Tuesday, December 11 was Gender Day at COP 24, a chance to underscore what gender equality means for effective climate action, and to identify what more can be done to unleash the power of half the world’s population.
First, let’s establish some facts:
- Women and girls are disproportionately affected by climate change: Responsible for some 80% of food production in developing countries, and with less access to resources and decision-making power, women and girls are more likely to experience negative impacts from climate change. They eat less when food is scarce, for example, and walk longer distances to fetch water. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects climate variability and extreme weather events to increase existing inequalities and vulnerabilities between men and women.
- Emphasizing gender equality achieves climate objectives alongside development goals: The IPCC’s special report on 1.5°C underscores high potential for synergies between ambitious climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals’ commitment to “leave no one behind.” Gender-responsive investments in adaptation can deliver significant returns.
Organizations like CARE Canada and Canadian Foodgrains Bank have repeatedly proven that equality for women in agriculture boosts the economy, strengthens climate resilience, preserves and enhances ecosystems, increases yields, and improves food security and nutrition. Furthermore, CARE’s work in Niger shows that adaptation projects can generate socio-economic benefits four times greater than the resources invested.
- The ‘how’ of investing in climate change needs to be considered alongside discussions of ‘how much’: Investments in community-based adaptation are far more likely to change on-the-ground realities for women and girls than those aimed at mitigation. Similarly, funds channelled through multilateral development banks (MDBs)—predominantly loans for large-scale mitigation projects—have a poor record of addressing gender issues. In the worst cases, they can cause poor countries to take on unsustainable debt, often at the expense of essential services for women and girls. To support those most vulnerable to climate change, increased ambition on adaptation needs to be matched with using resources effectively and ensuring adaptation measures make a real contribution to sustainable, inclusive development.
While Canada is one of the most vocal champions of gender equality in the UNFCCC, the country invests more than 50% of its current international climate finance through MDBs. Until 2016, not a single Canadian climate project featured gender equality as a principal purpose.
That’s why it’s time for Canada to show leadership and establish a Women’s Fund on Climate Adaptation. By channelling funds toward projects that will directly benefit women smallholder farmers and environmental organizations, Canada can set a new standard in gender-responsive climate finance, demonstrate impact that all Parties can support, and thereby leverage global climate actions.
Shaughn McArthur is Policy and Influence Lead at CARE Canada. Naomi Johnson is Public Policy Advisor at the Canadian Foodgrains Bank and co-chair of C4D, the Canadian Coalition on Climate Change and Development. This post first appeared in CANRaction, the COP 24 newsletter produced by Climate Action Network-Canada