How can climate finance ensure gender equality?

16 February 2023, Category: All insights, News, Tags: , , , , , ,

climate finance gender equality
by Jack Cribb

Distributing climate finance now necessitates including gender equality as standard, because without gender equality we cannot fight climate change. Project and programme proponents, technical experts, accredited and implementing entities are progressively expected to consider gender mainstreaming from the very outset.

Gender is a cross-cutting issue for climate and environmental agendas today, and has been included to some extent within many of the main environmental agreements of the last three decades. For example, it is a concept included within the 1992 Rio Declaration (Principle 20), in the 2010 Cancun Agreements,  and has been a focus for many of the UNFCCC’s Conference of Parties (COP). The UNFCCC has also created a specific working group, the Lima Work Programme on Gender, aimed at advancing ‘gender balance and integrate gender consideration into the work of Parties and the secretariat in implementing the Convention and the Paris Agreement’. In Article 7 of the Paris Agreement, it reads “Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach, taking into consideration vulnerable groups, communities and ecosystems”.

Women make up the majority of the world’s poor, according to analysis by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), and are disproportionately impacted by climate change, which aggravates existing inequalities. Because of this, climate financing instruments are at an advantageous position to provide gender-responsive support. To do this, mainstreaming gender considerations and ensuring implementation rests on including those considerations within two connected areas; project development and implementation. 

What does this look like in practice?

Project development: Including gender considerations within finance projects 

In section 1.5 ‘Exposure and Vulnerability’ of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) AR6 Synthesis Report, it reads:

Global concentrations of high vulnerability are emerging in transboundary areas encompassing more than one country as a result of interlinked issues concerning health, poverty, migration, conflict, gender inequality, inequity, education, high debt, weak institutions, lack of governance capacities and infrastructure. Complex human vulnerability patterns are shaped by past developments, such as colonialism and its ongoing legacy (high confidence), are worsened by compounding and cascading risks (high confidence) and are socially differentiated. For example, low-income, young, poor and female-headed households face greater livelihood risks from climate hazards (high confidence).

Persisting gender norms and inequalities, when combined with co-existing issues such as limited access to political agency or education, work to exacerbate the impacts of climate change. Yet this relationship is inverse too, as climate change can be seen as a threat multiplier, worsening the crises already being faced in a vulnerable community. Cross-cutting issues such as this lead to the marginalisation of women in many communities across the globe. It is the job of funding bodies, consulting bodies, and organisations that act as representatives for a particular community to recognise these inequalities and include mechanisms for targeting them within climate finance projects. 

If the issues are cross-cutting, then the responses cannot be singular in their perspective or approach. Climate finance decisions and project developments cannot be made within a ‘normative vacuum’ as the ODI describes. Unfortunately, historically, climate finance funds and their projects have been gender-neutral, having not noticed or prepared specific gender inclusions within their project analyses and implementations. Gender experts are far less common in the field, and without gender and gender-specific analyses, we lose the ability to create fully-fledged, fit-for-purpose, multidisciplinary support responses to environmental and climatic issues, impacts and changes. On this, the OECD writes in Gender and the Environment : Building Evidence and Policies to Achieve the SDGs:

Gender-balanced representation is equally important for achieving parity in the decision-making bodies of climate mechanisms and funds. Guaranteeing women’s equal representation in these bodies may lead to more gender-responsive selection and financing of projects. Despite the fact that women are the majority of the world’s poor and are highly affected by climate change, parity has not yet been achieved in some of these mechanisms and funds.

Through systematically updating the gender parity circumstances in the organisations responsible for funding, analysis, and implementation, the potential for more inclusive, cross-demographic benefits can be found when a climate finance project is ultimately implemented. When it comes to securing gender equality through climate finance, new best practices need to be implemented, ones that address what will be funded, and how it will be funded.

Best practices for gender-responsive climate finance

When allocating funding, funders need to be sure that the funding proposals are consistent with the development plans of the nation/s in question, alongside their respective mitigation and adaptation strategies. This is a smaller part of ensuring climate considerations enter the popular sphere of development policy, but still relies on integrating gender considerations at the earliest levels as these cannot be an afterthought. According to the UNFCCC’s synthesis report on Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), 42% of all new or updated NDC submissions contain unclear references to gender, and 15% contain no references to gender at all, which provides the impetus for building gender-inclusive project development from the ground up. 

