New York, NY — The COP16 climate negotiations concluded over the weekend in Cancun, Mexico, at around 5am on Saturday (11 Dec), and the WEDO team was there to mark the result. Under the strong leadership of COP President Her Excellency, Mrs. Patricia Espinosa of Mexico, governments agreed to a set of decisions, the Cancun Agreements, which –  according to the UNFCCC – set the world more firmly on the path towards a low-emissions future and support enhanced action on climate change, especially in the developing world.

“We are indeed celebrating, albeit with some reservation,” said Cate Owren, Program Director of WEDO, on Saturday morning. “The Agreements are a very important step. We needed political will in Cancun and we needed to see that transparent multilateral processes can work; they can.”

While they are not the comprehensive and binding post-2012 agreement that governments have been working toward since 2007’s COP13 in Bali, the Cancun Agreements mark a significant step in UNFCCC history. The most controversial topics will still need to be negotiated throughout 2011, but the Agreements begin to establish common ground and compromise.

Moreover, the Cancun Agreements recognize women and gender equality as integral to effective actions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.  They include eight references to women and gender across seven sections of text (see compilation).

Gender considerations are now included not only in the foundational text for a post-2012 global agreement, but also in the outcome decisions for two subsidiary bodies of the UNFCCC.

Emphasizing that there was no language on gender issues in the climate debate only two years ago, Owren went on, “We have references to women and gender in the Cancun outcomes which will be a solid foundation for continued work next year. We also secured references in the subsidiary bodies, which means countries will be further supported to respond to urgent gender issues in their national implementation.” This is an area particularly important to WEDO.

In its final statement Friday, the Women and Gender Constituency to the UNFCCC stated, “We now have the opportunity to transform current paradigms and prevent further damage by reducing inequalities, enhancing human rights and agreeing collectively on a comprehensive approach to combat climate change and save ecosystem integrity and humanity’s future.”

But much more needs to be hammered out in 2011, particularly in the establishment of a new Green Climate Fund. Language lobbied for by advocates in order to ensure the Fund was guided by the principle of gender equality was not secured, and finance mechanisms could potentially exacerbate existing inequities in the most vulnerable regions and for the most vulnerable people. In 2011, WEDO will continue to work towards the establishment of a Fund which can provide essential resources needed to address climate change, especially for women.

The Cancun Agreements are a foundation for moving us towards a more sustainable future. We know there is much more to be done, and we remain committed to ensuring that women’s rights and gender equality are central to the solution.

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