NEW YORK (December 3, 2013)– It’s been just over a week since the conclusion of the COP19 UNFCCC negotiations in Warsaw, Poland, where the talks seemed to embody the ever-growing climate chaos – evidenced through lack of real commitment or action by governments. There were some signs of progress, including for gender equality. But signs of progress should not detract from the overarching takeaway out of Warsaw: if there is any hope for an ambitious and effective climate agreement in 2015, the time for action and mobilization is now. We must do what we can from where we are, at local, national and international levels, and in multiple forms, to make change possible.

Below, WEDO offers an overview analysis of the challenges and next steps in the climate process, as well as the need to link our advocacy across multiple coherent processes to move towards a true system change for a healthy and peaceful planet. As WEDO headed straight from Warsaw into meetings of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) looking at the topic of energy- an issue which is inextricably linked to action on climate change- the need for coherency was amplified.

The Outcomes of COP19 in Warsaw
Gender equality central to strong climate policy – a mixed success
WEDO, working alongside many allies and partners from the Women and Gender Constituency and the 91-member Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), went to COP19 with several key priorities, specifically working to ensure that decisions and actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change effectively and equally address the rights and needs of women and men who face its impacts on a daily basis. This included advocating that gender equality and the social impacts of climate change would be central to the new 2015 climate agreement, from the outset; as well as central to key issues being negotiated in Warsaw, such as a new international mechanism for loss and damage, climate finance and agriculture. In addition, WEDO and partners focused on the follow-up of the 2012 decision 23/CP.18 on women’s participation and gender balance as well as awareness raising efforts on the UNFCCC ‘Gender Day’.

Reviewing the outcomes of Warsaw, WEDO has produced an overview analysis of language and entry points for gender equality in COP19 decisions and conclusions. The COP19 draft compilation includes language on gender equality and social considerations across fourteen program areas in the COP19 outcomes, including important language on gender-disaggregated data in the newly established loss and damage mechanism as well as in decisions on technology transfer, finance and adaptation.

Significantly, as highlighted in WEDO’s mid-week report, COP19 hosted the first ever in-session workshop on gender and climate change issues, resulting in draft conclusions which aim to build upon progress made with the decision on gender balance from COP18. The draft conclusions state that work under this item will continue at COP20 in Lima, Peru, and include, in an annex, Party proposals on several important actions for governments, the UNFCCC Secretariat and civil society. Actions include: the establishment of a two-year work programme on gender balance under the Convention; workshops to further substantiate a gender lens across mitigation, adaptation, technology and finance; capacity building for female delegates organized by the UNFCCC secretariat; and the monitoring of gender balance, gender budgeting and gender sensitive climate policies and actions by Parties.

Gender cannot be mainstreamed into a ‘zero outcome’
Progress on gender language in the negotiation text could provide us a strong foundation for ensuring implementation of effective, ambitious and gender-responsive climate policy – but only if Governments can move beyond the political posturing seen in Warsaw, can think beyond ‘business as usual’ approaches to mitigation, and are empowered with real political will to make commitments that reduce emissions, transform industrial infrastructures and systems, and support adaptation.

In Warsaw, many crucial issues for gender equality were on the table. The discussions on agriculture concluded with agreement for further dialogue in 2014 as countries continue to struggle over the focus on mitigation versus adaptation. REDD+ saw the adoption of the Warsaw Framework for REDD+, to start the flow of funds for ‘results based’ action on deforestation, as well as $280 million in pledges from the United States, Britain and Norway. WEDO’s work on REDD+ is to ensure gender considerations in the development of safeguards- which is included in agreed language on REDD+ and recalled in this decision. However, the funding pledged does not specifically apply to safeguards, so implementation under this framework will need to be closely monitored. Finance discussions saw huge political stalemates with developing countries asking for specific commitments from wealthy countries on urgently moving funds towards the agreed 100 billion USD by 2020, which wealthy countries would not agree to.

In the final hours of the negotiations, we saw the usual overrun into early morning/next day dialogue and huddles, where some of the most controversial issues found themselves rearing their heads, namely, who emits, who reduces and who pays. Lisa Friedman and Jean Chemnick provide a good overview of these last minute deals, specifically in loss and damage and the next steps in the development of a 2015 climate agreement.

On loss and damage, COP19 saw the establishment of the Warsaw International Mechanism on Loss and Damage. The establishment of this mechanism fulfills the mandate of decision 3/CP.18 and was a sign of progress for many. However, others criticize the decision as ‘hollow’, not clearly defined, failing to recognize that loss and damage goes beyond adaptation – by its placement under the Cancun Adaptation Framework. The placement of the mechanism was a key negotiating position of many small island developing states, a position conceded with the agreement to review this decision at COP22. Still, many negotiators felt an established mechanism was even more than thought could be achieved.

From a gender perspective, there is an entry point for including gender equality issues in the mechanism on loss and damage, but it is only a start. The final decision includes a line wherein the mechanism would enhance “knowledge and understanding of comprehensive risk management approaches to loss and damage…by facilitating and promoting collection, sharing, management and use of relevant data and information, including gender-disaggregated data“.  For a loss and damage mechanism to be truly gender responsive, the mechanism must systematize knowledge management and data collection and use it in a way that the mechanism would actually respond to the needs of women and men and youth within countries. The ultimate measure of the loss and damage mechanism will be the capacity and resilience of those differentially rendered vulnerable as a result of climate change impacts, as detailed in this recent Germanwatch paper.


