This week in Gender at COP19

COP19 genderThis week, the Women and Gender Constituency, along with many female party delegates, clearly laid out their aspirations moving forward. The Gender Decision Contact Group followed up on Agenda Item 15 of the COP. The group is looking to finalize by Saturday their conclusions on guiding principles for the SBI to work with regarding the Gender Decision made at COP 18 in Doha. Many party delegates endorsed the document “Recommendations on Gender Decision” (ROGD) that was produced by the Women and Gender Constituency.

The negotiators took a comprehensive approach, in which they vied for an inclusion of gender that would permeate all climate change initiatives. In finance, there was a strong desire by Malawi and several others for a travel fund for female LDC delegates. Included in the ROGD document was a recommendation that COP 19 should mandate the Green Climate Fund, as an implementation entity of the financial mechanism of the UNFCCC, to include gender considerations in their operational policies, as well as their project/program implementation, and to report on progress toward a gender sensitive approach in their annual reports to the COP. Next, Nepal made a strong push for capacity building, clarified by Iceland to detail that capacity building programs on gender equality should be directed at men and women. Iceland also said they would like to see a gender expert position created at the Secretariat level. In regards to improving female participation, Bangladesh explained the need for setting a target in terms of meeting a percentage goal for women delegate attendees. Take a look at the Secretariat Report on Gender Composition here.enviro gender index

However, overall the parties were ready to move beyond the simple focus on gender balance at the COP’s; going ahead they aspire for targeted attention on prioritizing gender equality in all program implementation. The parties were like-minded that in-session workshops for expansion of knowledge on the links between gender and climate change are beneficial to all.

The growing harmony of the delegates on gender issues is a strong signal that improvements will be made in this arena in years ahead. The SBI has now been given ample suggestions moving forward. Next Tuesday’s COP 19 Gender Day will give added focus to these gender considerations.

Young and Future Generation Day

Panel for Intergenerational Inquiry

Today was Young and Future Generation Day at COP 19. Myself, Thea, and Heather attended the panel session Intergenerational Inquiry at COP 19/CMP 9. Before the event began, the room was bustling with a diverse group of young people. One young man was joking about casually saying “Oh hey Christina!” to Executive Secretary Figueres as she sat at the front of the room. All of his friends laughed.

The session opened with a surprise flash mob from the YOUNGO’s

This session was the most high energy session that I have been to thus far. It made me feel a little bit more alive, and was a true reflection of the real reasons why we are all here at COP 19. I think I can also categorize the session as the most inspirational too, because of the words of Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, who was a panelist.

I was impressed with the strong, powerful voices of the two young panelists.

Nathan Niedermeier, Youth Delegate from Germany said: “We’re not only here fighting against something; we’re fighting FOR something. There are too many people who are not listening to us, who aren’t listening to our solutions. Instead they are listening to the economy.”

Ms. Sylvia Yirenkyi, Youth Delegate from Ghana said: “Being a young female in Africa makes me very vulnerable to the effects of climate change.  Young people from the global south should have a greater representation at the COP……. We are the future, and we demand that the future be heard.”

Christiana FigueresBut Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres took me most by surprise. For a few moments, she took her Executive Secretary hat off and said that she was speaking to us as a female and a mother. She explained that the real reason she has dedicated her life to her cause is because she wants her daughters, and her future grandchildren, to be living in a healthier planet. She does what she does to protect the future generations. In regard to slow progress, she expressed that she was equally frustrated. Secretary Figueres said: “This is a marathon. This is not a sprint. This is a LONG battle.” She told the crowd to imagine their deepest darkest frustration, and then multiply that times 194 and that was her level of frustration!

Her advice to the millenials: USE YOUR POWER! Tell the commercial industry that you demand low carbon products. Tell your 1,000 facebook friends that you care about climate change; cause more people in your life to care.

Figueres was a ball of fire in the room, and during the Q&A session all of the Youth were directing theirgold20ribbon questions for her. The Moderator had to remind everyone that there were other great panelists who could answer questions too (but this did not make a difference).

As a final note, I feel that the accepted custom of climate change academics and people who care about climate change is often to be very critical of others and their honest efforts, maybe because they do not feel that the work of others is sufficient enough. We seem to be breeding a cynical culture, and I feel a need to promote more positivity. Let’s try to entertain the idea of fostering a culture of education rather than condemnation. I think that in doing so, we might add more fuel to the fire, rather than stifle it out. Actually, this is a terrible climate change metaphor. Instead I will say, in doing so we might add more water to our plant, and watch it grow.

