Adaptation and Gender Issues

gender-overview-mainArticle 7 of the Paris Agreement sets the global goal of enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change, with a view to contributing to sustainable development and ensuring an adequate adaptation response to climate change.

Section 7.5 of the Paris Agreement further clarifies that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems, and should be based, on local knowledge systems, among other things, with a view to integrating adaptation into relevant socioeconomic and environmental policies and actions.

Today at COP24, two side events—Advancing Gender Equality through National Adaptation Plan processes: A straightforward consideration or a complex challenge? and The Global Adaptation Goal and the Importance of Gender Transformative Resilience Finance—emphasized that National Adaptation Plan (“NAP”) processes need to be developed and implemented in a gender responsible manner, pursuant to the Paris Agreement.

In 2017-2018, the NAP Global Network prepared a report entitled Towards Gender-Responsive National Adaptation Plan (NAP) Processes: Progress and Recommendations for the Way Forward, in the general context of having a better understanding of how developing countries are integrating gender considerations in the NAP processes (the “NAP Global Network Report”). CCAFS-and-Platform-Webinar

In its report, the NAP Global Network reiterated the recent decisions under the UNFCCC that have emphasized the significant linkages between climate action and gender equality (e.g. the 2014 Lima Work Programme on Gender and Climate Change). In 2015-2016, the UNFCCC recognized that the NAP process is an opportunity to integra_group_of_women_plant_paddy_rice_seedlings_in_a_field_near_sekong_2_1ate gender consideration. More generally, it further highlighted that gender equality is recognized as a universal human right and is at the center of the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

It is important that NAP processes integrate socio-cultural issues such as gender in order to be effective. As pointed out by the NAP Global Network Report, work has been done on that front in many countries, but there are still many challenges in order to be able to do so successfully.

More specifically, the Report indicates that many countries have made an effort to integrate gender considerations in their NAP documents. However, certain obstacles in integrating gender issues in adaptation measures exist, such as institutional barriers which can limit dialogue and collaboration between gender and climate adaptation actors; information gaps, including sex-disaggregated data related to climate impacts and adaptation needs; and gender analysis of adaptation options, barriers and opportunities.

The NAP Global Network made a series of recommendations to stakeholders who are called to develop and implement NAPs including:

  • Committing to a gender-responsive NAP process going forward gender_crosscutting
  • Using the NAP process to enhance institutional linkages between climate change adaptation and gender equality
  • Improving gender balance in NAP-related institutional arrangements
  • Undertaking gender-balanced and inclusive stakeholder engagement for NAP processes
  • Using gender analysis and stakeholders’ inputs efficiently

The NAP Global Network Report also underlines that investments in country capacity building on gender adaptation need to be more significant.


This guest post was written by COP23 VLS student delegate Maria Paula Gonzalez Espinel.  Maria Paula graduated with her LLM from VLS and now works in Bogota at Colombia Macias Gomez & Asociados Abogados, one of the largest environmental law firms in her country.

Screen Shot 2018-09-30 at 1.29.54 PMOver the years there has been an increasing understanding that women face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change but also that they are critical in implementing climate change and sustainability solutions. Parties to the UNFCCC at COP23 established the Gender Action Plan (GAP) under the Lima Work Program on Gender with five priority areas recognizing the importance of including women and men equally in the UNFCCC processes and in the development and implementation of national climate policies that are gender-responsive. The five priority areas are:  (a) Capacity-building, knowledge sharing and communication, (b) Gender balance, participation and women´s leadership, (c)Coherence: on gender and climate change across UNFCCC and UN system, (d) Gender-responsive implementation and means of implementation and (e) Monitoring and reporting.

COP24 is the halfway point of this plan.  Because of that, there is going to be a lot of events andPerempuan_Adat_Harus_Dilibatkan_dalam_Negosiasi_Perubahan_Iklim activities in Katowice showcasing how Parties are implementing these priority areas. In addition, governments will consider the Gender Composition Report prepared by the Secretary to assist the Parties in tracking their progress towards meeting the goal of gender balance in advancing gender-sensitive climate policy.

The report reveals that more than half of the Bodies in this COP have female representation  and that  there is a record number of female delegates elected to the position of Chair or Co-Chair of the Bodies. patricia krakowEven though this shows improvement in the participation of women in bodies of the COP, what we really need is an equal number of women and men taking place in the negotiations. There is still plenty to do, as Patricia Espinosa, UNFCCC Executive Secretary, said: “Women and girls must be empowered to be agents and leaders of climate action. (…) most of the work still remains to be done. If we want to reduce the gender gap, we need to use every single opportunity to act.”

