Spring 2011 Newsletter— The Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), Christiana Figueres, couldn’t have said it better last month in Bangkok, at the opening of the 2011 climate talks: “The decisions we made in Cancun helped save the process – now we must save the planet.” The momentous UNFCCC Cancun Agreements, made last December at the 16th UNFCCC Conference of Parties, could be a critical step to putting us on a path toward sustainability. Particularly comprehensive in their inclusion of gender equality principles as integral to mitigating and adapting to climate change, the Agreements are another positive step for the comprehensive integration of gender concerns into climate decision-making, which advocates like WEDO have been working on for several years.
But one crucial area remains on the outskirts, particularly for women and from a gender perspective: finance.
Finance in the Cancun Agreements
The Cancun Agreements decided to establish a new Green Climate Fund (GCF) to be designed by a Transitional Committee (TC). Already, the TC has experienced a set-back as governments of different regions struggled to decide who could best represent them in the TC negotiations. A meeting that was to be held in March 2011 was pushed to late April 2011 to give governments more time to decide how they would be represented. However, without a mention of even gender balance on the TC for the GCF, women’s human rights advocates are also struggling with how the issues of their constituencies will be represented during these discussions.
Human Rights: The Case for Gender in Climate Finance
The Preamble of the Cancun Agreements clearly references that climate change is a human rights issue:
Noting resolution 10/4 of the United Nations Human Rights Council on human rights and climate change, which recognizes that the adverse effects of climate change have a range of direct and indirect implications for the enjoyment of human rights and the effects of climate change will be felt most acutely by those segments of the population that are already vulnerable owing to geography, gender, age, indigenous or minority status or disability; (Preamble of Decision 1/CP.16; FCCC/CP/2010/7/Add.1)
But already the framing of the discussions on the design of the GCF focus predominantly on technical issues. The discussions are taking place outside of the major UNFCCC negotiations, away from the very place and persons who negotiated to have human rights principles in the Cancun Agreements; moreover, negotiations of the design of the GCF are being held primarily among finance ministers, who bring needed technical expertise but may not integrate the social aspect that has been accepted amongst the negotiators of the Cancun Agreements.
In a Heinrich Böll Foundation 2009 publication, Gender and Climate Finance: Double Mainstreaming for Sustainable Development, author Liane Schalatek’s recommendations clearly point toward the global discussion on climate change shifting its focus “away from a primarily technocratic exercise to one employing the language of global justice and human rights, including the right to development”. In her report, Schalatek states this is one of the key areas needed in order to have a fair, equitable and comprehensive global climate agreement: it must incorporate gender awareness and strive toward gender equitable climate financing solutions.
Gender equality, which goes beyond parity, is essential to climate financing so that funds, such as the new GCF, are designed to incorporate the needs and expertise of both women and me. This allows both sexes to have decision-making power and participatory roles in the fund and meaningfully benefit from the fund. Gender equality also ensures that financing for climate change is effective by reaching those who most need and can use it to best adapt to and mitigate climate change. It is critical that the design of the new GCF incorporates, from the start, pro-poor policies to truly effectuate gender equitable climate financing. As negotiations begin on the GCF, WEDO will monitor the climate finance discussions and advocate that governments stick to the human rights principles they agreed to in Cancun, especially in climate change financing.