Nelumno_nucifera_open_flower_-_botanic_garden_adelaide2This is why my Blossoming Leadership Award of the Day goes to Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres. She is open, honest, and straight forward. She puts off good vibes (better, lets say, than COP President Marcin Korolec) and she doesn’t bullshit (excuse my French). When she is asked tough questions, she answers them directly and thoroughly. In my mind, she represents strong female leadership and she is trying her best to bring cooperation to this process.

From negative to positive!


Prohibited sign

Well, this morning I was kicked out of my first session! Not in the dramatic sense, but one of the Secretariat officials came up to me while I was in my chair and told me that the session would be for Parties only. However, there was no sign on the door that indicated this, and it was not observed on the meetings schedule; so how was little old me supposed to know!? The session that I was trying to sit in on was the SBSTA informal consultations on the Nairobi work programme. I had a feeling that they would make it a closed meeting, which proved true. At least as I was on my way out I didn’t huff and puff the entire way like the two men next to me, who were considerably more upset. I now have first hand experience with how difficult it can be for us observers to get a glance at the nitty gritty negotiating and discussions.

Luckily, I was able to make my way over next to the Gender Decision Contact Group, under SBI. This session followed up on Agenda Item 15 for COP 19. The group is looking to draft conclusions by this Saturday on guiding principles for the SBI to work with regarding the gender decision. (See decision here).

The Women and Gender Constituency put together a document titled Recommendations on Gender Decision, which they distributed to the room. (I can make the document available to anyone that wants to see it). The Co-Chair asked for the group who made the document to present themselves, in which a member from the Constituency then spoke. Following, several Party delegates endorsed the document and reaffirmed different parts of it.

Here are some of my paraphrases from what the women Party delegates had to say:

Malawi Delegate

Malawi Flag


Malawi- Establish a special fund; a travel fund for women delegates. Design a comprehensive capacity building strategy, including awareness activities for decision makers. Mainstream gender in all climate change initiatives.


Nepal Flag

Nepal: Many LDC’s do not have enough finances to strongly support bringing women delegates. Support for travel is a key requirement for LDC women to be present. Also suggested capacity building programs for women Party delegates.




Iceland Flag

Iceland: Lets stop scraping the surface, such as giving our main focus to gender balance, this is only one aspect of the discussion. Would like to see an expert on gender equality at the Secretariat. Capacity building on gender equality has to be for both males and female. Also agrees that there should be a women’s travel fund for LDC’s. Mentioned that a women’s delegate fund exists, however it is outside of the UNFCCC.


Bangladesh Flag


Bangladesh: A 1 year work plan should be established to enable the SBI to achieve some of the recommendations that have been put forward. There is a need for setting a target in terms of meeting the percentage goal for women delegates.


USA Flag


USA:  It’s time to institutionalize, no longer have these conversations at side-events and outside of the Framework process, but bring them into the official process.



Several of these points were discussed at the Workshop yesterday, but now we can see that they have officially been put on the table for consideration under the SBI.

Overall, from my vantage point, the short 45 minute session was a success, for what it was designed to do. Now it is just a matter of waiting and watching to see what the SBI does with these recommendations. The women delegates in attendance gave the SBI a lot to work with; they were organized and had their recommendations ready to go- which the Co-Chair repeatedly acknowledged and said thank you for.


(P.S– One last thing. I am finding that it has been easier for me to track women and gender issues, but harder for me to follow adaptation. Of course I can attend the workshops that discuss adaptation, but so far I cannot sit in on the informals or contact groups. This was expected.)


Workshop on Gender

male/female symbol linkIn decision 23/CP.18 the COP agreed to promote gender balance and improve the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations, and adopted a goal of gender balance in bodies established under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol to, inter alia, inform more effective climate change policy that address the needs of women and men equally. 

The COP also requested the secretariat to organize an in-session workshop. The aim of this workshop is to identify action and tools that could be utilised or enhanced at an international and national level to achieve the goals of (i) gender balance under the UNFCCC; and (ii) more effective and informed gender-sensitive climate policy.” (


Workshop on Gender


Today I attended my much anticipated Workshop on Gender, Climate Change and the UNFCCC. The importance of this item being on the official COP Agenda speaks volumes for the improvements that are being made, and how efforts on the ground may be improved because of this focus. The Workshop had 3 parts. Part I- Gender balance in the UNFCCC process. Part II – Capacity-building activities to promote greater participation in the UNFCCC process. Part III – Gender-sensitive climate policy (my favorite).


