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COP28: what advances for gender equality?

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By Giulia Marzetti

· 5 min read

Background on gender platforms at COP28

Women and girls are more exposed to the threats of climate change, yet they are less equipped and prepared to deal with the consequences of the climate crisis. 

Gender considerations have made their way into UNFCCC frameworks relatively recently. Established in 2009, the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) is one of the nine official stakeholder groups of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It now consists of 33 women’s and environmental civil society organizations, which are working to ensure that women’s voices and rights are embedded in all processes and results of the UNFCCC framework for a sustainable and just future. 

At COP25 in 2019, Parties adopted the five-year enhanced Lima Work Programme on Gender and its Gender Action Plan (GAP). It requested all constituted bodies to continue to include information in their regular reports on progress towards integrating a gender perspective into their processes. 

Last year, COP27 adopted the intermediate review of the implementation of the Gender Action Plan and amendments to the GAP contained in the annex (Decision 24/CP.27).

What is on the agenda for COP28 regarding gender? 

This year, the COP28 presidency claims to have identified gender equality as a thematic priority within the conference agenda, with the aims to ensure women's equal participation in UNFCCC processes, promote gender-responsive climate action, and drive the systematic transformation needed to achieve the objectives of the Paris Agreement. The issue of gender had its first-ever pavilion at COP28, with a whole programme dedicated to gender equality and climate change. 

Ahead of COP28, the UN Climate Change High Level Champions, UNFCCC, UN Women, IUCN, and WEDO convened the Global Conference on Gender Environment Data, acknowledging the need to close the gender data gap, which is crucial in understanding and acting on the gender and environment nexus. The conference featured new and enhanced gender and environment data approaches to understand and act on women’s and girls’ experiences of climate change and to act on closing the gender data gap.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) and UNFCCC held a high-level dialogue on delivering a gender-responsive just transition for all. Among the points raised were financing a gender-responsive just transition and ensuring meaningful participation through rights and social dialogue.

On 4th December (2023), UN Women Executive Director Ms. Sima Bahous announced the launch of the gender-responsive climate action platform together with 60 governments who endorsed the partnership. On the same day, Secretary Hillary Rodham Clinton announced in a high-level Women in the Sustainable Economy Initiative (WISE) a $1.4B fund to ensure women and girls' participation in climate action. The fund will support women's education in STEM, supporting female entrepreneurship and green skills, both in the US and in low-income countries. 

What has been decided?

Consultation on the Gender Action Plan was the other key point of this COP. However, the final text of the consultation on gender and climate change leaves out two important points that will have to be discussed at the next COP: climate finance and a truly intersectional approach that highlights the role of indigenous women and the local community in climate action. According to the Guardian, only 0.01% of global finance is currently spent on initiatives that benefit climate and women. Yet the need for the gender mainstreaming of climate finance (including the Loss and Damage fund) was not presented as strongly as it should have been in the final text. In addition, while female indigenous delegates and representatives of indigenous communities continue to be present at the consultations and negotiations, their presence is often tokenized and their viewpoints and rights are not adequately represented in the negotiation texts. 

While COP28 was an opportunity to agree on the need to deliver an intersectional approach to climate finance and the just transition, the final GAP text leaves many implementation details on women and gender in climate action to be decided at the next meeting. 

According to an analysis of the Women and Gender Constituency, only 64 countries out of 190 mention references to women or gender in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). Women or gender were most commonly mentioned in relation to adaptation (27 countries), followed by mitigation (12 countries). Only 22 countries referred to women or gender as a cross-cutting issue, mainstreamed across several sectors.

A call for action

A mere 15 out of 110 heads of state attending COP28 were women. According to Carbon Brief, 38% of delegates this year are women.

Although women are still underrepresented in decision-making positions, we need to further recognise their role as powerful agents of change to combat the climate crisis. While a dedicated day and events at COP28 are welcome to bring attention to the issue, there is the risk of relegating gender equality to the sidelines of the conference and its decisions. It is everyone's job to close the gender gap and mainstream gender considerations in policies.

illuminem Voices is a democratic space presenting the thoughts and opinions of leading Sustainability & Energy writers, their opinions do not necessarily represent those of illuminem.

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About the author

Giulia Marzetti is an engineer who has crafted a portfolio career as a consultant, project manager and policy officer in sustainable transport, energy storage, and industrial transformation. As project and policy officer for the European Commission, she managed over €80 million portfolio of sustainable innovation projects in Europe fostering a green. She regularly speaks at high-level events and forums such as UNECE, UN COP, GSTI.C and We Make Future Forum.

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