The 2015 climate agreement must recognise it: Women are key actors in climate solutions

UN Women

Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have already recognised the importance of the inclusion of women’s voices for policies to be gender-responsive in more than 50 decisions they have adopted. These decisions cover mitigation, adaptation, loss and damage, REDD+, finance, technology development and transfer, capacity building, among others. The inclusion of gender and climate in the COP agenda as well as the adoption of the Lima Work Programme on Gender are bold recognition of the need to address women’s differential needs and their agency in climate responses and action.

In the remaining days of the climate negotiations, Ministers and other negotiators must seize this unique opportunity to affirm that gender equality, women’s empowerment and their full and equal participation are crucial and indispensable to transformational climate response and action. This will also ensure coherence with, build on and reflect the outcomes of the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the sustainable development goals (SDGs) – outcomes which strongly commit to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls, including through increased investments to close the gender gap.

Women’s agency in climate action is key for ‘healing and securing our planet’, as the 2030 Agenda puts it, so that it can support the needs of the present and future generations.

Indeed, women have been – and continue to be – at the frontline of climate response and are leading in innovative climate actions.

Women’s participation in forest management in India brought a corresponding fall in illicit grazing and illicit felling, with significantly increased reforestation and regeneration of forest goods, enhancing forest carbon stocks. Rural Women ‘Light up Africa’, a partnership between UN Women and the Barefoot College, enables women in villages in developing countries to learn to become solar engineers, and to install and maintain solar equipment for their communities. Beyond introducing a renewable and sustainable source of energy, the programme’s benefits for women and girls include increased community status, better health, education and improved livelihood options.

Women have also taken the lead in integrating ideas of personal responsibility into lifestyle and behavioural changes, expressed in part by consumer choices that aim to benefit the environment. The 1 Million Women initiative, a coalition of women in Australia, was launched to tap women’s role as decision-makers in the use, production, distribution and disposal of goods in their households.

These are just a few examples of women’s actions and initiatives to address climate change impacts.

Today, 8th December 2015, Gender Day, we will see many more examples of women’s leadership for change. UN Women will launch two global programmes – ‘Women’s Sustainable Energy Entrepreneurship and Access’ and ‘Women’s Empowerment through Climate-resilient Agriculture’. These programmes are climate responses that also contribute to achieving the SDGs on poverty eradication, healthy lives and well-being, gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, reduction of inequalities, sustainable consumption and production, access to modern energy for all and sustainable livelihoods, among others.

UN Women will also share the recommendations from an Expert Group Meeting that serve as a tool for Parties and relevant UN agencies and stakeholders in the implementation of gender-responsive technology needs assessment (TNAs) and operationalisation of the gender-related mandates of the Green Climate Fund (GCF).

Also on this day, the UNFCCC’s Momentum for Change initiative will recognise outstanding women-led initiatives demonstrating women’s leadership in climate responses. A host of events during the day will showcase various initiatives, including from grassroots and indigenous communities.

With these concrete demonstrations of women’s agency – both in the UNFCCC process and in concrete climate actions from the local to the global level, it is time for the 2015 climate agreement to recognise the imperative of gender-responsive climate actions and women’s contributions to advancing the goals of the UNFCCC.

The Paris agreement should provide a strong mandate for gender-responsive climate action in mitigation, adaptation, finance, technology-development and transfer and capacity building. Such a step will give further impetus to women’s leadership and the solutions necessary for enabling change.