So how can climate finance project developers and funding bodies capitalise on the gender-responsive approach? Here are several best practices that can be followed:

  • Utilise gender equality as a guiding principle in the creation of finance projects and funding proposals.
  • Create gender-responsive funding guidelines that stakeholders must abide by. Within this, those bodies behind request-for-proposals (RFPs) or those accepting bids must include gender as a key decision criterion when deciding upon project feasibility.
  • Climate fund boards can take a stronger stance against projects that do not include gender considerations adequately. Proposals that do not contain such considerations will be less likely to gain approval. 
  • Adaptation and mitigation projects should take a beneficiary-centred approach. In this, there should be specific mechanisms in place that ensure that funding reaches women in the target community. A concrete example of this would be to consider access to energy. As women are more likely to fall into energy poverty than men, specific mitigation projects could include a focus on providing access to renewable energy sources for women. 

Why is considering gender into climate action so vital?

In this short video, Consultant Roberta Piacci explains why gender mainstreaming is an important task for climate finance experts today. 

You can watch more of our E Co. bites by heading to our webpage here, or by exploring our YouTube channel.

Financing bodies and respective gender policies

As we’ve stated, including gender considerations within climate project development at early stages is important for securing gender equality through climate finance. In many cases, this can start with the acknowledgement of gender as a vital consideration from funding bodies. 

The largest climate finance operating entities, the GCF, Adaptation Fund (AF), and the Global Environment Facility (GEF), all uphold specific gender policies and action plans. You can explore these in more detail using the links below.



Green Climate Fund

Updated Gender Policy and Gender Action Plan 2020–2023

Adaptation Fund

Gender Policy and Gender Action Plan

Global Environment Facility

GEF Policy on Gender Equality

Other documents from these three organisations that cover the operationalising of gender considerations, challenges, and solutions are:

Implementation: Ensuring gender equality on the ground 

Creating gender equality within the implementation phase relies on a number of key practices being included within the project formulation phase. Women around the world are already dedicated to mitigation and adaptation strategies, such as leading reforestation efforts, ensuring girls have access to education, and even leading the move towards regenerative farming practices. They are incredibly powerful stakeholders on the ground, and so implementation efforts must account for this.

Best practices for on-the-ground climate finance implementation

How do we ensure that gender equality can be improved as a result of climate finance project implementation and that women as stakeholders can be successfully engaged within the project? Here are several best practices:

  • On-the-ground implementation of projects should include independent evaluation to ensure gender considerations are being met, alongside recourse mechanisms that allow women and other at-risk demographics to voice concerns or grievances and seek compensation in specific cases.
  • Funding allocations must undertake audits to evaluate gender impacts, ensuring that a gender-responsive delivery is being adequately rolled out. 
  • Projects could make an effort to ensure direct access to small grants for local women’s groups and facilitate collaboration between them and the implementing agencies.
  • Performance and results measurement should include explicit gender criteria, which may include:
  • A programme-specific gender action plan;
  • Quantitative and qualitative indicators of gender equality;
  • The collection of gender-disaggregated data.

The key messages for climate finance

For climate finance to create gender equality, it needs to be attuned to the needs of the most vulnerable groups that gender-responsive analysis focus on. What this means is that, going forward, climate finance thinking needs to prioritise the needs of these groups by mainstreaming gender considerations and dimensions within governance structures, programmes, and all phases of climate finance projects. 

What could simultaneously take place is the streamlining of finance application and approval procedures, ensuring that the right funds reach the right people faster. Coinciding with this, fund disbursement vetting should include gender-based criteria to further encourage gender mainstreaming. 

What are your thoughts on this topic? How do you think climate finance can ensure gender equality? Get in touch with us below.

To gain more insight on this topic, make sure to register for our upcoming training session Gender in climate finance projects: What you need to know’.

Sign up for our free gender training session

With mounting evidence on the disproportionate impacts of #climatechange on women and girls, how can we ensure that climate finance takes their needs into account? Join our upcoming training session on Tuesday, 28 February and learn all about what gender considerations can be included in climate finance projects, the key to gender action plans, and myths surrounding the concept.

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