Climate Adaptation Challenges from a Gender Perspective

Climate Adaptation Challenges from a Gender Perspective

Apr 04, 2011


Climate Adaptation Challenges from a Gender Perspective

On 22 February the Heinrich Böll Foundation North America, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), Women Organizing for Change and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN) and the UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (NGLS) co-organized a panel discussion on "Climate Adaptation Challenges from a Gender Perspective - CSO Messages for Rio +20." The panel included:

Ms. Liane Schalatek, Heinrich Böll Foundation (click here her the presentation)

Ms. Alexandra Spieldoch, WOCAN (click here for her presentation)

Ms. Shiney Varghese, IATP

Summary of the panel discussion:

Climate adaptation efforts (and the financing they require) as well as gender implications of climate change continue to receive limited attention in ongoing climate change discussions. Moderator of the event, Zak Bleicher (NGLS), therefore suggested two interlocking themes for discussion: gender mainstreaming in the adaptation process and climate financing. He further noted that these themes also deserve more attention in the lead up to the UN Conference on Sustainable Development next year (Rio 2012)

Panellists stressed the importance of gender mainstreaming within the climate change negotiations. Dr. Sabine Lindemann of the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development argued that despite positive examples in places like Honduras and Bangladesh, women are still insufficiently involved in policy-making on climate change or listened to at the grassroots level. Some instruments to increase their participation were provided by Ms. Schalatek, who reiterated the urgency of gender mainstreaming in climate change negotiations and in the operationalization of the Green Climate Fund.

During the discussion that followed, an NGO representative from Mali asked panellists to recognize that the burden of climate change will predominantly be felt by women of the South. Ms. Schalatek agreed that advocacy groups ought to focus more on these women, and commended female African delegates to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for making headway on gender equity issues.

Ms. Spieldoch referred to the link between agriculture and climate change. She urged participants to ensure that rural women’s needs are incorporated into climate finance initiatives and adaptation measures. Ms. Varghese highlighted the interlinkages between the climate, food and water crises, and emphasized the need for one coherent and holistic framework to tackle these crises. She illustrated this through an example: addressing food security merely from an agricultural perspective will result in a push to increase production through water- or chemical-intensive processes, which have negative effects on the climate. All three panellists agreed that such a framework demanded a rights-based approach. For example, a policy to aggressively promote biofuels may come to the detriment of the right to food.

In terms of funding mechanisms, Ms. Schalatek stated that there are only limited climate financing mechanisms available for the world’s least developed countries (LDCs) and the poorest people within these countries. She also pointed towards the large differences in pledged financing and the amounts actually approved (the latter being roughly one-third of the pledges) or effectively disbursed (only 10% of the pledges). “Even the pledges are at a paltry level,” she argued, using the example of the under-funded Least Developed Country Fund.

In response to a question on the credibility of microfinance as a financing tool to support women in coping with the effects of climate change, Ms. Schalatek explained that although microfinance can work in specific situations, such as in the Tamil Nadu Women’s collective, a macro approach to climate financing was more needed. She proposed instruments such as gender auditing in climate financing. Putting a gender angle to climate finance may well result in more appropriate solutions, she argued, criticising the technologically-heavy mitigation solutions proposed by banks that require expensive loans. She also provided an example on how WOCAN is working with rural women in the South to explore the gender aspects of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) so that climate finance will benefit the most affected communities.

The panellists also underlined that women are very resilient in developing adaptation strategies. Women farmers, for example, have developed practices such as crop diversification and early warning systems in order to better deal with climate change.

In their final remarks, panellists reiterated their intention to push for gender justice as part of climate adaptation measures. Ms. Schalatek argued that incremental change was the most likely path forward. She further pointed out that UN Women would do well to send a delegate to the Transitional Committee that will be responsible for setting up the “Green Climate Fund.” Ms. Spieldoch called for a stronger link with women farmers as part of the Rio + 20 conference agenda, referring to the work of the women’s major group of the Commission for Sustainable Development (CSD) that is preparing a position paper for Rio 2012. She also called for more political space to link the issues of women, agriculture and climate change during the next Climate Change Conference (COP17) in Durban.



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