Out of 1.3 billion people living in poverty, seventy percent are women. Women are seen as more vulnerable than men to the impacts of climate change since they represent the majority of the world’s poor and more dependent on the threatened natural resources in comparison. While gender equality is proven as ‘smart economics’ that would yield greater returns to economic growth and broader sustainable development, gender considerations are not often taken into account in ongoing climate change programs and activities.
Over 50 international public funds, 45 carbon markets and 6,000 private equity funds provide climate finance, a minimal number of worldwide funding address both climate change and women’s rights. The climate change challenge is intertwined with the issue of poverty and inequality. Women’s climate-sensitive livelihood that is dependent on natural resources such as securing water, food, and fuel for cooking makes them more vulnerable to climate change. Conversely, the livelihood indicates that women have potential to utilize their unique knowledge of community dynamics and skills to add value to the climate effort in enhancing the efficiency and sustainable response efforts.
The 17 Sustainable development goals guide development action on SDG 1 (poverty reduction) and SDG 5 (gender equality). Climate finance mobilizes resources that support transition to zero-carbon and climate-resilient development, it can foster gender equality and women’s empowerment at the same time by prioritizing adaptation and mitigation projects that co-benefit women. For example, it is expected that women would benefit from sustainable energy technologies since they mostly take on household cooking and fuel supplies.
Sustainable energy technology can save time in fuel management and provide healthier cooking conditions. With the saved time, it will open up new opportunities for women to engage in income-generating activities or pursue educational, religious, and social activities while reducing their dependency on solid fuels, which contributes 25 percent to global black carbon emissions.
Gender in global climate financing mechanisms gained recognition in recent years as many studies have proven the benefits of addressing gender inequality. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Clean Investment Funds (CIF) incorporated gender into their governing instruments and have a Gender Policy and Action plan. Despite current efforts for gender equality in the current climate finance regime, many existing climate projects do not effectively link gender and climate finance. In the case of mitigation activities, it mostly gives attention to large-scale energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. As a result, projects that benefit the poor, primarily composed of women such as water filtration plants, mass transportation, and agroforestry projects get little attention over energy and power sources.
Incorporating gender from the onset of projects will provide economic and social co-benefits that contribute to climate change and long-term viability. By considering gender dimensions within all phases of the project’s cycle such as design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation, climate finance will catalyze to make a difference in building resilience, gender equality, and women’s empowerment dimensions as we head to low-emission and climate-resilient development.
Byungchul Jeon and Arthur Ssebbugga Kimeze