In the ADP, which is the working group tasked with developing the new 2015 climate agreement, negotiations face many fundamental challenges. According to analysis by Indrajit Bose and Uthra Radhakrishnan, these negotiations are a ‘war of words’ between a new agreement that will be ‘applicable to all’ and one that adheres to the Convention principle of common but differentiated responsibilities (CBDR). “Developing countries say applicability should adhere to the differentiation principle of the Convention, whereas developed countries say that differentiation is a thing of the past and that all countries should come on board and take commitments.

WEDO’s message was clear in its priority for framing the new 2015 climate agreement – we must maximize our response to climate change while safeguarding and promoting human rights and gender equality. Although lobbied strongly in the final hours to ensure that the draft conclusions on moving forward the Durban Platform included reference to human rights, gender equality or the social dimensions of climate change, the discussions remained at a politically divided level and failed to make this important recognition.

A key next step in WEDO advocacy will be to ensure the new agreement reflects the progress made in Cancun in acknowledging human rights and gender equality. Time and time again we have seen that when rights and equality are not the guiding principles, actions work to exacerbate inequalities rather than lessen them; and mechanisms are forced to backtrack to  implement policies and procedures in response to rights violations, as has been seen with CDM, rather than supporting promotion of rights from the outset.

Mitigation Beyond ‘Business as Usual’ Thinking
In addition, we must re-frame the way we think about mitigation actions to include scaling up currently existing, safe, sustainable and community owned renewable energies- which was the focus of a joint side event co-hosted by WEDO, WECF and GGCA.

The ADP Draft Text refers to scaling up areas of high mitigation potential, focusing on the implementation of policies, practices and technologies that are substantial, scalable and replicable, with no mention of these technologies being safe and sustainable with social and gender considerations.

As was mentioned by the Women and Gender Constituency in a meeting with the ADP co-Chairs, actions to-date that aim for cost-effectiveness have not delivered what was expected and have not taken into account human rights. Actions must take into account bottom-up approaches, of proven small-scale initiatives that also benefit people and communities, respect rights, reduce current and future emissions and achieve sustainable development. Another critical requirement for cost-effective action is that it includes and respects social and environmental safeguards. We need to work to bring these solutions to the UNFCCC process and support transformational thinking around mitigation solutions for a safe and healthy planet.

This message is reaching important parallel processes. In last week’s meeting of the Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, on behalf of the Women’s Major Group, Emilia Reyes of Equidad de Genero, called on the SDGs process not to repeat the failures of COP19 in ambition and leadership. In an intervention she stated, “Energy so far, as a sector, has been a means for concentration of wealth. It cannot remain so. We need to change the way in which power is orienting the current energetic policies, by fully endorsing the human rights framework for all stakeholders. This, in everyday life, means to protect climate, ecosystems, and communities, including women’s livelihoods and rights. We need policies based on the principle of energy sovereignty, relying on decentralized and democratically controlled energy generation and use. Good practices to strengthen states are at hand, via fiscal policies and the use of public budgets for decentralized production, management and delivery of energy.” Similar messages on the need to invest in decentralized renewable energy actions were echoed by CAN International.

Tough Questions and Moving Forward
Fundamentally, all of these discussions raise critical questions in terms of next steps in this process. With developed countries’ reluctance to take on legally binding commitments, with stalemates over defining equity and mobilizing finance, with countries such as Japan reducing emissions targets rather than raising them, all against clear signals from the IPCC that the time to act is now- how can any of the signs of ‘progress’ actually support the transformational change we need?

And for those working to make sure climate policy is gender-responsive, it is counter-intuitive that a COP with gender so high on the agenda could result in decisions on a new climate agreement with no mention of the social impacts of climate change. How do we – civil society, UN, governments – ensure that this ‘progress’ on gender is not moving the issue into the margins, and that initiatives like ‘Gender Day’ don’t work to distract and detract from the inclusive and transformative work being brought to these discussions?

These are the important questions activists and all stakeholders must take with them in coming weeks and months, not just in relation to the UNFCCC process but also in the multiple coherent processes taking place at the international level, such as the SDGs and the post-2015 development agenda, to push progress and scaling up actions at all levels.

A ‘Walk-Out’ – and coming back stronger and bolder

As multiple NGOs, from environment, trade unions and women’s organizations alike, staged a ‘walk-out’ of the process on Thursday, November 21st, the message was, “As polluters talk, we walk“, but, “Volveremos! (We will be back) stronger, mobilized! We as networks, individuals and organizations are not leaving this process, we’re leaving this COP to come back stronger and ensure our voices are heard, not just here in the corridors, but actually in the negotiating rooms and in the negotiating positions of our governments.

Much strategic action is needed, starting now, to meet the collective goals of a fair, ambitious and effective climate change agreement which meets the needs of women and men equally. WEDO will work to both progress and substantiate the understanding of taking a gender lens to climate change – by making research on the linkages more current and available, highlighting best practices, scaling up capacity building and continuing to strengthen our partnership with organizations in the Women and Gender Constituency and the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA), as well as across all stakeholders working in this process.

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