Prioritizing Women In Efforts To Combat Climate Change

(Sigrid Kaag and Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, co-chairs of the NDC Partnership, 6.Mar.2019) — On March 8th, groups around the world will celebrate International Women’s Day, recognizing the achievements of women and calling for a more gender-balanced world.

In many countries, women are driving transformation towards climate resilient development patterns. Increases in extreme weather conditions like droughts, storms, and floods are already altering economies, economic development, and patterns of human migration. These are likely to be among the biggest global threats humanity experiences this century.

Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, Minister for Environment and Energy for the Republic of Costa Rica

Everyone will be affected by these changes, but not equally. Women disproportionately suffer the impacts of disasters, severe weather events, and climate change because of cultural norms and the inequitable distribution of roles, resources, and power, especially in developing countries. These impacts are further deepened by an imbalance in power relations and decision making.

Vulnerability to climate change is determined by a community or individual’s ability to adapt, and countries can further strengthen the role of women as key stakeholders when implementing their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) under the Paris Agreement. Right now, countries are revising and enhancing their NDCs in a process that continues through 2020. This presents a perfect opportunity for countries to incorporate gender-based analysis and engage women actively in efforts to mitigate and address climate change.

As the new co-chairs of the NDC Partnership, we are making women a priority and we are supporting countries in their efforts to recognize and empower women as part of their overall climate planning. Our initiative is a coalition of countries and institutions working to mobilize support and achieve ambitious climate goals while enhancing sustainable development; we do this by facilitating access to resources to drive NDC implementation forward.

On a national level, the NDC Partnership responds to country requests for support to develop gender-responsive plans and policies by guiding them towards curated knowledge tools and by harnessing the capacity-building resources of Partnership members. And on a global level, the Partnership draws from country experiences to share challenges and effective practices on gender-responsive NDC planning and implementation.

Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Kingdom of the Netherlands

When NDCs are designed to be gender-responsive, meaning that women are consulted as climate policies are developed and their role in implementing those polices is taken seriously, countries develop climate-related policies, programs, and budgets with the power to address existing gender inequalities from the outset. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but there are certain elements that should be considered.

First, there needs to be gender analysis to study the impact of the proposed measures, and those findings need to be reflected in the design of the NDC itself. Second, in understanding these impacts, there should be budgeting to ensure that sufficient funds are available to finance the elements of the NDC related to gender. Finally, there must be accountability mechanisms that evaluate a country’s progress in implementing gender-responsive policies and programs effectively to achieve the greatest impacts.

As we are seeing in several of our member countries, when this happens, evidence of successes abounds. Countries like Peru, Kenya, and Uganda have actively involved women in the design of their climate initiatives and created specific deliverables to address their needs. Additionally, in 2018, the For All Coalition led by Costa Rica and supported by UN Women and UN OHCHR was launched to promote gender equality and human rights in multilateral environmental agreements. What these countries believe is that gender-responsive climate work drives a cycle wherein mitigation and adaptation actions become more transformative, leading to more equitable outcomes for women, which in turn starts the cycle anew. The effectiveness of the entire process is heightened.

Ensuring that climate measures respond to gender inequalities is not only a solution that is fair and just, but it will also support more sustainable, equitable climate actions. One example is happening in the Republic of the Marshall Islands. With support from the NDC Partnership, the Marshall Islands has developed an implementation plan that devotes an entire outcome area to actions that increase gender and human rights mainstreaming in climate action.

This has immediately resulted in significant dialogue that advances the country’s goals. Last year, with the support of the Partnership, the government brought together traditional women leaders from the different islands as well as international leaders from the region to discuss climate change impacts and community response. This was a truly collaborative knowledge-sharing event that engaged new communities and benefited everyone involved.

With countries in the process of revising their NDCs leading up to 2020, we are in a critical design and planning phase. We have seen from our work around the world that women’s issues and climate issues go hand in hand, which is why as we celebrate women’s achievements and potential on International Women’s Day, the time to act is now.

Sigrid Kaag is Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation for the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Carlos Manuel Rodríguez is the Minister for Environment and Energy for the Republic of Costa Rica. Both serve as co-chairs of the NDC Partnership, which works directly with national governments, international institutions, civil society, researchers, and the private sector to fast-track climate and development action. For more information, visit


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