Tomorrow, on December 11th at COP24, the UNFCCC will celebrate Gender Day, which is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of the GAP, and highlighting women’s leadership in climate action, gender, and climate technology. This is a great opportunity to participate and play our part in fulfilling the objectives of the Paris Agreement for everyone and with everyone worldwide. Please #ActOnTheGAP and follow the action list of this year’s COP!.

How to Improve the Role of Women for Climate Change Solutions

ZAN-EH-2011-005Every year at the COP, the number of actors and stakeholders that want to fight climate change increases. Women are developing an important leadership on this matter, but it is necessary to keep improving their participation.

The United Nations developed a fact sheet called Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change, which concludes that “the consultation and participation of women in climate change initiatives must be ensured, and the role of women’s groups and networks strengthened.”

The number of women leading the climate fight is increasing. They play an important role and are making a difference at every decision-making level. “In the US studies show that more women believe in the science of climate change than men and are likely to act upon it.

Women have been constantly fighting for their basic rights at a global scale and although they have such experience demanding respect for their rights, it is necessary to improve their participation in climate change issues. So, how can we improve the role of women for climate change solutions?

We need to continue working with study cases, background and training to keep empowering women to challenge climate change decisions taken by corrupted governments.

Women´s Earth & Climate Action Network (WECAN) “is a solutions-based, multi-faceted effort established to engage women worldwide to take action as powerful stakeholders in climate change and sustainability solutions.”wecan_fb_default2

WECAN is committed to educate and empower women through stories and case studies to advocate for climate justice, gender equality, and rights of nature among others. To accomplish this purpose, WECAN created the “U.S WOMEN´S CLIMATE JUSTICE INITIATIVE”. This initiative calls for immediate action on climate justice and protection of natural resources.

It includes a series of online education and advocacy trainings. These free trainings seek to empower women to reclaim democracy, and make a difference in decisions made by the government while understanding issues relating climate change.

Today at COP23, WECAN reiterated the importance of women for climate change solutions. It highlighted that women are no longer only victims of climate change, but a solution to it.

Education is definitely the key to improve women participation in issues regarding climate change. Helping women understand what are community rights and rights of nature, and ecological economics and the price on carbon, would empower them to claim their rights.

Their knowledge and experience on issues related to the management of natural resources is the perfect combination to make substantive contributions in the decision-making process on environmental governance. More education means more women participation, which hopefully means more progress in the fights against climate change.

Closing the UNFCCC Gender GAP?

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.47.14 PMThe Gender Action Plan, with its apt acronym – GAP – was on the agenda earlier this month at the UNFCCC intersessional meetings in Bonn, Germany. And, rightly so. Women’s equal and meaningful participation in the development and implementation of effective climate policy is an agreed goal of the Parties to the Convention. Since COP7 in 2001, when Parties endorsed an increase in women’s participation, this goal has been increasingly articulated and characterized through a total of 75 decisions and mandates within decisions across the UNFCCC programs. (The secretariat’s compilation of these, organized by 9 thematic areas, is an excellent reference.)

Screen Shot 2017-05-24 at 4.24.07 PMYet, despite all these, Parties have faltered (see secretariat’s annual reports, 2013-2016). As we reported at COP22, in Marrakech (Nov-Dec 2016), Parties again acknowledged women’s under-representation throughout the Convention process and the inadequate progress toward gender-responsive climate policy. This recognition generated the Gender and climate change decision (21/CP.22), which directed the SBI to enhance the Lima work programme on gender (LWPG) and develop a Gender Action Plan (GAP). The GAP’s function is to “support the implementation of gender-related decisions and mandates.”

At SB46, an in-session workshop provided the primary substance for the GAP. Some of it came from twenty submissions with proposed GAP elements and advice on the workshop’s structure received from Parties (9), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) (8), and NGOs (3). Additional and rich input came from two pre-workshop events: 1) a 2-day informal consultation in March among 45 representatives of Parties, NGOs, and IGOs held at The Hague, Netherlands, and 2) a May 9 Listening and Learning Climate Justice Dialogue among negotiators and grassroots women focused on bringing forth key messages/principles.

Screen Shot 2017-05-30 at 1.42.46 PMAn open update session on the LWPG ahead of the GAP workshop also introduced the proposed framework that had emerged from the Hague consultation. This comprehensive framework, containing 5 clusters with associated priority/key results areas, and activities for each, was subsequently moved forward as the starting point for the Day 2 breakouts.

