Report of High-level Roundtable organized by WEDO, the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Council of Women World Leaders
The Council of Women World Leaders (CWWL), the Women’s Environment and DevelopmentOrganization (WEDO) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America organized a high-levelroundtable entitled “How a Changing Climate Impacts Women” on September 21, 2007 at thePermanent Mission of Germany to the United Nations. The roundtable was a landmark event,one of the first high-level sessions to focus on the linkages between gender equality and climatechange.
The roundtable was organized in anticipation of the UN Secretary-General’s High Level ClimateChange Event and was successful in putting gender equality and women's participation on theagenda of the Secretary-General’s climate change team. The Secretary-General’s event broughttogether 80 heads of state, as well as numerous ministers, with the intent of sending a message ofpolitical support for the negotiation of a stronger international agreement to replace the KyotoProtocol in 2012. Policy recommendations on gender and climate change were distributed at theroundtable and endorsed by over 40 organizations globally (see policy recommendations on page.
The roundtable convened a diverse group of over 60 government, UN, and NGO representatives(see Annex for full participation list). The featured speakers included:
- Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and the Secretary-General’sSpecial Envoy on Climate Change;
- Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland, former UN High Commissioner on HumanRights, and Chair of Council of Women World Leaders;
- Lorena Aguilar, Senior Gender Advisor, World Conservation Union (IUCN) and Boardmember of Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO);
- Irene Dankelman, Board Vice Chair, Women’s Environment and DevelopmentOrganization (WEDO);
- Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders; and
- June Zeitlin, Executive Director, Women’s Environment and Development Organization(WEDO)
Roundtable participants recognized that while there are no references to gender in the UNFramework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), climate change is not gender neutral.The gender aspects of climate change are a matter of justice, human rights, and human security.Progress on achieving the MDGs has been slowed or reversed to due to climate change,including gender equality goals. Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers at the country level do notaddress the linkages between gender equality and climate change. It is not an oversight thatgender isn’t being addressed, but instead part of a systemic problem of societies and governmentsmarginalizing women.
Participants shared experiences from Honduras, Senegal, Uganda, Thailand, Suriname, and theUS (New Orleans) showing the gender dimensions of climate change and how women’sparticipation is critical. Women have been adapting to environmental change for generations,long before scientists gave it a name. Women are agents of change, inherent problem-solvers,long-time leaders on poverty eradication and sustainability, and the best poised to contribute toclimate solutions. Women have already made a visible difference in disaster responses. Poorwomen are the most affected by climate change, but the gender and climate change dialogueshould not be limited to a focus on women as victims. The roundtable also touched briefly onthe linkages between gender and mitigation, specifically a study from Sweden indicating genderdifferences in contributions to greenhouse gases.
The roundtable was also a call to action on gender and climate change. Gender equality is acritical component of responses to climate change at all levels—rather than isolating genderequality from other core development issues, it should be integrated in all aspects of climatechange planning and decision-making. National and global policies should incorporate the genderaspects of climate change, guided by the many global agreements on gender mainstreaming andhuman rights treaties such as the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of DiscriminationAgainst Women. This will require improved international environmental governance structures,cohesion between UN agencies, as well as tools such as gender-specific indicators to guidenational reporting to the UNFCCC.
Participants outlined specific steps to ensure that climate change responses incorporate genderequality, including the importance of empowering women to take a seat at the decision-makingtable. Women’s organizations should play a central role in the post-2012 agreement process andgender experts should be part of UNFCCC delegations. The roundtable called for theaccessibility of data and documentation chronicling women’s unique skills in adapting to andmitigating climate change. Further research needs to be conducted on gender-specific resourcepatterns and other aspects of gender and climate change. In addition, carbon facilities andrenewable energy technologies need to be modified to ensure they reach the poorest populations,particularly women. Finally, roundtable participants committed themselves to establishingpartnerships between governments, UN agencies, and civil society to address the critical issue ofgender and climate change and agreed to carry the roundtable’s policy recommendations to theUN Secretary-General’s High Level Climate Change Event.