Gender Inequality and Climate Change

If policies are implemented without women’s meaningful participation it can increase existing inequalities and decrease effectiveness
Gender Inequality and Climate Change
"Climate change has a greater impact on women and other weaker sections of the population who are reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and having least capacity to respond to natural hazards, like droughts, landslides, floods etc."Publicdomainpictures [Creative Commons]

Climate change has a greater impact on women and other weaker sections of the population who are reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods and having least capacity to respond to natural hazards, like droughts, landslides, floods etc. Women commonly face higher risks and greater burdens from the impacts of climate change in poverty, and the majority of poor are women. Women’s unequal participation in decision-making processes and labour markets compound inequalities and often prevent women from fully contributing to climate-related planning, policy-making and implementation.

In spite of all hurdles and difficulties women can play a critical role in response to climate change due to their local knowledge leading to sustainable resource management. At the local level, women’s inclusion at the leadership level has led to improved outcomes of climate related projects and policies. On the contrary, if policies or projects are implemented without women’s meaningful participation it can increase existing inequalities and decrease effectiveness. The practical outcome of almost nil participation of women we are experiencing in our situation.

Although the participating countries to the UNFCCC have recognized the importance of involving women and men equally in UNFCCC processes and in the development and implementation of national climate policies that are gender-responsive by establishing a dedicated agenda item under the Convention addressing issues of gender and climate change and by including overarching text in the Paris Agreement. In spite of international treaties, in which India is also a signatory we have not filled the gap of gender inequality. In all women are not equal partners in climate change issue, biodiversity and pollution abatement and are not involved in any policy planning process.

Women and men are experiencing climate change differently, as gender inequalities persist in J&K affecting the ability of individuals and at village level to adapt. Recognising the important contributions of women as decision makers, stakeholders, educators, carers and experts across sectors and at all levels can lead to successful, long-term solutions to climate change.

Time and again women have proven to be leading the way towards more equitable and sustainable solutions to climate change. Across sectors, women’s innovations and expertise have transformed lives and livelihoods, and increased climate resilience and overall well-being.

Global negotiations have increasingly reflected the growing understanding of gender considerations in climate decision. Gender inequalities are reflected in differential vulnerability, and exposure to the hazards posed by climate change and addressing them is key to increase the adaptive capacities of societies. Various studies have shown that some rapid improvements in gender inequality are possible under a sustainable development scenario.

The share of girls growing up India and many other countries with the highest gender inequality could be reduced by effective policy planning and involvement of women in climate change action to about 24% in 2030 compared to about 70% today as reported.

Differential risks to climate change impacts are shaped by variations in vulnerability and exposure within and across societies. Together with their biophysical determinants, vulnerability, and exposure are products of unevenly distributed socioeconomic development and multidimensional inequality. Inequalities are reflected in income and wealth, which remain central subjects of socioeconomic research, but also in gender, education, racial, and ethnic profiles.

Socially marginalized groups which include women also are often affected by the interplay of these different dimensions and are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Women are not only inherently more at risk, but those intersections between genders, power dynamics, socio-economic structures, and societal expectations result in climate impacts being experienced very differently by women.

In the risk framework of the Fifth Assessment Report (AR5) of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), vulnerability to climate change impacts is inextricably linked to adaptive capacity, which is defined as “the ability of systems, institutions, humans, and other organisms to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to respond to consequences. Adaptive capacity, in turn, hinges on a range of socioeconomic factors, gender inequality playing one of the central roles, particularly in areas most vulnerable to climate change. The linkages between gender inequality and adaptive capacity range from uneven access to resources, to cultural norms and entrenched social structures.

The ramifications of gender inequality for addressing climate change can be viewed through two facets, women’s differential vulnerability and adaptive capacity; and the role of women in mitigation and adaptation actions. While the importance of rapid and stringent mitigation cannot be overemphasized, and recent research insights provide indications that gender equality facilitates climate action, here we focus on the importance of gender equality for adaptive capacity and vulnerability to climate change.

Given the central role that gender equality has for adaptive capacity, the future outlook concerning how well a country or a region can cope with the impacts of climate change can be very different depending on the scenario of socio-economic development.

The concept of Gender Development Index (GDI) in terms of climate change indices is designed within the Human Development Reports provided by the United Nations Development Programme. Similarly to the Gender Inequality Index, (GII), it accounts for metrics of health, education and economic empowerment. The economic component of the index is difficult to reconstruct due to the scarcity of data on the wage gap between women and men, which is necessary for the calculation of the overall index.

To analyse the relationship between gender inequality and other socio-economic dimensions, there exists a simple econometric model that expresses the Gender Inequality Index (GII) as a function of GDP per capita, the share of population with higher education.

The GII is an inequality index showing the loss in potential human development due to disparity between female and male achievements in three dimensions: reproductive health, empowerment and the labour market and reflects how women are disadvantaged in these dimensions. Countries, where women have higher educational attainment and more labour participation, prosper economically and attain further reductions in their child mortality rates.

There is growing evidence showing that women are generally more vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change than their male counterparts. Evidence shows empowering women through improved healthcare, education, and representation in government and leading climate change and environmental projects could help societies adapt more quickly and easily to the impacts of a changing climate.

At present, more than 70% of girls experience high levels of gender inequality predominantly in developing countries. However, if society can follow a pathway of sustainable development in the coming decades, progress towards achieving gender equality could see this number drop below 25% by 2030.

India’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change depends largely on how quickly and easily we can adapt to changes. For example, we can quickly build defences to protect against rising water levels and we may be less vulnerable to the negative impacts of flooding than a country that cannot adapt to changing climate changes. We need to create an environment in which people, institutions, and systems can respond quickly to the impacts of climate change. Then we can say that India has high adaptive capacity. However it needs a huge investment and therefore, developed countries often have higher adaptive capacities than developing nations – in part because they have more wealth to invest in adaptive measures. We have to get climate change and gender inequality in every sphere of planning and developmental activities. We have to look into a range of factors like income, occupation and education that can affect a person’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Here women are particularly disadvantaged by these factors due to entrenched social norms and socio-cultural structures that deprive women of access to resources, decision-making, information, agency, etc.

Female representation in India in Parliament, State Assemblies, and UT administrations will lead to adopt more stringent climate change policies and female representation leads to lower CO2 emissions. The reason can be attributed to the quality of cooperation and carefulness in females and the female civilians will be more open and safe.

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