The first half-day covered the GAP mandate, the secretariat’s compilation of decisions and mandates, an overview of the submissions, outputs from the 2 pre-workshop events, and lessons learned from other action plans. This was followed by a facilitated dialogue addressing the Plan’s overall objectives and what success would look like in 2019 (when the LWPG is reviewed). Day 2’s breakouts explored and refined the 5 proposed clusters, priority/key results areas, and draft activities. (On-demand webcasts are available here: 5/10 and 5/11)

SBI47 will consider the outputs of these breakouts in establishing the GAP, when it returns to Bonn in November. To what extent the SBI makes modifications is a big question. One ambitious key result under the Gender balance, participation and women’s leadership cluster calls for reaching 50% representation of women in all Party delegations and constituted bodies under the UNFCCC by 2019.

As pressure grows for more than baby steps, so does the hope for an effective new tool to actually make women’s equal and meaningful participation in the development and implementation of effective climate policy a reality.

Gender and Climate Change Update

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon conducts Swearing-in Ceremony: Ms. Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Source: United Nations

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon conducts Swearing-in Ceremony: Ms. Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Source: United Nations

After the United States’ election results, there is a heightened sense of awareness about gender. As mentioned earlier this week, gender and climate change is on the agenda at the COP. After three days of negotiations, the Parties approved a draft decision on gender and climate change, which will be submitted to the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) for approval next week.

In the draft decision, the Parties extended the Lima work programme. By doing so, the Parties demonstrated their commitment to continue efforts to increase the participation of women delegates. The program helps female delegates build skills to effectively participate in the UNFCCC process. Extending the Lima work programme shows the world that the UNFCCC is committed to incorporating women’s perspectives in the negotiation process.

During my time at COP 22 I have witnessed first hand the results of these efforts. In the adaptation arena, most of the negotiations I attended had a strong female delegate presence, and all of them had at least one female co-facilitator. Increasing the number of women leading the world on climate change efforts can result in more dynamic decisions and more complete decision-making.

Despite the benefits of having more gender-balanced climate change negotiations, a recent study looking at 881 environment sector ministries from 193 countries found that only 12 percent were women. As the recent election shows, there is still a strong glass ceiling waiting to get shattered in many parts of the world. Without women’s larger participation at the national level, a true balance at the UNFCCC will not be possible. However, for the countries that do have women in higher positions, the concerted effort to bring women to the negotiation table is important.

In all, much work has been done and much is left to do. As long as Parties continue to put gender on the agenda, they will be sending a message to the world that women’s voices are valid and necessary in the fight against climate change.

Finding Balance: the Future of Gender and Climate Change Under the UNFCCC

UN gender photoCOP 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:

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

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.

No Climate Justice without Gender Justice

Today at COP21, a focus for at least one of the meetings was how to achieve transformative solutions for both climate and gender justice. The meeting emphasized gender and economic disparities in developing countries and the fact that climate change does not affect men and women on the same level.

222For much of the developing world, climate change is a fact of life. It is difficult to find climate deniers in these areas. In poor, rural areas in Nepal, climate change is already affecting day-to-day life and has become an “issue of survival” according to panelist Alina Saba.There the melting glaciers are making traditional subsistence living almost impossible. Specifically, in these developing parts of the world it is the women who are most vulnerable to climate change while also being the ones most excluded from decision making and most expendable to a world “focused on maximizing profits and consumption.” In much of the world indigenous women are at the front lines of climate change, where they are in charge of producing and gathering food without being able to contribute to decision making processes.

Despite the difficulties facing women in many developing countries, when they are given a seat at the decision-making table women tend to incite real change. For example in Bangladesh salinity and sea level rise has made it nearly impossible for women to grow traditional crops. There, women were at the forefront of an initiative to begin hanging vegetable gardens throughout the country to battle these climate change impacts. The success of this project is evidence that when women are able to come together as an agent for solutions they can help build local movements to tackle large-scale problems.

However, the gender disparities at the climate change forefront are not limited only to those women in rural areas. In cities, where low-carbon lifestyles are more accessible, the increasing complexity of urban systems are also connected with increasing inequalities- including gender inequalities. According to Gotelind Alber of Women for Climate Justice, female-headed households tend to be some of the poorest in urban areas. Additionally, even amongst homes headed by both men and women, there tend to be disparities within the household. Financial inequality is not always homogenous within a household. Often women tend to be worse off with less financial stability and more day-to-day duties. Thus mitigation and adaptation planning in urban areas will require integration of all sectors, and must include gender issues.

The Women and Gender Constituency (WGC), a stakeholder group of the United Nations Screen Shot 2015-11-30 at 10.18.44 PMFramework Convention on Climate Change, works to ensure that women’s voices and rights are embedded in all aspects of the UNFCCC framework and that gender equality and women’s rights are at the center of discussions. At the meeting, Kate Lappin of WGC, discussed climate change issues in a world that devalues women’s unpaid work. She specifically focused on the programs that attempt to redistribute work and build an energy democracy.

