Today, the 18th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change begins in Doha, Qatar. Once again, the world comes together to negotiate climate change: mitigation, adaptation, finance, and governance processes. The task is formidable and the issue is pressing and complex. Past commitments, like the Green Climate Fund, need to be specified and put into practice, new commitments, most importantly a second commitment period for the Kyoto Protocol, need to be made.
So, maybe it is rather surprising when I start my first blog on COP18 with the following question: where are the women? And what I mean by that is the question of equal representation but also gender-mainstreaming in policies, practices, and programmes.
In the face of the complexity and importance of issues being negotiated in Doha for the next two weeks, don’t we have other things to worry about? My answer is: yes and no.
You might be tempted to say yes. After all, gender-mainstreaming is important but can surely take a backseat until we are back on track with negotiating a response to climate change? Can it? Maybe it can’t. An effective climate policy can’t ignore 50% of the world’s population.
In a first instance, the question is linked to representation and the more general question of women in diplomacy. Over the last three years we have seen strong women at the top of the UNFCCC process: Christiana Figueres, the Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, as well as the last three COP presidents. However, general representation of women delegates is still low: At COP16 in 2010, 30% of delegates and 14% of heads of delegations were women.
In a second step, we should also ask: if there were more women in (climate) diplomacy, would the process and outcomes be any different?
Climate change affects men and women differently; this needs to be taken into account when formulating policy. I would maintain that having a greater number of women participating in the negotiating process will make a positive a contribution to taking a much needed gendered perspective on climate change.
When I say this, I have the following aspects in mind:
- “Women typically have less ability to move elsewhere, as they have less access to credit;
- Women may face discrimination in food distribution and have less say in decisions about crop production;
- Women are more likely to be excluded from community decision making and higher level policy making;
- Low carbon technologies often fail to connect with women’s needs.”
Tomorrow, a side-event at the COP will focus on this question in more detail: “Gender and Climate Innovation: Breakthrough changes for gender equality”. I will be very curious to follow the events.