical option that countries should pursue to reduce the impact of change.

Speaking during a presentation of the Nigeria’s Adaptation Communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) report in Glasgow Scotland, the Minister for State, Federal Ministry of Environment, Sharon Ikeazor, said the Adaptation Communication (ADCOM) established by article 7, paragraphs 10 and 11, of the Paris Agreement requires parties to submit and update periodically its ADCOM.

She also noted that ADCOM would increase visibility and profile of adaptation alongside its balance with mitigation, strengthen adaptation action and support for developing countries, provide input to the global stock take, assess progress, “made in achieving the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) and enhance learning and understanding of adaptation needs and actions.”

She added, “It has been recognized that women and men are disproportionately affected by climate change and usually, women are more impacted than men. However, the federal government is expanding on its Implementation Strategy for their National Gender and Climate Action Plan.”
Ikeazor noted that women are more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men primarily as they constitute the majority of the world poor.

Meanwhile, a recent report by Women Watch (2009) and FAO (2011) revealed that about 70 per cent of the people who live on less than $1 per day and are highly dependent for their livelihood on natural resources are women and therefore more threatened by climate change.

Another report by the Nigerian Environmental Study Action Team (NEST) affirmed that women experience and/or react to climate change differently from men. The report stated that increased pests and diseases due to climate change can increase women’s workload as they have more responsibility for caring for their families and the sick.

According to the report, “Gender element in climate change and adaptation refers to how climate change affects men and women in different ways; how men and women respond to and cope with the changing climate and the differences in shifting from short-term coping strategies to resilience.

It is a known fact that climate change worsens the existing gender inequality, making women face higher negative impacts than men. However, women are not just mere victims but active agents of change. Furthermore, they possess the knowledge and skills that relevant authorities can utilize for climate change adaption and the development of resilience.”

Recently, the United Kingdom Government announced the donation of £165 million as part of its commitment to tackle climate change. The fund is expected to address inequalities that make women and girls more vulnerable to climate change and empowering them to take climate action.
They noted that around the world, the UN had found that women were more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than men, because they constitute a large majority of the world’s poor and often depend on small-scale farming for a livelihood, which is particularly vulnerable to climate change.

They affirmed that women and children could comprise 80 percent of those displaced by climate-related disaster.

But it noted that addressing gender inequality had also been proven to advance efforts to tackle climate change.

It would be recalled that in 2017, Nigeria adopted the International Gender Action Plan by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and in 2020, the country developed its National Action Plan on Gender and Climate Change, with the main goal of the plan being to ensure that national climate change efforts in Nigeria mainstream gender considerations to guarantee the inclusivity of all demographics in the formulation and implementation of climate change initiatives, programs and policies.

However, an implementation strategy was developed in 2021 with UK support, which set out how gender action should be implemented under five climate change priority areas namely: agriculture, forestry and land use; food security and health; energy and transport; waste management; water and Sanitation.

Other national climate plans on adaptation and mitigation including Nigeria’s revised Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) and its recently published Adaptation Communication highlighted measures to enhance gender integration in climate change policies and actions.
“It is women, girls and those who are already most marginalised, that will be most severely impacted by climate change. But they also have a critical role to play to address the climate crisis.

“The UK is committed to addressing this dual challenge head on, committing new funding to empower communities and women’s groups to take locally-led adaptation action, to build local, national and global resilience. I urge more countries to make commitments to implement the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan and deliver the goals of the Feminist Action for Climate Justice, “the government said.

The British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing said: “Climate change has led to the preventable loss of lives through actions that are insufficient or delayed, rolling back women’s economic gains of past decades. Aligning resources and responses, and taking deliberate action will provide us an opportunity to improve livelihoods of women, create a sustainable economic future and better protect the planet.

“Throughout the UK’s COP26 Presidency, we are encouraging countries around the world to put gender equality at the heart of climate action. I am pleased that Nigeria is engaged on this agenda and is putting gender considerations at the core of national climate and development plans.”
The UN Angle

Meanwhile, the COP26 President Alok Sharma and UK International Champion on Adaptation and Resilience for the COP26 Presidency, Anne-Marie Trevelyan hosted the UK’s Presidency Gender Day event accompanied by Little Amal, the 3.5 metre puppet travelling 8,000km in support of refugees, and Brianna Fruean, a Samoan Climate Change activist.

She espoused that women and girls are disproportionately impacted by climate change, adding that they cannot allow equality to be a casualty of climate.

She expressed delight that women and girls are also leading efforts to tackle climate change in communities around the world.

According to her, “We must enable the full and meaningful participation of women and girls in climate action. So, I am very pleased to say that countries and other stakeholders have made announcements today to make climate action gender-responsive.

“I am also very pleased to report that yesterday countries collectively pledged in excess of $232 million to the Adaptation Fund, which will support countries to deal with the impact of a changing climate.

“Gender and inclusivity run throughout our COP Programme, including Science and Innovation Day. And I have always said it is vital that we follow the facts, and allow science to light the way. I’m going to turn now to the negotiations. I am encouraged by countries’ commitments to anchoring science at the heart of the Cover Decision.

“Yesterday, my lead negotiator Archie Young convened Heads of Delegations on the elements of the Cover Decision, that we proposed in our Non-Paper. As I announced at the informal stocktaking plenary yesterday, I have requested pairings of Ministers to support the Presidency in some of the key outstanding issues on which we need to reach agreement. These Pairs started their work yesterday and are consulting with a wide group of ministers and negotiators. And then we convened yesterday evening and the Ministerial pairs reported on their discussions.

“The time has now come to find political consensus on the areas of divergence. and we have only a few days left. New texts were also tabled on issues including common timeframes, transparency, finance and adaptation. We are making progress at COP26 but we still have a mountain to climb over the next few days. And what has been collectively committed to goes some way, but certainly not all the way, to keeping 1.5C within reach.

“The gap in ambition has narrowed. Now the world needs confidence that we will shift immediately into implementation, that the pledges made here will be delivered, and that the policies and investment will swiftly follow. We have an opportunity to succeed. The transition to a resilient zero carbon economy is technologically possible, it is economically attractive and it is accelerating everywhere. And if we successfully manage this will deliver immense benefits for the world.

“Building on existing mechanisms; transparency and accountability must be at the heart of these commitments. So overnight the Presidency will publish the first draft of the Cover Decision. It will likely require negotiating teams to consult their leaders and capitals. We have an urgency to our negotiations so I ask Ministers and negotiators to carry out these consultations expeditiously.”

Gender Commitments at COP26

There is a commitment from the US government to commit new funding for gender-responsive climate programming which includes $14 million of the Gender Equity and Equality Action Fund to advance women and girls’ leadership in climate action and participation in green industries, while building their climate resilience, and $3 million investment to support women farmers in East Africa to adapt to climate impacts.

The government of Norway has also committed to strengthening the role and impact of women and girls in both international and national climate decision-making, including in UNFCCC-processes and in national decision-making on climate policies. Canadian government is set to ensure that 80 percent of its $5.3 billion climate investments over the next five years target gender equality outcomes.

Similarly, Sierra Leone is committing to address long-standing discriminatory land tenure practices, which deny women access to and control of land through enacting a range of new legislation.

There is a call to action from The Rallying Cry, urging the finance community to further invest in the women business leaders and enterprises at the heart of the transformation the world needs.