Interlinking gender, intersectionality and climate action

February 18, 2023

Climate impacts are among the key risks that the world’s population is facing today. While all are impacted by climate change, some are more than others.  This includes those groups of the world’s population who are more vulnerable than others due to socio-economic factors, as well as due to their dependency on natural resources for their livelihoods. 

Among elements that could play a role in increasing vulnerability to climate change is. Gender which could impact an individual’s resilience to climate impacts. Women and children face higher risks especially when they are faced with poverty, disparities in participation in decision making processes. Further, gender could play a role in reducing an individual’s economic resilience, where labor markets are restrictive and gender-biased.

Gender responsive approaches being integrated at all levels of climate action, and gender empowerment building on intersectional approaches could enhance the resilience of women as well as vulnerable communities. In turn this could also result in improving leadership of vulnerable groups in the resilience building efforts. 

Climate resilience and capacity building

The impacts of the application of gender responsive approaches leading to gender equality and empowerment in climate processes have been recognized by the Parties to the United Nations Framework on Climate Change. Measures are designed and applied at different levels to ensure that different aspects relevant to gender and climate change are integrated into the UNFCCC process. This includes global as well as national and local levels which aims to ensure that gender is not a thematic area delt in isolation, but through an integrated and intersectional approach. 

To achieve enhanced resilience and scaled up gender responsive approaches, technical capacity building on integrating gender into climate change related activities is important. Similarly, capacity building of the vulnerable communities, especially women, on how gender responsive and transformative actions could be implemented is important. This includes steps to be taken at all levels of climate related activities: from formulation and planning of actions to the impact assessment and monitoring and evaluation of the activities. 

In addition to the UNFCCC process, finance entities also consider gender a key component of focus. This includes gender related elements and implications, as well addressing gender empowerment are considered in project approval. For example the Green Climate Fund’s gender policy includes a mandate to enhance a gender-sensitive approach into GCF’s processes and operations. The policy provides for efforts to maximize the impact of GCF’s funding for climate activities while promoting environmental, social, economic and development co-benefits and taking a gender-sensitive approach while encouraging the involvement of relevant stakeholders including vulnerable groups, and addressing the gender aspects. 

Intersectionality and gender in climate change

The application of intersectional approaches to identify and address climate impacts and vulnerabilities presents avenues to better design climate solutions which are inclusive, participatory. This also facilitates the development of solutions which are equipped to effectively address climate impacts while responding to the needs of vulnerable communities and ecosystems through community-driven, gender-responsive approaches. 

Integration of intersectionality to climate action refers to examining of issues which could lead to better understanding how key components such as race, place, age, gender, and geography intersect and interact with each other in a manner that could contribute to better addressing the power structures which would have adverse implication to building resilience, if ignored. These approaches recognize the need for gender responsive action and processes, as well as the need for critical understanding of intersections between climate change and gender. 

While intersectional approaches remain pivotal to building climate resilience, they do present challenges. This could be due to the need for better understanding of the approaches and technical needs for their application; the need for data and information that interlink with the monitoring and evaluation of climate action while integrating intersectional approaches; the concepts and beliefs that prevent keys stakeholders from accepting and implementing action that interlink with intersectionality. 

Possible avenues for intersectional approaches include raising awareness and capacity building for addressing existing adverse factors among populations interlinked to climate vulnerabilities; inclusive and participatory decision making through policy processes at all levels, including those such as Nationally Determined Contributions under the Paris Agreement; integration of multi-sectorial and multi-dimensional approaches for project designing; and developing narratives for climate action through initiatives which integrate gender responsive approaches. Further, theories of change that integrate intersectional approaches based on evidence and data could help build positive climate action leading to long term resilience that address which address diverse power dynamics.  

Just transition, gender and climate resilience

Climate solutions need to be just and inclusive. They should be implemented in an evidence-based, and an impact driven manner which is just which prevents exacerbating existing vulnerabilities. Through evidence, data and information, as well as capacity building of communities and key stakeholders, climate solution could be implemented facilitating a just transition. In this effort, gender is considered a key element which takes into consideration aspects such as gender equality and integration of gender into decision making processes, as well as access to labor markets and livelihoods. It is important that countries and stakeholders consider gender and intersectionality as a key element in developing climate action plans, which prevent discriminatory and restrictive processes which are gender-blind and have negative impacts on those countries and groups most vulnerable to climate change. 

Increased awareness on the interlinkages between climate change, gender and intersectionality which lead to just transition is pivotal for countries to initiate actions that present positive social, economic and environmental impacts. Evidence, data, information and good practices, as well as multi-stakeholder engagement processes which are inclusive, transparent and participatory contribute to holistic actions on climate change, that deliver gender responsive approaches, and just transition. 

Note: This article has been published on The Morning as part of the author’s weekly column.

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About the Author
Vositha Wijenayake

Vositha is an attorney-at-law specialising in public international law, with a focus on international environmental law, UN human rights law, refugee law and EU law. She has over a decade of experience in working on climate change, at national and international level. Vositha is a member of the national expert committee on climate change adaptation of the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, national expert on vulnerability and adaptation measures for the Third National Communication of Sri Lanka to the UNFCCC for the Ministry of Mahaweli Development and Environment, and is a delegate focusing on compliance, adaptation, loss and damage, and gender for the Sri Lankan delegation to the UNFCCC since 2016. She is also a consultant to the UNFCCC national adaptation plans and policy unit, and worked as a country support consultant to the UNDP NAP Global Support Programme. Vositha has an LLM in public international law from University College London, and an LLB from University of London. ‍