Gender & climate change

I came to COP16 with expectations of learning about and discussing mitigation targets, a second commitment period under Kyoto, and even climate-change-related art. Gender was certainly not on my radar (at least not once I made it past the “enhanced” and oh-so-hyped gender-specific TSA screenings at JFK).  

I was surprised, in the first days of the COP, by the array of gender-focused side events listed in the Conference programme. And I was caught off guard when gender mainstreaming was mentioned in a meeting on fast start financing. I became curious about the history, current status, and future of gender issues in the climate change negotiations.

GenderCC board member Gotelind Alber answered many of my questions yesterday afternoon during a panel discussion for women scholars on climate and gender capacity building. Alber explained that gender was really taken up for the first time in Bali (COP13) and is treated only within the draft LCA negotiating text (there’s no mention of it in the UNFCC or the KP). Going into Copenhagen last year, tons of bracketed gender-related proposals were included in the draft text, several of which were retained.

As text stands now, “gender” appears seven times (twice in the preamble, 5 times in the operative paragraphs), mostly in relation to adaptation. The text effectively acknowledges that women and girls likely to be disproportionally impacted by climate change as they comprise a majority of the world’s poor and tend to have societal roles closely tied to natural resource management.  

But organizations like GenderCC and WEDO want the LCA text to acknowledge that women are not only victims of climate change but also active agents of change. They want gender language inserted in the mitigation and finance sections—not just the adaptation sections—of the draft LCA text. We’re talking more and more about “low carbon development,” they argue, and have to acknowledge the great potential that empowering women has towards this end.

Of course, this issue of mainstreaming gender into the climate change regime is not a main issue on the table in the Moon Palace. But it made for some lively conversation around the Yale delegation’s dinner table last night, and, in light of what a big year it was for women at the UN, I thought it worthy of a blog entry.

On an unrelated note, the other Yale Climate and Energy Institute (YCEI) fellows and I are getting excited for the side event we’re sponsoring this Saturday on new directions and priorities for energy use in the building sector!