The idea behind an energy democracy is that it rejects the idea of net zero emissions on the premise that developed countries have historically contributed too much to global emissions. For example, the United States emits 176 times more carbon per capita than Nepal. Lappin suggests replacing a net zero emissions goal with goals that require zero emissions for developed countries while still requiring them to fulfill their financing obligations to developing countries.

Moving forward, city planning and climate negotiations should include equal participation of women at all levels. Further, negotiations and decisions must lead to modified policies to have a gender responsive climate policy. When women are included in the decision making process, effective change is delivered.

The Role of Gender in Climate Politics

Climate change is proven – the vast majority of the scientific community, along with many major businesses and nearly every major insurance provider, all agree that climate change is having real impacts on the world today. Most also believe that those impacts are the result of anthropogenic activity. However, the facts about climate change are not being translated into political action. This is in large part because the facts are not driving the discussion.

Despite the fact that the latest IPCC report states that “warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia,” and that “human influence on the climate system is clear,” somehow 18% of the US population still does not believe global warming is occurring, and 35% does not believe that it is caused by human activity. Even worse, the 114th Congress includes 162 climate deniers (approximately 30% of Congress) with only eight states represented exclusively by individuals who believe that addressing climate change is a priority.

Sen. James Inhofe

Sen. James Inhofe

Who are all of these climate deniers? Many Americans, if asked to picture a climate denier, would likely picture a figure like Rush Limbaugh or Senator James Inhofe. It turns out that there is more to this assumption than mere stereotyping. Several studies have been published over the past five years, building on existing bodies of research, which all indicate that climate skeptics are most likely to be white, conservative men. I took a closer look at three psychology and sociology studies from three different continents, all of which came to this same conclusion.

A study out of Cardiff University indicated that men are more skeptical of climate change than women, and that “political affiliation is a strong determinant of skepticism, with Conservative voters amongst the most skeptical.” An American study out of Michigan State University was one of the first to explicitly categorize “conservative white males” as the most skeptical of climate change. This study went a step further to analyze conservative white men who self-reported an above average understanding of global warming (considered “confident conservative white men”). By isolating these individuals, the study found that 48.4% of confident conservative white men believe the effects of global warming will never happen, compared to only 8.6% of all other respondents. Additionally, it found that while 71.6% of confident conservative white men believed that recent temperature increases are not primarily due to human activities, only 34.2% of all other respondents feel that way. Finally, a 2015 study published in the New Zealand Journal of Psychology supported and extended the “conservative white male” effect based on a sample of over 6,000 New Zealanders. This study confirmed that conservative white males (along with older individuals with high levels of socioeconomic status and less education) are disproportionately more likely to be skeptical of the reality of climate change and its anthropogenic cause.

These studies essentially just prove what most of us already knew or assumed. But the impact of the “conservative white man” syndrome is significant. Not only do the studies provide scientific evidence that conservative white men are the least likely to take action on climate change, it also indicates that “beliefs about climate change are fundamentally linked to existing values and worldviews,” and “are not a result of knowledge deficit or misunderstanding.” In other words, they are also least likely to be swayed by the overwhelming scientific consensus or by the urgency of environmental advocates.

Ms. Usha Nair, representative of the global south and current Co-Focal Point of the Women and Gender Constituency stakeholder group

Ms. Usha Nair, representative of the global south and current Co-Focal Point of the Women and Gender Constituency stakeholder group

None of this would matter so much if it were not for the fact that political decisions related to climate change are predominantly made by men. The UNFCCC Conference of the Parties is actually mandated to “improve the participation of women in bodies established under the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.” However, progress is slow, and the involvement of women in recent Conferences of the Parties has been limited. Women only represented 36% of the Party delegates to COP20 last year, and only represented 26% of the heads of Party delegations. This year, women represent only 25% of the members of constituted bodies (which is a ~3% decline from last year) and represent only 23% of the regional groups and other Party groupings.

Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Senate republicans

Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, and other Senate republicans

Even if we give the benefit of the doubt to the Conference of the Parties and assume that the participants in the process are all committed to combating climate change, any international agreement that the Parties sign must still be approved by two thirds of the United States Senate for it to become legally binding on the U.S. (although there are alternative mechanisms for the country to deposit its “instrument of ratification” with the UNFCCC). At least one source indicates that 32% of the current Senators are climate deniers, creating a very narrow margin for the 66% approval of any international climate change agreement. The fact that the whole of the U.S. Senate is currently 54% republican, 94% white, and 80% male does not lend hope to the cause.

