Climate justice without gender justice? No chance!

Policy musings from Sonke Gender Justice.

In a few days, the UN Secretary General will host the United Nations Climate Ambition  Summit. This is a crucial milestone, promising to inspire and push for greater ambition.  World, business, regional and financial institutions leaders will hold each other to account  towards clean and renewable energy reforms that are supported by calibrated policies. In  this matrix, gender justice should be a quality marker and non-negotiable. 

It is common cause that constrained use of fossil fuels is a necessary policy premise for a progressive development pathway. Toxic emissions from burning or producing fossil fuels  causes unfavourable climate change. Climate change and all the ills that it brings along in its  train perpetuate gender inequalities, dislocating both practical and strategic gender needs. Engaging men and boys in climate justice is as compulsive as it is instructive to achieve  sustainable gender sensitive climate transition. The upcoming summit offers a splendid  opportunity for the world leaders, to accelerate the pace for change towards a future that is  not only fossil free, but gender injustice free.

“Engaging men and boys in climate justice is as compulsive as it is instructive to achieve sustainable gender sensitive climate transition that empower women and girls”

Sonke Gender Justice

Today, more than 3.3 billion people live in contexts that suffer adverse effects of climate  change, and the majority are women. Research from Harvard University and the University  of Birmingham found that air pollution from burning fuels like coal and diesel was  responsible for about one in five deaths world-wide. With an average growth of more than  16% in renewable energy annually, it can be argued that we are already in an energy  transition phase globally. Heads of government must move in earnest towards policy  interventions that replace fossil fuels with renewable, cleaner, and efficient energy sources.  This is the clarion call; this is the key message of convergence that will ensure policy  outcomes that are facilitative of sustainable development. However, the story is not  complete. Women and girls are at the periphery of the energy control and access frame. Policy making on energy transition or decarbonisation should be intersectional because the  relationship between gender equality and environment is contextual and multi-faceted. 

Leaders of governments, cities, businesses, regions, and financial institutions should strive  for engendered transition plans that addresses the systemic and policy barriers to sustainable development for women and girls. The credibility standards of transition plans  need to go beyond the ‘People and Nature’ in just transition to embrace ‘Women and  nature.’ This not just a call for an ecofeminism policy lens that addresses challenges and  barriers, but a transformative change for gender equality. The Paris Agreement and 2030  Agenda espouse the role of human rights in sustainable development and addressing  climate change. 

Global South countries are disproportionately affected by climate change despite their  negligible contribution to the causes of climate change. Women in the global south are an  integral voice in climate justice. Consequently, in 2022, the UN Commission on the Status of  Women (CSW) facilitated a theme for gender equality and empowerment for women and  girls in climate justice. In Africa, climate change is a narrative of poor health outcomes,  population displacement, food insecurity, spread of neglected tropical diseases, floods, veld  fires, droughts, water, and air pollution. Resultantly, women suffer considerable distress as  drought and stressed water resources impair their contribution to food production. High  risks and huge burdens are placed on women and children, thus making a compelling case for a gender-responsive climate change adaptation. 

The African voice on climate justice is awakening (our emphasis), Sonke through the MenEngage Alliance in Africa is mobilising, participating and leveraging every space  available to place the African voice on the frontline of climate justice. The huge appetite for an Afrocentric climate justice action plan is quite evident in the recent position of the 3rd MenEngage Symposium. A declaration by 200 participants, representing 26 countries at the  symposium acknowledges the huge greenhouse gas emissions from the developed countries and the disproportionate impact on Africa. The declaration places a responsibility for  climate restitution on the developed countries in meeting commitments of the Paris  agreement and other climate justice financing pledges.

“The credibility standards of transition plans need to go beyond the ‘People and Nature’ in just transition to embrace ‘Women and nature’.”

Sonke Gender Justice

As world leaders reflect on implementation of decarbonisation of high emitting sectors  (energy, shipping, aviation, and steel) and climate justice, advocates should not drop the  ball. Non-state actors and advocates should cultivate opportunities emanating from the  Gender Action Plan under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to promote women participation in climate decision making, mitigation and adaptation efforts.  Non-state actors can facilitate capacity building efforts for governments to mainstream  gender in formulating, implementation and monitoring national level climate change  policies and adaptation plans. The transformative potential of women participation can be  keenly felt if public and private entities increase gender responsive climate finance. This will  be crucial for sustainable development and benefit gender-just climate action and  resilience.

Gender justice is also an implementation issue that should inform reflections by state and  non-state actors at the level of policy making. Questions about the disproportionate impact  on women which increase their vulnerability to human rights violations are key in reflecting  on the implementation fundamentals that are part of the commitments. A growing body of evidence on sustainable development show that voices of women cannot be ignored in this  transition. 

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently stated that the window of  opportunity to secure a liveable future for everyone is rapidly closing. We are moving from  global warming to global boiling. Continued use of fossil fuel threatens the health of future  generations and the lives of people alive today. What more? The cost is huge. But who will  settle the exorbitant bill? Future generations? And with what currency?

3rd MenEngage Africa Symposium

Download the declaration agreed by 200 participants representing 26 countries at the 3rd MenEngage Africa (MEA) Symposium convened in Kigali, Rwanda, from 14-16 August 2023.