The analysis found that in some cases, gender is highlighted as a key priority for foreign climate policy, but is lacking in domestic policy. Photo: WECAN

Serious gender gaps in G20 countries’ climate policy: Study

When gender is mentioned in climate policy, it is often superficial or is an afterthought, while 20% of G20 countries make no mention of gender or women at all, says the study 

A recent report found that G20 countries, who are responsible for almost 80% of global carbon dioxide emissions, lack gender-responsive national climate change policies. 

The report analysed the level of gender integration, or lack thereof, in the national climate policies and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) of the G20 group. It found that despite the increasing acknowledgement that the impacts of climate change vary depending on gender—and the crucial role of women as drivers of climate solutions—gender has yet to be comprehensively or meaningfully integrated into G20 countries’ climate policies.

Based on previous studies cited in the report, it said that greater gender equity leads to better climate outcomes. For example, a one unit increase in a country’s score on the Women’s Political Empowerment Index demonstrates an 11.5% decrease in the country’s carbon emissions. 

Increasing Women’s Political Empowerment decreases emissions. Source: Gender integration in climate policy: a G20 analysis

Yet the report found that overall, a majority of G20 countries have not yet integrated gender in their climate policies, and when gender is mentioned, it is often superficial and unactionable.

Limited or superficial gender integration

Gender was not initially considered in climate policy in the EU and US, said the report. Major climate plans—specifically the European Green Deal—were adopted with no reference to gender or women at all. EU countries Germany, Italy and France reflect an equal lack of gender integration, found the report. For example, Germany has not yet taken any steps towards integrating an effective gender perspective into its climate policy and action at national, regional and local government level.

Similarly, in the US, climate policy lacks any mention of women and gender. The analysis revealed that the US NDC makes no commitment to climate action prioritising women or Indigenous peoples. In 2021, the US adopted its first ever National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality that it claims will enable the inclusion of gender throughout US government climate action. However, according to the report, it does so without concrete proposals, clear staffing or funding models.

Inclusion of gender in the national climate policies of G20 countries. Source: Gender integration in climate policy: a G20 analysis

In India, gender and vulnerable social groups are mentioned in various national policies, but fail to be effectively included throughout. Similarly, in Turkey, gender is inconsistently referenced in some climate change policies. The National Climate Change Response White Paper, which aims to adapt and mitigate the effects of climate change in South Africa, mentions the term ‘women’ six times, but does not clearly outline what investment will be made to improve women’s role in minimising and managing the impacts of the climate crisis, found the report.

The analysis found that in some cases, gender is highlighted as a key priority for foreign climate policy, but is lacking in domestic policy. In Australia, integration of gender considerations into climate change has emerged as a priority for Australia’s foreign policy, but gender is not mentioned once in Australia’s own climate change mandates, domestic government material, nor even mentioned in its NDC. Japan, too, highlighted its support for gender considerations in developing nations, but there is a lack of integration of gender in its domestic climate policy, where gender is only mentioned briefly in relation to disaster-risk reduction. 

Representation and characterisation of women in climate policy processes also does not look promising, the report said. At COP26 in Glasgow, half of all G20 delegations were composed of less than 40% women, with some featuring significantly less, for example India, at 17%. Indigenous peoples and marginalised groups were also underrepresented.

The report said that 20% of G20 countries make no mention of gender or women in climate policy. Five G20 countries (Brazil, China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia) have not yet appointed a gender and climate change focal point, as encouraged by the UNFCCC. This underrepresentation has serious consequences for furthering climate policy that is inclusive of the leadership and necessary solutions of communities worst impacted by the climate crisis.

Gender integration in the climate policies and NDCs of G20 countries. Source: gender integration in climate policy: a G20 analysis

CarbonCopy had explored how policy actions that do not take gender perspectives into account can amplify gender inequalities and how a fair representation of gender is still a big challenge for IPCC. 

“Integrating gender into climate policy isn’t just beneficial for women and gender diverse people—it leads to critically improved outcomes for our communities, the Earth, and emission targets. If G20 countries want to achieve their climate targets, they need to ensure that women and leadership of Indigenous, Black, and Brown women in particular are included in climate policies, solution projects, and decision-making,” said Osprey Orielle Lake, Executive Director of WECAN and co-author of the report.

Need for effective integration of gender and active participation of marginalised groups

Despite major gender gaps in climate policies of the G20 nations, there are several member nations taking steps to develop gender-responsive climate policies. The report pointed to Argentina, which has made significant progress in incorporating gender and diversity perspectives into climate policy instruments and aims to prioritise vulnerable communities and social groups. Implementation across the board, however, remains to be seen. 

The authors of the report called on G20 countries—who exercise considerable global influence—to recognise, understand, and transform unjust dominant social constructs, including systemic patriarchy, colonisation, and racism, that continue to impede building equitable and successful climate policy and action led by women and marginalised groups.

The report recommended to effectively integrate gender into all climate related policies, ensuring policy cohesion and actionability of targets; to ensure full and active participation of women and frontline groups in all aspects of climate policy and decision-making; to promote the leadership and solutions of diverse identities across the gender spectrum in climate action; to improve efforts to collect gender-disaggregated data; and to strengthen and increase funding commitments for gender-responsive climate action.