Now, none of this is to say that every climate denier is a conservative white male, nor is it to say that all conservative white males are climate deniers. It is my ardent hope that the current United States senators (republican, democrat, Caucasian, minority, male, and female alike) will vote to approve the agreement reached at Paris this year. But if they do not, it might be an additional incentive to diversify our elected officials.

“2 steps ahead”: Malawi Moving the Parties Forward on Gender in Climate Change

Today in the informal consultations on gender and climate change, Malawi, on behalf of the LDCs (Least Developed Counties negotiating group), presented a conference room paper as a draft of a decision to establish a 2-year work programme for gender under the UNFCCC. This paper was seen for the first time by most parties in attendance (as well as us lucky observers in the room), but almost in consensus they decided to use this paper as a basis for further negotiations on gender. Though, the parties of course reserved the right to add and subtract to the draft at their next meeting. Malawi’s proposal draws upon previous decisions and conclusions of the COP, namely decisions 36/CP.7  and 23/CP.18 and conclusions SBI/2013/L.16, to establish a framework for gender in climate change under the UNFCCC. In addition to recalling the previous decisions and conclusions and proposing a 2-year work programme, Malawi recommends the parties also strengthen thematic areas on gender though in-session workshops, create a platform for dialogue on gender in climate change by training both men and women in the issues, build skills for females (especially for the most vulnerable women), provide information relating to gender and equality, appoint a Senior Gender Equality Expert, and provide means for implementation, including making finances available.

Though the co-chair praised Malawi for being “two steps ahead,” it is because the UNFCCC is “two steps behind” that this issue doesn’t have a work programme yet. The UNFCCC was born at the Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, a conference that included many statements on the importance of women in the path forward on environmental issues. For example Agenda 21, the cornerstone of the Earth Summit contained many references to gender and the importance of including women as key participants, both due to their vulnerability as well as their capacity to be leaders in climate change. Principle 20 of the Rio Principles, also created by the parties in Rio, states: “Women have a vital role in environmental management and development. Their full participation is therefore essential to achieve sustainable development.” In the more than 20 years since Rio, other agreements have reiterated the need to incorporate gender with environmental discussions, including the recently proposed UN Sustainable Development Goals and indicators which include one specific goal on gender with regard to sustainable development, but also synthesize gender issues throughout the Goals.

The same understanding on the importance of gender and women in environmental policies must be fully incorporated into the UNFCCC. Though progress has been made (in part demonstrated by the decisions and conclusions referenced above), not enough has yet been to done for gender balance under the UNFCCC. At COP19 in Warsaw, the parties agreed to this, that not only is gender equity and women’s involvement important to the UNFCCC, but also there is much work left to be done. (To learn more about the gender discussions from Warsaw read last year’s posts by Heather Crowshaw, Tracy Bach , and Taylor Smith).

Photo from UN Women

Photo from UN Women

Tomorrow and again later in the week, the parties will reconvene to discuss Malawi’s conference room paper, and thanks to the parties allowing observers back in the room, I’ll do my best to post on their progress within the week. Maybe the UNFCCC can finally take the 2 steps up to where it should be and agree to a convention on gender equity and the role of women.

Extra, extra. Read all about us in the HuffPost!

Congrats to our Week 1 Observer Delegation on its recent publication in the Huffington Post.  In it, we recap the first week’s activity, with an eye toward how it would set up the second week’s high level ministerial negotiations.  We specifically focused on the Gender Decision, land use and REDD, loss and damage, and the emerging elements of the new post-2020 climate change agreement.



Gender Day – UNFCCC’s Christiana Figueres gives no love to (coal) scrubs, calls on women to demand climate action

Today is Gender Day at the UNFCCC COP19. The purpose of Gender Day is to raise awareness on gender in the climate change context. It is not just a thematic day, it is a legal mandate from the Doha Climate Gateway, Decision 23/CP.18, to examine gender balance in the UNFCCC negotiations.


UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres addresses COP 19 in Warsaw, Poland.

