Including gender considerations in transportation: An important step towards mitigation

Beatrice Mauger and Gina Stovall, Women’s Environment and Development Organization

In the past few years, sub-national governments worldwide have been mobilising to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The fact that cities account for over 70 per cent of global energy-related CO2 emissions, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is not lost on sub-national leaders. As we saw in September at the UN Climate Summit, over 200 cities signed the Compact of Mayors, volunteering to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 13 gigatons by 2050. This week, during COP20, city representatives gathered in Lima to continue to discuss and work on adaptation and mitigation initiatives, which is also encouraged in the non-paper for the Ad-hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Action (ADP).

Cities began developing climate policy in the 1990s, and the recent proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) include a target (11.b) to increase the “number of cities and human settlements adopting and implementing integrated policies and plans towards inclusion, resource efficiency, mitigation and adaptation to climate change”. However, according to Gotelind Alber (2011), the “gender dimension is virtually absent in [city] plans, policies and programmes” for reasons including “underrepresentation of women in decision-making, a lack of awareness of gender issues, and a lack of data, knowledge and skills on methodologies to address gender.” A recent WEDO survey of selected US and international cities found the same.

Climate change has differentiated gender impacts, and so do mitigation efforts. The transportation sector, which accounted for over one-quarter of total direct emission in 2010, presents an opportunity to drastically reduce emissions at the local level. But these climate change policies and measures must be gender-responsive, and women’s rights must not be forgotten in the rush for solutions. Otherwise, responses may reach and involve only part of cities’ overall populations, making them less effective.

The transport system must recognise a diversity of users, because mobility is critical for all urban citizens. Care work – often the responsibility of women – requires different and more frequent travel than a traditional commute to work. In addition, some studies show that women tend to use public transportation and walk more than men, and when deciding on private transportation, tend to value fuel economy more so than men. By increasing their density and expanding their public transportation network, cities can encourage more and safer cycling and walking, and less carbon-intense transportation overall, while increasing mobility for everyone. The latest IPCC report states that these actions can “reduce transport GHG emissions by 20-50 per cent in 2050 compared to baseline.”

How can transport policy and planning be gender-responsive? Collect and analyse gender differentiated data. Engage a participatory approach to planning and design – reach out to women, men, young, old, wealthy, poor, minority, vulnerable and impacted – and incorporate the results. Ensure women and gender experts are effective decision-makers in the process. This gender perspective should be incorporated into policies and programs from the start.

In the case of Bogota’s Bus Rapid Transit system, established in 2000, the initiative had both a mitigation and a gender-sensitive component, although gender was incorporated later in the project. The mass transit system reduced emissions by over 1.6 million tons from 2001 to 2008 by providing an alternative mode to private cars and mini buses. Notably, to attract new riders, attention was given to gender differentiations, including designating seats for women and children and having separate entry doors for pregnant women and other vulnerable riders. This helped to maximise the riders and use of the system, contributing to its success. This initiative also created direct and indirect job opportunities. To provide a better gender balance in the workforce, the system prioritised employment of different groups, including single mothers. As a result, women now make up 24 per cent of the workforce.

To ensure effective climate mitigation policies and programmes, particularly in areas such as transportation, it is therefore crucial that cities include women in the decision-making process by providing women and women’s organisations with financial and other resources and by incorporating their leadership at all institutional levels. This will also advance gender equality and women's human rights.


Gina Stovall is a climate change specialist and a WEDO Climate Mobilisation Fellow.

Beatrice Mauger is a women and children’s rights advocate and a WEDO Cities, Climate Change and Sustainable Development Fellow.