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Climate Smart Agriculture Sourcebook

The role of gender in Climate-Smart Agriculture

Enabling Frameworks

Gender equality on the global climate change agenda and the role of climate finance

Social inequality and social exclusion, particularly in relation to gender, have been recognized as critical issues in international development. There is a growing global awareness of the disproportionate impact of climate change on women and girls, and a broad acknowledgement of their roles as change agents capable of building the climate resilience of their households, communities and nations.

This evolution is reflected in the progress made towards integrating gender into global climate negotiations, climate planning and climate action. Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) now fully recognize the importance of integrating gender in UNFCCC processes and national climate policies. UNFCCC’s Lima Work Programme on Gender, adopted in 2014, and the Paris Agreement, ratified in 2016, mandate wide-ranging gender-responsive adaptation and mitigation actions and capacity-building interventions. The UNFCCC alone has more than 50 gender-specific decisions by Parties.

The Intentional Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs), which helped build the Paris Agreement, highlight the importance countries’ place on the agriculture sectors for addressing climate change. More than 40 percent of the nearly 170 submissions mention gender-related issues to varying extents. As many as 75 percent of sub-Saharan African Parties reference 'gender' or 'women' in their INDCs, making the region a global leader in integrating gender equality into sustainable development priorities (FAO, 2016). Thirty-five countries refer to the role of women in adaptation, while 18 countries recognize the specific role of women in climate change mitigation, primarily in relation to energy emissions, sustainable or biomass energy, and livestock.

This indicates the potential to address gender-related issues and climate change adaptation simultaneously, and points at the need to further support the integration of gender issues in future national determined contributions. Agriculture has been highlighted as a priority sector that provides diverse opportunities for empowering women and reducing their vulnerability to climate change. Gender-responsive finance mechanisms will be critical for translating these ambitious policies into on-the-ground action. 

Adaptation to climate change in the agricultural sectors is expected to entail a cumulative cost of USD 225 billion until 2050 (Lobell et al., 2013). In 2014, annual global climate finance flows totalled approximately USD 391 billion. Thirty-eight per cent of this flow came from public sources, and the rest from various private sector funders (Climate Policy Initiative, 2015).

There is compelling evidence of that women are more vulnerable than men to the impacts of climate change. It is also clear that women have tremendous untapped potential to contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation. To date, however, only a small portion of global grants address climate change and women’s rights in an integrated manner. Official development assistance (ODA) intended to both address climate change and support the achievement of gender equality accounted for 31 percent of bilateral ODA to climate change in 2014, a total of USD 8 billion. However, just 3 percent of this assistance had gender equality as a principal objective (OECD, 2015). There is clearly room for improvement in this area.

To ensure sustainable and positive results, all aspects of climate-smart agriculture, including climate finance, must recognize the gendered dimensions of climate change and actively promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in climate responses in the agricultural sectors.

Both GEF and the Green Climate Fund have corporate policies dedicated to gender equality. They request a gender-differentiated assessment of potential social and economic co-benefits of projects and programmes and explicitly call for “projects that produce economic, social and gender development co-benefits” (ODI, 2015).

The Green Climate Fund project approval process gives additional preference to projects with well-designed gender elements. One of the Fund’s high-level investment criteria focuses on gender-responsive development impact. The Green Climate Fund and UN Women have also recently published two comprehensive guidance materials: Mainstreaming Gender in Green Climate Fund Projects and Leveraging co-benefits between gender equality and climate action for sustainable development.

The Green Climate Fund Readiness Programme also provides a dedicated funding window to strengthen gender capacities of national designated authorities and improve gender integration in national investment planning.

These positive incentives can unlock additional innovative sources of finance, both public and private, and spur more gender-responsive climate investments, ensuring that climate initiatives benefit women and men equally and fully leverage women’s agency to scale up climate-smart agriculture.