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Gender and climate change


2015 was a crucial year for setting the scene for Sustainable Development Goals for the decades ahead; UN Women ( 2014, p.11) highlighted that “the twin challenges of gender and sustainable development have never been more pressing”. Increasing trends of social inequality, not only in the Global South, but all over the world, and the worldwide persistence of gender inequality are being recognised, alongside an accelerating environmental and climatic crisis that threatens to reverse all progress on human development. These challenges: inequality and poverty on the one hand and climate change on the other, were long seen as separate, but there is growing recognition that they share common roots and, therefore, solutions.

Making the case for people-centred climate policies

For years, civil society organisations and researchers have highlighted that, as weather patterns become increasingly unpredictable and extreme events such as floods, heat-waves or storms become more common, the way in which people are affected depends strongly on their position in society and, therefore, also on gender norms and expectations. A lot of this work was captured and presented by the BRIDGE Cutting Edge Programme on Gender and Climate Change.

Tension between two key approaches

The momentum for gender equality in climate change policy, research and practice has been growing. The case for gender equality in the climate change context (and beyond) is being built along a continuum from a more instrumentalist to more rights based approach, and while several actors (for example the Dutch government) have taken to both, there is tension between the two. Instrumentalism, on the one hand, promotes gender equality for the sake of an ulterior purpose, such as social, financial, or environmental benefits. It describes women and girls as an “untapped resource” in the global response to climate change. The rights based approach, on the other hand, describes instrumentalism as exploitative and insists on the importance of pursuing women’s rights and gender equality as a goal in its own right - no matter the cost or co-benefits of doing so (see, for example Oxfam’s briefing on the inequality of risk, and CARE’s Double Injustice report]. Feminist advocates for gender and climate justice call for deeper, systemic changes, fundamentally critiquing the development and societal model the instrumentalist approach is based on.

What does this Key Issues Guide contain?

This is a guide to key issues and trends around the linkages between gender and climate change made in policy and action on climate change. It introduces the ongoing debates and key resources especially with regard to i) climate change impacts and responses, ii) climate policy and finance and iii) women’s leadership and empowerment - a key element of bringing gender equality into the global response to climate change.

Key Resource: Gender and climate change overview report
Women's hands
T. Bolstad / Panos Pictures
BRIDGE’s two year Gender and Climate Change Programme, which was run in collaboration with partners based in Paraguay, Nigeria, Kenya, India, Colombia and Germany – and a global community of practice.

The programme and its key output, the BRIDGE Cutting Edge Pack on Gender and Climate Change advocates for an approach in which: women and men have an equal voice in decision-making on climate change and broader governance processes with an equal voice: where both women’s and men’s needs and knowledge are taken into account amond institutions and processes; and where the broad social constraints that limit women’s access to strategic and practical resources no longer exist.

Gender dimensions of climate change impacts and responses

small - Female and male farmer - Fintrac Inc, USAIDClimate vulnerability and risk depend not only on how serious a climatic hazard is but very strongly on the livelihood assets, social networks, skills, knowledge, and position in society, of the people affected by the hazard. More . . .

Progress on gender in climate change policies and financing mechanisms

Small - Shubert CienciaThe international climate change architecture is complex and constantly shifting as new agreements and mechanisms come into being, or existing ones are amended. The UNFCCC is the overarching international framework for addressing climate change. More . . .


Women's leadership and empowerment: reinforcing or challenging inequality?

Small-Fintrac-Inc,-USAIDSince the earliest efforts to take on a gender perspective in policies and action addressing climate change, the trend has been to draw on generalisations of women’s and girls’ victimhood. More . . .



Image credits: European Union 2015, European Parliament | Flickr / Fintrac Inc, USAID | Flickr / Shubert-Ciencia | Flickr / Fintrac Inc, USAID | Flickr 

Latest Documents

Gender policy and action
Document proposing a gender policy and gender action plan for the Green Climate Fund, 2015-2017. This outcome document came out of a meeting of the board of the Green Climate Fund. It opens with an introduction, tracing the rou...
Promoting productive gendered spaces for adapting to climatic stress: Two case studies from rural Bangladesh
International Water Management Institute 2014
Policy brief on supporting women to fulfill their potential as climate adaptation actors in Bangladesh. Climate stress is experienced differently by various groups and individuals based on several factors, including poverty and...
Gender and Climate Change in the Himalayas
B. Leduc / International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, (ICIMOD), Nepal 2009
Background paper on climate change related issues facing men and women in the Himalayan region. Global warming is impacting the Himalayan region in several ways, principally in changing precipitation patterns and the potential ...
Adaptation actions in Africa: evidence that gender matters
J. Twyman; M. Green; Q. Bernier / Climate Change Agriculture Food Security 2014
This paper uses descriptive statistics to shows gender differences in terms of perceptions of climate change, awareness and adoption of climate smart agricultural (CSA) practices, and types and sources of agro-climatic information in ...
No accident: Resilience and the inequality of risk
D. Hillier; G.E. Castillo / Oxfam 2013
Oxfam report examining the uneven distribution of climate change related risk and vulnerability impacting poor and vulnerable populations. The title of this report - No Accident - reflects the key message underlying the report:...
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