Gender Equality Day at COP28

Climate change has a greater impact on those sections of the population, in all countries, that are most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and/or who have the least capacity to respond to natural hazards, such as droughts, landslides, floods and hurricanes.

Women and young girls in particular face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in situations of poverty, and the majority of the world’s poor are women. Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes and in labor markets exacerbate existing inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation.

Yet, women can and do play a critical role in response to climate change due to their local knowledge of and leadership in, for example, sustainable resource management, or in leading sustainable practices at the household and community level. Women’s participation at the political level has also resulted in greater responsiveness to citizen’s needs, often increasing cooperation across party and ethnic lines and delivering more sustainable peace.

At the local level, women’s inclusion at the leadership level has led to improved outcomes of climate related projects and policies. On the contrary, if policies or projects are implemented without women’s meaningful participation it can increase existing inequalities and decrease effectiveness. The unequal impact of climate change on marginalized groups and the importance of gender-responsive climate action is widely acknowledged.

Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have recognized the importance of involving women and men equally in UNFCCC processes and in the development and implementation of national climate policies that are gender-responsive, by establishing a dedicated agenda item under the Convention addressing issues of gender and climate change and by including overarching text in the Paris Agreement.

The gender agenda aims to amplify women-led climate solutions, showcasing women and girls as pivotal climate leaders. The agenda calls for increased finance flows to women in regions most impacted by climate change. The goal is not only to empower women but to recognize that gender-responsive climate initiatives are a smart, effective strategy for tackling climate issues. The gender agenda is highlighted at annual climate conferences through the Gender Equality Day that is dedicated to raising awareness on the importance of gender-responsive climate policy and action as well as highlighting women’s contribution and leadership in climate action.

Statistics underscore the significance of gender in climate action. For instance, companies with more female board directors are 21 percent more likely to have set emission reduction targets, according to the World Economic Forum. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Bank suggest that investing in gender equality could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by up to 15 percent by 2050.

Moreover, increasing women’s representation in national parliaments leads to more stringent climate change policies and lower emissions. Surveys by the Pew Research Centre indicate that a higher percentage of women perceive climate change as a serious threat and are more active in reducing their climate footprint compared to men.

By mid-century, it is predicted that climate change could push up to 158 million more women and girls into poverty globally (16 million more than the total number of men and boys). To ensure climate finance appropriately serves the needs of women and girls, particularly those in climate vulnerable regions, it is critical to address the current gender data gap to further understand how women are impacted by climate change.

During COP28’s Gender Equality Day on 4 December, the COP28 Presidency convened a series of discussions among ministers, the private sector, civil society and Indigenous Peoples on how to advance gender-equality through a just and inclusive transition. The dialogues were supported by the UNFCCC and led by UN Climate Change High-Level Champion for COP28 Razan Al Mubarak, to ensure a gender-responsive just transition in support of the implementation of the Paris Agreement.

The discussions spotlighted gender-responsive strategies for accelerated climate action, and promoted a coherent understanding of opportunities and gaps in this area. The dialogue also focused on ensuring inclusive policies and financing for a just-transition that recognizes women’s crucial role in fostering resilient communities and effective climate action. The discussions were also informed on successful cases of development and implementation of action for gender-responsive just-transitions and climate action and how they mobilized available financial support.

The high-level dialogue culminated in the announcement of a new COP28 Gender-Responsive Just Transitions & Climate Action Partnership from the COP28 Presidency, which was endorsed by over 60 Parties. The Partnership includes a package of commitments, including actions on data, finance, and equal opportunities. Implementation will be reviewed at a second convening at COP31.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), 1.2 billion jobs, representing 40 percent of the global labor force, are at risk due to global warming and environmental degradation. Women are expected to be most severely affected due to their high representation in sectors particularly susceptible to climate change.

The transition to a low-carbon and sustainable economy will lead to both the elimination and transformation of some jobs, as well as the creation of new roles. Ministers and high-level officials have therefore agreed on a series of commitments to support women’s economic empowerment and ensure women’s livelihoods are protected during this transition.

Razan Al Mubarak said: “Climate change is not gender neutral — it impacts women and girls disproportionately. Already, the climate crisis amplifies existing gender inequalities and poses a serious threat to women’s livelihoods, health and wellbeing. To deliver a just transition, we must reform the architecture of the global financial system and ensure finance flows to the regions and the people who need it the most. But we must also invest in women’s economic empowerment to ensure no one is left behind.”

The new partnership builds on objectives previously outlined in the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan, which set out activities under five key priority areas to advance understanding of gender-responsive climate action. In particular, the new COP28 Gender-Responsive Just Transitions and Climate Action Partnership centers around three core pillars: better quality data, including gender-disaggregated data, crucial for informed decision-making in finance and resource allocation in transition planning; more effective finance flows to regions most impacted by climate change; and education, skills and capacity building to support individual engagement in transitions.

UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said: “The rights of women and girls must be at the center of climate action, including here at COP28. We must ensure that women have a seat at the decision-making table. We must strengthen inclusive decision-making so that the voices of feminists, youth, indigenous and other grassroot movements can be heard loud and clear from local to the global level.”

Outcomes from the Gender Equality Day dialogues at COP28 included a common understanding of opportunities and gaps in financing the development and implementation of gender-responsive just transitions and climate action.

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