Putting the Women in Climate Finance

Climate finance is a more than just about money. Women empowerment and gender equality are important cross cutting themes in the realm of climate finance. This is because climate change makes a bigger impact on women and girls than on men. There are many reasons why this is the case and you can read this and this to understand more about how climate change impacts them differently. Ergo, effective adaptation and mitigation solutions should take gender into account. And climate finance should also be directed appropriately.

Financiers and policymakers are beginning to understand this need. As the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) notes, more and more money is being channelled into gender-sensitive projects “intended to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment or reduce discrimination and inequality based on sex”.

During 2015-2016, a quarter of all climate-related development finance went towards gender-sensitive projects. About 81% of them had a significant gender objective. They included monitoring the impact of adaptation and mitigation projects on women, providing agricultural inputs to farmers, training rural women to become solar technicians, and working with women-related micro-finance institutions and savings groups to create demand for and access to clean energy products.

About US$14 billion was reportedly channelled to projects with a gender objective during 2015-2016. The actual figure might have been higher. Most countries represented in the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee (DAC) include gender as a reporting marker. However, not all multi-lateral organisations follow this. Only a few such as the World Bank and the Green Climate Fund do so. More such organisations should include OECD’s “gender-equality policy marker” in projects across their board to give us a more accurate picture of how much finance gets channeled into such projects in the future.

This marker is also used by the Standing Committee on Finance (SCF), which advises the Conference of Parties to the Paris Agreement. Its purview includes the major climate funds under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Most of these funds have their own gender policies. This gender-equality policy marker is used as a qualitative statistical tool for evaluating bilateral aid for achieving Sustainable Development Goal 5. SDG 5 addresses gender equality and it can help identify gaps between policy and financial commitments.

Another obstacle to effective data collection and therefore an obstacle to securing an accurate picture of climate flows, is that climate finance has not been properly defined. This has caused some debate at the SCF meetings. The committee’s working definition is “financial resources dedicated to adapting to and mitigating climate change globally, including in the context of financial flows to developing countries”. However a lack of a proper definition will mean that some flows get missed out while others that may not be going towards climate change adaptation and mitigation programs per se get included. 

On the whole, the woman has been put into climate finance. However more can be done to develop the framework so that climate finance can be used more effectively to address the gender aspect of climate change solutions. And it would ensure more meaningful financial flows towards gender-sensitive climate projects. The Paris Agreement is scheduled to come into force in 2020. The SCF has a lot of work to do in the next two years on setting up the framework to be recommended to the Conference of the Parties (COP). After that its in the hands of parties to move forward as quickly as possible while maintaining the integrity of their discussions.

Principles vs Practicalities: The Drama

Principles vs Practicalities: The Drama


The most recent round of climate change negotiations started with a bit of a furor. At the very last minute, constituencies and parties were suspended from giving interventions. The SBSTA Chair came around, asking the constituencies if they would be agreeable to this. Safe to say, the request was more of a formality than anything else.

As one of the people who was supposed to deliver an intervention on behalf of Climate Action Network, I was somewhat annoyed. It was an inconvenience, especially since several of us had spent time drafting and editing the intervention. However it was nowhere near the level of the Youth NGOs. A heated exchange ensued between a YOUNGO representative and the chair. Both parties brought up salient points which I thought served as interesting talking points to the principles and practicalities of the UNFCCC.


 Me eagerly (with a hefty dose of nervousness), looking forward to delivering an intervention for the very first time ever.  

The UNFCCC process is built on being inclusive. However, many civil society groups complain that they do not get enough of a say in the process. At this point in fleshing out the Paris Agreement Work Programme, inclusivity is an important factor because if a document is not inclusive and representative of everyone’s viewpoints then inevitably people are less likely to adhere to something they cannot relate to. It is also important that people have confidence in the UNFCCC process so that they will have faith in the outcomes such as the Paris Agreement Work Program. These were some of the arguments the representative brought up.

The Chair on the other hand, highlighted that the UNFCCC is a party-driven process, which means that ultimately the text will be written and finalised by parties alone. Time is of the essence here as parties aim to have an agreement on the Paris Agreement Work Program by the end of COP 24 in Katowice and therefore it is essential that parties get as much time as possible to work on the text.. Hence this additional 6-day session in Bangkok. Cutting out this section would save an hour and a half. However, it could be argued that parties interventions can be cut while keeping the opportunity for civil societies. Parties already have plenty of opportunities to voice their opinions. This was certainly a point YOUNGO representatives reinforced over and over.


Members of the youth constituency sitting down with the SBSTA chair.

The  move to cut out the interventions was a pragmatic one. However, it has ideological and substantial repercussions – it signals that the voice of non-party stakeholders are not as important to the process. While there are of course other opportunities for non-party stakeholders to interact with the text, such as through and bilaterals, this is much less than the opportunities parties receive. Also, interventions are one of the few formal avenues that is visible to the outside world as the sessions are video-recorded and uploaded online.

After the heated exchange and some discussion among the other youths, once again YOUNGO chose to go up to the Chair to have a sit-down discussion on this matter. Youths are a key stakeholder because they are one of the most vulnerable to this process and also climate change in general. Firstly, because youths are usually self-funded and are not experienced in this arena. They are usually students who are passionate about climate change issues and have to study while doing this on the side. Secondly, youths will feel the impact of climate change much more in the future and will be the most impacted by the policies to combat climate change.

The outcome of the decision was that the chairs and the secretariat agreed that this would not set a precedent for things to work out like this in the future. They apologised for the impromptu decision and said they really believed this was the best choice. This incident reflected an interesting clash between practicality and principles. Which should be prioritised is up in the air. As a youth I would definitely be inclined towards principles as someone who is going to live the rest of my 60 years or so under the governance and impacts of the Paris Agreement.