Gender equality key to motivating climate adaptation

Gender equality key to motivating climate adaptation

By Georgina Wade

A mounting body of evidence indicates that women are crucially important for successful adaptation to climate change. Climate impacts are felt through natural hazards, such as floods and droughts; and also through more gradual degradation of the environment.  The adverse effects of these events are already felt in many areas, including relation to water resources; agricultural production and food security; human health; human settlements and migration patterns. In each of these areas , women are more vulnerable to climate impacts than men.

There are many reasons for this, but one of the most significant causes is the amount of women living in poverty. Women are disproportionately represented amongst the world’s poor and are more dependent for their livelihood on the natural resources at threat by climate change. Often not in control of family finances, women also face political, social and economic barriers that can limit their adaptability. 

Research points to a need for gender sensitive responses to the effects of climate change and suggests that this will be best achieved by ensuring women are better represented in decision-making processes that govern climate action. But action requires a nuanced understanding of the root of the problem; so where exactly do women stand on climate change adaptation and resilience?

According to a study conducted by YouGov, women are less likely to be sceptical about climate change than men. Sampling a number of people across Britain, the study found that 75 percent of women are likely to believe in a changing climate in comparison to 64 percent of men. Additionally, a 2011 study conducted by Cardiff University found that scientism with regards to climate change can be linked to gender. “The tendency for men to be risk-sceptical appears to be linked to their higher propensity of hold anti-egalitarian and individualistic worldviews,” the study stated.

This research suggests that women have the knowledge and understanding of the necessity to adapt to climate change, and therefore should be at the forefront when it comes to developing practical solutions. This requires continued progress towards gender equality and providing women with access to resources that can aid in adaptation efforts.

Evidence shows that advancing gender equality can deliver results across a variety of sectors, including food and economic security and health. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent, which could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4 percent.

So, what can be done? To start, it is important to bring the linkages between gender and climate change into conversation. Women play a pivotal role in activities at the household and community levels, putting them in a position to contribute to livelihood strategies adapted to changing environmental realities. Enhancing the discussion around gender and climate change allows for more transparency on a topic that is typically unmentioned.

Additionally, investment in Climate Change Gender Action Plans (ccGAPs) can help governments and stakeholders unite on two goals; committing to action on climate change whilst advancing gender equality. Furthermore, efforts need to be made to improve women’s opportunities to participate in the green economy, notably through ensuring that women benefit equally from development projects focusing on clean technology and renewable energy.

The next twelve months will be crucial for driving climate action. With the European Climate Change Adaptation conference in May, the United Nation Climate Summit in September and the 25th session of the Conference of the parties (COP25) in January 2020, there are ample opportunities for gender equality and female empowerment to be placed at the heart of efforts to adapt to climate change and its impacts.

Cover photo by Adrien Taylor / Unsplash

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