Reporting on COP: Finding Balance – The Future of Gender and Climate Change Under the UNFCCC

The following article is part of an Eco-Perspective special in which the Vermont Journal of Environmental Law is collaborating with the VLS COP22 Observer Delegation

__________________________________________

By Amy Pickering

UN-gender-photo-300x199COP 22 has commenced! With the ratification of the Paris Agreement (PA) coming less than a year after the adoption of the Agreement (and four years before most Parties thought would be possible!) there is a sense of urgency in the air. Parties are scrambling to develop a framework in which to begin implementing the PA, which also means tight deadlines. Today, during the informal consultation on gender and climate change, Parties were reminded that a draft decision on gender and climate change was needed by 13:00 this Friday at the latest. Fortunately, Costa Rica, on behalf of the Independent Association of Latin America and the Caribbean (AILAC), had already drafted a decision. AILAC distributed a draft decision to the Parties, which will be reviewed and discussed in subsequent meetings this week.

Women disproportionately experience the harmful effects of climate change. The majority of the world’s poor are women, and more women rely on climate vulnerable natural resources for their livelihood. Over the past 15 years, UNFCCC Parties have started recognizing the important role women can have in climate negotiations, and the many barriers that prevent them from participating. Since COP 7 in 2001, gender has been formally recognized by the COP. There, Parties approved a decision to improve the participation of women in the representation of Parties in bodies established under the UNFCCC or the Kyoto Protocol. In the following years, negotiation efforts led to a COP 18 decision to promote gender balance and improve the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and bodies. Later at COP 20 in 2014, Parties adopted the Lima work programme on gender. The Lima work programme is a two-year program promoting gender balance and gender-responsive climate policy to help guide the participation of women in UNFCCC bodies. COP 22 marks the end of the Lima work programme, which means that this week Parties will be discussing whether and how to extend the programme.

Lorena Aguilar, Costa Rica, at SB 44 in Bonn. Source: iisd.ca

Lorena Aguilar, Costa Rica, at SB 44 in Bonn. Source: iisd.ca

After brief discussions today, it appears that most Parties support the programme and would like to see the work furthered in some capacity. Parties acknowledged the progress made in working towards gender balance. Malawi, on behalf of the least developed countries (LDCs) negotiating group, recognized the impact the Lima work programme has had in enhancing the understanding and awareness of gender and climate change. In moving forward, inclusivity appears to be a common theme. Several Parties stressed the importance of including women at the local or grassroots level to ensure full participation. Australia made a call for the gender and climate change workstream to expand its focus to observe how gender can be incorporated in other UNFCCC workstreams. Additionally, Zimbabwe addressed the importance of ensuring that all Parties use the same definitions when discussing terms such as gender balance, gender-responsiveness, and gender-inclusiveness.

Despite the progress towards creating a more gender balanced UNFCCC, which ultimately will lead to more gender-inclusive policies, much work remains. In reviewing AILAC’s proposed draft, Parties will discuss what this work should look like in the coming years. It is a particularly exciting time because decisions made this week could effectively influence the outcome of how the Paris Agreement is implemented. The mood is optimistic and Parties appear motivated to continue widening pathways to ensure that all women’s’ voices are heard, particularly the most vulnerable.