“2. [The Conference of the Parties] Decides to enhance decision 36/CP.7 by adopting a goal of gender balance in bodies established pursuant to the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol, in order to improve women’s participation and inform more effective climate change policy that addresses the needs of women and men equally…9. [The parties to the UNFCCC] Decides to add the issue of gender and climate change as a standing item on the agenda of sessions of the Conference of the Parties to allow the Conference of the Parties to consider the information referred to in paragraph 8 above…10. Requests the secretariat to organize, in conjunction with the nineteenth session of the Conference of the Parties, an in-session workshop on gender balance in the UNFCCC process, gender-sensitive climate policy and capacity-building activities to promote the greater participation of women in the UNFCCC process…” (emphasis added)

As part of increasing awareness around gender issues and strengthening women’s voices, I attended the UNFCCC Gender 50/50 event featuring several high level women working on gender and climate change issues, including the UNFCCC’s Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, Helen Clark (UNDP Administrator), Lakshmi Puri (Deputy Executive Director of UN Women), Bianca Jagger (Founder and Chair, Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation), Mary Robinson (Former President of Ireland, and President, Mary Robinson Foundation – Climate Justice (MRFCJ)), Tarja Halonen (Former President of Finland), Riley McAuliffe (Global Voices), Elizabeth Njoroge (Executive Director, The Art of Music Foundation), and Wanda Nowicka (Member of Parliament, Poland). They spoke on how climate change impacts them, their families and those around the world. They shared their vision for a world that recognizes gender equality.


Each speaker emphasized that adverse climate change impacts women disproportionately from men. The majority of women around the world run the household, often living below the poverty line. Women have to fetch the water, collect firewood, tend the garden, take care of the family and other household tasks. waterThe purpose of the UNFCCC mandate on gender, is to increase the participation of women at the international level, in the negotiations, and on delegations. Women need to be included at all levels of the decision-making process in order to help support mitigation and adaptation efforts. Also, women need to speak up to have their voices heard, including those working at the highest levels of diplomacy.CCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres, and other prominent women leaders who shared their vision for women empowerment. Each shared their vision and dreams for women empowerment. The women sitting up front all faced their share of adversity to rise to leadership roles in a male-dominated world. Figueres even choked up a little when speaking about her experiences.

Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland, saluted Figueres for speaking at the World Coal Association’s “coal summit” yesterday. The ill-timing of the conference was not lost on Figueres and she paid a visit to the “coal summit.” Figueres urged the energy companies to keep fossil fuels in the ground and shut down dirty power plants and inject carbon emissions into the ground, such as through CCS.


“The world is rising to meet the climate challenge as risks of inaction mount, and it is in your best interest to make coal part of the solution

Scientists at COP 19 determined that 3.8 trillion tonnes (1 tonne = 1.102 metric tons) of carbon dioxide trapped in the world’s fossil reserves, about 60 percent of it in coal. Also, the scientists reported that 1 trillion tonnes would suffice to push the post-industrial temperature rise past 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit). The science supports leaving the fossil fuel resources into the ground. However, the energy and business industries, comprised of mostly male-dominated institutions, leave much to be desired in climate mitigation.  The current rules and regulations and mind-sets in the government and business worlds were shaped by a process that historically and currently excludes women. Their voices were never given a chance to shape the world we live in today, but this paradigm is changing as women around the world refuse to remain silent.

Women are the most affected by adverse climate change impacts. Yet they have not had much say in the process. Can empowering women in the climate change negotiations process find solutions to the climate crisis? There is hope. Women just have to keep supporting and pushing women to raise their voices and share their dreams of a better planet. For now, Figueres is leading the way.

Christiana Figueres’s speech:

Your Excellency, Mr. Deputy Prime Minister,

Honourable Member of the European Parliament,

Distinguished Chair of the World Coal Association,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I appreciate the opportunity to address the International Coal and Climate Summit in a frank and honest exchange on the transition to a low-emission economy.

Let me be clear from the outset that my joining you today is neither a tacit approval of coal use, nor a call for the immediate disappearance of coal. But I am here to say that coal must change rapidly and dramatically for everyone’s sake.

There are some who, deeply concerned about the devastating effects of climate change already felt by vulnerable populations around the world, are calling for the immediate shut down of all coal plants.

There are others who think that coal does not have to change at all, that we can continue to extract and burn as we have done in the past.

The first view does not take into account the immediate needs of nations looking to provide reliable energy to rapidly growing populations in pursuit of economic development and poverty eradication.

The second view does not take into account the immediate need for climate stability on this planet, necessary for the wellbeing of present and future generations.

Today I want to set out an alternative path that is admittedly not easy, but is undoubtedly necessary. That path must acknowledge the past, consider the present and chart a path towards an acceptable future for all. I join you today to discuss this path for two reasons.

First, the energy sector is an intrinsic component of a sustainable future.

And second, the coal industry must change and you are decision makers who have the knowledge and power to change the way the world uses coal.

The path forward begins in the past, recognizing that coal played a key role in the history of our economic development. From heating to transportation to the provision of electricity, coal has undoubtedly enabled much of our progress over the last 200 years.