Kate and Alexandra of GenderCC

Kate and Alexandra of GenderCC

One of the panelists emphasized that the implementation of actual institutional frameworks for gender inclusion has been proven to increase women participation. Therefore, the more the UNFCCC process can institutionalize and mainstream gender issues, the greater the gender balance results will be; particularly for Party delegates. In my opinion, the numbers are moving in the right direction, but at too slow of a pace. Let’s vamp this process up! If you look at our Week 1 delegation, we clearly have no problem with women participation:Week 1 all female delegation

The panelist from Fiji advocated for additional funding for women UNFCCC delegates; in an effort to actually bring women to the COP’s, and for training these women to help build their capacity, effectiveness, and presence. Many respondents expressed their agreement. I agree, especially with the training aspect of that advocacy.

Empower women. Generate results.

Women have the right to acquire knowledge and skills, but they do not always have the opportunity. For the LDC’s, I can envision a tremendous benefit to LDC women from receiving specialized support. With this, their involvement in the UNFCCC can be leveraged to increase their negotiating skills. Aspects such as language training, technology training, and technical support in researching would all be beneficial.  This is how we help underrepresented women become agents of change. A woman delegate from Uganda described how training helped her immensely in her preparations for COP 19, although she did not elaborate on who trained her and how.




In closing, I leave you with this statement: Achieving gender balance for the UNFCCC does not mean gender equality would become inherent to climate change programs. Special attention must be paid to the stated goal of more effective and informed gender sensitive climate policies and programs.

An apple for your thoughts….

COP 19 branded apple

Adaptation: Personal and Global.

“Faster. Higher. Stronger” This is the slogan of the Olympic games, and it was also put forth as a goal during the COP Opening Ceremony. We need to work faster. We need to aim higher. We need to be stronger. Will these words stick through the next two weeks here in Warsaw? We are sure to be paying attention.


steps of the National Stadium


As our delegation walked up the steps, I was wondering what to expect from Day 1. Excited, anxious and curious, all rolled into one!





gender ccI felt right at home when I arrived at the Women and Gender Constituency meeting. It was a room of about 30 wonderful women, representing organizations such as WEDO, Energia, GenderCC and even the US Girl Scouts.  I met Kate and Alexandra, who work with the NGO that I sought to collaborate with. They are from GenderCC, a global network of women from all regions of the world who care about climate change. The organization’s overarching goal is to implement gender justice into climate change policy. The network was kickstarted at COP 9, and is now based out of Berlin, Germany. Check ’em out.

The role of the Convention in supporting the adaptation process

Figure 2 from The State of Adaptation Thematic Report

At the conference, I have begun to track women and gender issues. We must be more inclusive of women if we want to work harder, faster, stronger… right? Furthermore, I will focus on how women and gender issues relate to the implementation of NAP’s (National Adaptation Plans) for LDC’s. Particularly, I am looking at NAP’s concering the grave need for more consideration of women stakeholders in order to achieve successful, sustainable implementation. The figure to the left shows the importance of engaging a wide range of stakeholders during the adaptation process. It comes from the most recent Thematic Report prepared by the Adaptation Committee. If you read the report, you will learn about one of the UNFCCC’s major responses to climate change.

Adaptation ReportFollow here to read the full report.


The value of this experience

T minus 5 days until the first half of our group heads to Warsaw! What a whirlwind of knowledge we have received leading up to this point. CDM, JI, OECD, LULUCF,  REDD+, SBSTA, SBI….acronyms, you no longer scare me! (Okay, maybe still just a little). However I am markedly more knowledgeable of the meanings behind them then when I first started the class. Not only have we learned the language of acronyms, but more importantly we have examined the text of the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol. These are international treaties that I may have never had the chance to examine so thoroughly without this opportunity and without this class.

This leads me to say: what an incredible opportunity! We are taking a glimpse at the complexities and excitement of international law. We are not just reading about it in a textbook, we are experiencing it!


There is so much value to this way of learning. It is the best form of pedagogy for us 20 somethings; we are eager to act.  We are eager to create experiences for ourselves.

In addition, I am very grateful to have working experts as a part of our group, who have graciously shared their knowledge of the UNFCCC and COP involvement to all of us. The class has taken my understanding of the UNFCCC framework to a working knowledge of all that it entails. I truly would not have wanted to experience a COP in any other way. The preparation that we have received prior to our departure will be vital to our success as an observer delegation. Even the small pieces of advice such as: “Wear comfortable shoes!”. It all matters.

What else matters?: The reasons why we chose to attend COP 19. It is my understanding that our delegation cares about the environment and the implications of climate change. The current status quo, in regards to our climate is abysmal. Let’s do something about it! This COP 19 trip will give us concerned students a taste of what is being done to combat climate change, and also the monumental task of adapting to it. Each of us will have a different take away from the experience that will guide us in the right direction for our own future careers. What exactly will I take away? I cannot yet say. Stay tuned!