Accessing Climate Finance and Gender Sensitive Climate Action

February 28, 2018

Climate change renders women disproportionately vulnerable to its impacts as a result of persisting gender norms and discrimination. This is evidenced in terms of the impacts of climate change affecting scarcity of water, food security, disaster situations and fuel shortage, thereby having a drastic impact on women’s human rights as well as on gender equality. Moreover, the notion of women’s rights and equality is affected by the processes that seek solutions to address climate change. The manner in which the climate response processes are formulated in terms of inclusion and participation of women, as well the manner in which they are implemented on the ground-level will determine the iteration of women’s rights while also ensuring that the solutions themselves are holistic.

© Dominic Sansoni / World Bank (Retrieved through Creative Commons photo via Flicker, through World Bank Photho Collection)

Placed in this context, climate finance plays an important role in ensuring means for implementing such climate solutions. It is therefore pivotal that women from communities affected by climate change impacts as well as women’s rights advocates are allowed a say in determining the type of solutions that should be financed. It is equally important to ensure that the voices and the experiences of marginalized communities including women, grassroots and indigenous people are taken into account.

This article presents the need for climate finance to be  gender-sensitive through the recognition of women’s rights and experiences in the development and implementation phases, which would also help ensure that the development pathways are sustainable and inclusive in the long-run. It further highlights that mainstreaming gender in climate processes should be mandated, the importance of ensuring that women groups and activists, and their initiatives have access to these financial flows, and are provided with the knowledge and awareness of funding mechanisms and the information relevant to the financial flows.  

Existing climate finance mechanisms

The various financial instruments available for climate financing include loans, grants and guarantees which are sourced through public, private or intermediary means. Between 2015 and 2016 there has been more than USD 410 billion annual average invested in climate finance, of which, USD 139 billion, or 33 percent of the total, comes from the following sources;

  • ministries and government agencies, through bilateral aid, export credit and UN institutions;
  • development finance institutions, through multilateral development banks, national development banks, and bilateral financial institutions; and
  • climate funds.

The four main climate funds and their respective contributions are listed as;

(c)Climate Finance Update

It is important to understand how these funding mechanisms incorporate gender concerns and if there is a gendered lack of influence or control over the types of projects that are developed as climate solutions. Several issues have been highlighted in the way existing financial mechanisms address gender in their finance allocations. Among the issues highlighted;

  • the mechanisms are not working to channel funding to local groups, women’s groups, women’s rights activists;
  • prevailing approaches to reducing emissions in project design continue to prioritize scientific and technological measures, often at the expense of social and behavioral considerations;
  • most funding is channeled to mitigation purposes, supporting large-scale energy infrastructure and industrial efficiency programs, often considered gender-blind; and
  • adaptation projects are prioritizing retrofitting infrastructures deemed to be at risk from climate change over people and communities.

On the other hand, it has also been observed that all major climate funds have incorporated plans and policies to ensure gender-responsiveness, with many linking to Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other human rights instruments.

UNFCCC mandates related to gender and climate finance

In accordance with Article 11 of the Convention, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the Green Climate Fund (GCF) function as the operating entities of the Financial Mechanism under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) processes. Several decisions underscore the link between finance and gender considerations as pertaining to these two entities. Decision 3/CP.17, in 2011, which relates to the establishment of GCF, states in its Governing Instrument that the GCF fund would take a gender -sensitive approach. Additionally, Decision 8/CP.19, in 2013, includes criteria on the review of the Financial Mechanism on the extent to which the financial mechanism is contributing to gender-sensitive approaches.

Among mandates taken to ensure the gender-sensitivity at the recently concluded 23rd Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (COP23), there were two activities that specifically related to gender and climate finance.

  • The Standing Committee on Finance was invited to host a dialogue in 2019, on the implementation of its commitment to integrate gender considerations into its work, emphasizing the relevance of gender-responsive access to finance in the implementation of climate action.
  • The strengthening of capacity of gender mechanisms for policy-makers for the integration of gender-responsive budgeting into climate finance, access and delivery through training, expert workshops, technical papers and tools was prioritized as activities.

In addition COP23, also saw the adoption of the first ever Gender Action Plan (GAP) by the Parties to the UNFCCC which aims to increase the participation of women in all UNFCCC processes, and also seeks to increase awareness of and support for the development and effective implementation of gender-responsive climate policy at the regional, national and local levels

Conclusion and way forward

Gender-responsive climate finance is an indispensable component in ensuring that it addresses the resilience building needs and supports the rights of communities and individuals on the ground and benefits women and men equally. By ensuring that the frameworks for mobilizing, governing and disbursing climate finance under key financial mechanisms, are executed in a manner that is fair and equitable, it is possible to lay the groundwork for the operationalisation  of the Paris Rulebook, and the GAP as well as other international, national and regional climate policy. While securing channels of funding for climate initiatives that benefit and empower women is crucial, it is also important that awareness of the means of and access to such funding amongst women in communities on the ground and women’s rights advocates is achieved. Not only is awareness and information on such gender-responsive climate finance pivotal to the development of holistic development pathways for countries, but is also enables the transparency and monitoring of such mechanisms through tracking and monitoring financial flows.

In conclusion, the normative principles for gender-mainstreaming provided by climate funds allow for the engagement of women and men of all ages as stakeholders in the design, development and implementation of climate solutions and activities to be financed through such financial flows.


  1. Women’s Rights & Climate Finance Webinar Series – Session 1 and 2. Organised as part of the  “Women Demand ‘Gender-Just’ Climate Finance” initiative by the Wallace Global Fund, WEDO and Both ENDS, as  a member of the Global Alliance for Green and Gender Action (GAGGA).

Related Articles

Thematic Areas

No items found.


About the Author