Coal was at the heart of the developed world’s Industrial Revolution and brought affordable energy to the developing world. However, while society has benefitted from coal-fuelled development, we now know there is an unacceptably high cost to human and environmental health.

The science is clear. The IPCC Fifth Assessment Report outlines our predicament. We are at unprecedented GHG concentrations in the atmosphere; our carbon budget is half spent. If we continue to meet energy needs as we have in the past, we will overshoot the internationally agreed goal to limit warming to less than two degree Celsius.

AR5 is not science fiction, it is science fact.

AR5 is the overwhelming consensus of 200 lead authors synthesizing the work of 600 scientists who analysed 9000 peer-reviewed publications. AR5 is arguably the most rigorous scientific report ever written. And, the findings of the AR5 have been endorsed by 195 governments, including all of those in which you operate.

There is no doubt that the science is a clarion call for the rapid transformation of the coal industry. Just this morning, more than 25 leading climate and energy scientists from around the world released a clear statement about the need to radically rethink coal’s place in our energy mix.

Considering that coal energy loads the atmosphere with greenhouse gasses, competes for water and impacts public health, the call of science has already been answered by a wide gamut of stakeholders:

Students, faith-based organizations and citizens are asking their investment managers to divest from coal and other fossil fuels. Cities choked by air pollution are limiting the burning of coal.

Development banks have stopped funding unabated coal. Commercial financial institutions are analysing the implications of unburnable carbon for their investment strategies. Pricing of GHG emissions is on the rise, evidenced by trading markets coming online around the globe. And, international policy is moving us toward a global low-emission economy.

All of this tells me that the coal industry faces a business continuation risk that you can no longer afford to ignore.

Like any other industry, you have a fiduciary responsibility to your workforce and your shareholders. Like any other industry, you are subject to the major political,

economic and social shifts of our time. And by now it should be abundantly clear that further capital expenditures on coal can go ahead only if they are compatible with the two degree Celsius limit.

Ladies and gentlemen, the coal industry has the opportunity to be part of the worldwide climate solution by responding proactively to the current paradigm shift. It would be presumptuous of me to put forward a transition plan for coal as you are the repositories of knowledge and experience, and the assets you manage are at stake.

But there are some fundamental parameters of this transition:

    • Close all existing subcritical plants;
    • Implement safe CCUS on all new plants, even the most efficient; and
    • Leave most existing reserves in the ground.

These are not marginal or trivial changes, these are transformations that go to the core of the coal industry, and many will say it simply cannot be done. But the phrase “where there’s a will, there’s a way” is tantamount to human history because will precedes innovation, and innovation precedes transformation. John F. Kennedy called for putting man on the moon in ten years at a point when no one knew how that would be done.

We must transform coal with the same determination, the same perseverance, the same will. We must be confident that if we set an ambitious course to low-emissions, science and technology will rapidly transform systems. Above all, you must invest in this potential, because the coal industry has the most to gain by leveraging the existing capital, knowledge and capacity to transform itself.

The world is rising to meet the climate challenge as risks of inaction mount, and it is in your best interest to make coal part of the solution. These radical changes have the transformative power to bring coal in line with the direction in which society is moving.

I urge every coal company to honestly assess the financial risks of business as usual; anticipate increasing regulation, growing finance restrictions and diminishing public acceptance; and leverage technology to reduce emissions across the entire coal value chain.

You are here today as coal industry leaders, but you can also understand yourselves as long-term energy supply leaders. Some major oil, gas and energy technology companies are already investing in renewables, and I urge those of you who have not yet started to join them.

By diversifying your portfolio beyond coal, you too can produce clean energy that reduces pollution, enhances public health, increases energy security and creates new jobs.

By diversifying beyond coal, you reduce the risk of stranded assets and make yourselves ready to reap the rewards of a green economy.

By diversifying beyond coal, you can deploy your disciplined, courageous and technically skilled workforce into new renewable energy jobs, transforming your companies from within.

The Warsaw Communique is a first step for change because it shows:

    • That the Association accepts climate change as a development risk; and
    • That lower coal emissions is an aspirational and realizable goal.

The communique is a first step, but it cannot be the last. I invite you to use this Climate and Coal Summit to decide how you are going to step up to the challenge of contributing to real climate change solutions.

We must urgently take the steps that put us on an ambitious path to global peaking by the end of this decade, and zero-net emissions by the second half of the century. Steps that look past next quarter’s bottom line and see next generation’s bottom line, and steps to figure health, security and sustainability into the bottom line.

For it will be your children and my children, our grandchildren and their grandchildren who will look back at today and judge our collective commitment to them.

They must be able to look back and recognize this summit as a historic turning point for the coal industry.

