Climate finance and gender: Will South understand North?

The fate of the Green Climate Fund's new Gender Policy is unclear after some board members block it

There’s a lot of talk about gender in the climate and development world. Over the last 15 years, the international climate finance institutions have been gradually increasing investments in gender equality and women’s empowerment as there is evidence and a belief that gender mainstreaming improves the effectiveness and efficiency of technical assistance and development funding, provides social justice, alleviates poverty and increases global sustainability.

Climate change finance is delivered through a number of funds including the Global Environment Facility (GEF), Adaptation Fund, Least Developed Countries Fund (LDCF), Special Climate Change Fund (SCCF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF). All these funds have gender policies in place, but the GCF’s gender approach stands apart. The GCF was set up by 194 countries (signatories) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010 and gathered pledges of USD 10.3 billion to support developing countries in responding to the challenges of climate change up to 2020. The Green Climate Fund (GCF) was designed to be a paradigm shifting, transformational fund that delivers beyond business-as-usual approaches. As claimed by the GCF, it is the first climate finance mechanism that considers gender as an essential decision-making element for the deployment of its climate finance.

The GCF’s gender policy has been evolving over the last few years and the GCF has been making continuous efforts to integrate gender within its programming architecture. In 2017, the GCF announced the need for an updated gender policy to reflect ‘ the reality of a fast-changing landscape related to gender equality and social inclusion in the context of climate change’[1]. After considerable amount of consultations, the new gender policy was offered for adoption in February 2018, at the 19th Board Meeting of the GCF. 

The adoption of the new policy has however been put on hold. The board members from Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Cuba requested consideration of the national context for the implementation of the GCF’s gender policy. The board members from Germany, Finland, Netherlands and Canada noted that such reference would be an unacceptable compromise, and if the text of the gender policy would be re-opened for changes it should be made even more ambitious. Ms. Satu Santala, Board member from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland said: “The adoption of the [updated] gender policy is key, if the GCF is positioning itself as a leading international institution that is driving a transformational change”.

Part of the discussion on Gender and Social Inclusion Policy at the GCF board meeting B.19 (Source: here)

In anticipation of the updated gender policy, E Co. carried out research and interviews early 2018, which revealed that gender mainstreaming is strongly supported by the majority of the GCF’s stakeholders (the report may be downloaded here). However, after the intense discussions during the 19th Board Meeting, the fate of the new GCF policy is unclear.

E Co. advocates for gender equality and social inclusion within climate finance and believes that it is essential to include gender perspective and expertise into the full project cycle. Grant Ballard-Tremeer, E Co’s Director says: “Gender mainstreaming is an effective project development tool and applying a gender lens throughout the whole project design makes for better, more effective, climate investments”.

[1] GCF/B.19/25

E Co’s Svetlana Frenova speaks about the difficulties in complying with GCF’s gender policy in the video below:

Transcript: In December 2017, we at E Co. conducted a survey. Our research showed that most practitioners find the gender requirements for accreditation and project development to be complex, or at least moderately challenging.  More than half, or about 60% of accredited entities have a gender specialist or staff member for this reason.