COP23 endorses mainstreaming of gender in climate action

A meeting during COP23 in Bonn, Germany. Photo by: UNFCCC / CC BY-NC-SA

BONN, Germany — Negotiators at the COP23 climate discussions in Bonn, Germany, have approved a plan to more directly include women in all climate activities and to enhance gender-related mandates that have already been adopted, in a move many participants said is long overdue.

The Gender Action Plan (GAP), which was endorsed by the principals before the close of the two-week negotiations, is the result of a significant effort to mainstream gender in all stages of the Paris Agreement processes, from negotiations to strategy to reporting.

“The GAP is the result of dogged work by people who understand that there are disproportionate impacts of climate change,” said Rachel Kyte, CEO of Sustainable Energy for All. “Unless we have more women in the delegations and in the ecosystem around the delegations, we are not going to have the diversity of views that you need to properly understand the risks or properly understand the opportunities going forward.”

The two-year plan includes five priority areas, beginning with improved capacity-building and knowledge sharing and increased participation of women across all levels, especially within national delegations. Civil society groups then expect that balance to extend to other levels of the climate change effort.

It also calls for gender-responsive implementation, including budgeting that takes gender specifically into account, and for better monitoring and reporting so experts will have a better picture of exactly what the gap is.

One of the first outcomes, however, will be a discussion at next year's Subsidiary Body for Implementation on concrete actions to begin translating proposals into activities.

Fleur Newman, a program officer and gender focal person with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, said one of the GAP's strengths is that it creates a lot of opportunities for experimentation and flexibility.

“It allows parties and others to see themselves in the plan,” she said. “It means that they can give as much as they want to give, or can give, and that potentially is a lot. I actually think that it's the catalyst for a lot of action.”

The decision to adopt the GAP was especially striking at a U.N. climate conference that has seen a plethora of all-male panels and side events. Its adoption was not guaranteed at the outset of the meetings, participants said. It benefited from broad-based support from a number of different constituencies.

With the GAP, Kyte said, there is now a foundation to push for more inclusion of women's perspectives on solutions to climate change. While rectifying an unjust imbalance, she said, better integration of women was also necessary to actually tackle the challenge of climate change. It should help to bring issues that have historically been overlooked as “women's issues” — such as clean cooking — to the fore.

“This is not ideological claptrap,” she said. “This is science.”

There are some concerns about the GAP's effectiveness because it does not come with any additional financing. Without clear financial commitments, Titilope Ngozi Akosa, executive director of the Centre for 21st Century Issues, said, “I don't see how we'll be able to resource the Gender Action Plan in the context of the African woman.” But officials said the idea is that the GAP will draw bilateral support from donor countries and U.N. agencies.

The Subsidiary Body for Implementation will now be responsible for oversight of the implementation of the GAP, beginning with next year's meeting in April. But civil society groups will also be watching.

“We will be holding governments accountable, both developed countries in putting serious financing into gender-responsive policy development, as well as countries in fulfilling human rights via their climate plans,” said Bridget Burns, the co-director of the Women's Environment and Development Organization. “For a truly gender-just climate change framework, we must continue to demand climate justice from the entire process.”

Read more Devex coverage on the COP23.

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    Andrew Green

    Andrew Green is a Devex Contributor based in Berlin. He writes regularly about global health and human rights issues. He has also worked as Voice of America’s South Sudan bureau chief and as the Center for Public Integrity’s web editor.