Thank you.

See more at:


The Time for Action is NOW!

Christiana Figueres’ Call to Action:

“The science is clear. The negative impacts are upon us and the opportunities have never been as compelling. So why are we not moving into the action at the speed and the scale that we have to be? My friends, the time is now. Now, let me say to all of us on the board, one way or another on the climate agenda, it is not a job.  For the human system, this cannot be a job. For the development banks, this cannot be a job. This has got to be our obsession. Every morning we have to get up, look at ourselves in the mirror and say “am I doing enough?” “Am I doing everything that I can?” “Am I working with all the stakeholders that I have to work with in order to move this forward?” Because my dear friends, we’re running out of time. The time for action is now. And you all represent a lot of the action that is taking  place in your countries. So my friends, no more wasting time. No more plans. No more pilot projects. We’ve got to move out of the pilot stage and we have to move in to true demonstrations… And you know what? We’ve got to do it in 12 months! … So my dear friends, let’s just do it! Thank you.”

And now from the old lady in the group

This detailed post is made in honor of Taylor Smith.


Another post from Gender Day at COP19/CMP! Building on the awareness of COP18’s Gender Decision and its impact on COP19 — brought to this blog last week by our colleague, Taylor Smith — I attended a third session today devoted to women and climate change.  Entitled Gender and Climate Change: Vision 50/50, it brought together a group of influential women leaders from around the globe, to talk about the important role of women in addressing climate change.


Bianca Jagger and Christiana Figueres

Christiana Figueres emceed the event, which included Bianca Jagger (who chairs a foundation named after her), Tarja Halonen (president of Finland for 12 years), Lakshmi Puri (Deputy Executive Director of UN Women), Mary Robinson (former president of Ireland, now president of a foundation named after her), and Helen Clark (UNDP Administrator and former New Zealand head of state). Figueres set the tone for the next hour of conversation.  While we should always “keep our feet on the ground, but raise our eyes to the stars,” today she urged us “let’s together look more to the stars.”  She asked each of the women leaders on the panel to “share from the heart and soul, not head,” answering the question: “If we could create the world that we want for the next generation, what would it look like?


Christiana and Tarja Halonen

Jagger led off, highlighting the invaluable services women provide to ecosystems and the role that violence against women plays in keeping them from succeeding more (and the fact that combatting this phenomenon was left out of the MilleniumDevelopment Goals).  She ended her remarks by quoting Rachel Carson’s version of Robert Frost’s Road Not Taken, written in her award-winning book, Silent Spring: “We stand now where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road — the one less traveled by — offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures the preservation of the earth.”

Before passing the mic to Puri, Figueres quipped: “I like the image of crazy women walking down the path less trodden.”


Clark at left, Puri at right.

Puri spoke of her dream of changing the “lived reality” of women.  She wishes that women will gain a voice in the household, community, state, and global levels.  She gave a nod to the COP gender balance decision, but noted that it is small piece of achieving her dream, just “a means to this end.”Robinson spoke next.  She warned about her “disruptive” nature, and then promptly brought up a young woman from the front two rows, to occupy a seat on the dais left empty by Warsaw’s mayor.  She described the kind of transformational leadership she’d like to see embraced by the next generation of women leaders.  First, it would call out the injustice of climate change’s disproportionate impact on the poor, including energy injustice (open fire cooking whose smoke causes lung ailments and early death, candles and kerosene that cause house fires).  Then it would give voice to the poor, and offer new ways to grow through low carbon production and inclusive sustainable development (like leaving the remaining fossil fuel in ground, which Robinson described as being dangerous, like asbestos).

Mary Robinson

Mary Robinson

Halonen would like a world without war, civil violence, and domestic violence.  She told us that in Finland’s only 100 years of independence, the country has had one civil war and two other wars.  She also encouraged the future leaders in the room to make connecting with our dreams a part of the official agenda.Clark imagines a time when gender equality is accepted as “just the way it works.”  She observed that while the Gender Decision was a paradigm change, it is but a first response.  Now women need to be involved in the economic and financial world, working on sustainable energy and water access.  “No decision about us without us,” Clark sang out:  “We have to be at the table, and have our voices heard.”

Figueres added that women “have to be at the table AND raise our voice once there.”  And then practiced what she was preaching by giving the floor to the young woman in the absent mayor’s seat, who clearly had won the women’s day lottery!

Elizabeth Njoroge, Executive Director of the Art of Mosaic, concluded the session by singing an original song, Vision 50/50 that was written, composed and first performed for this event.

Elizabeth Njorobe singing Vision 50/50.

Elizabeth Njoroje singing Vision 50/50.