Thursday, September 27, 2012

Africa: Time to Act: Gender-Responsiveness and the Green Climate Fund

Source: ISS
Time to Act: Gender-Responsiveness and the Green Climate Fund

Catarina Tarpo and Timothy Walker, Intern, Corruption and Government, ISS Cape Town Office and Consultant, Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division, ISS Pretoria Office

The first board meeting of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) in August 2012 has been a further step towards the operationalisation of one of the future key funds within the architecture of international climate finance. The GCF aims to bring order amid the current abundance of climate finance institutions and mechanisms, the majority of which contain at least two key areas requiring further attention: firstly, a strong bias towards (large-scale) mitigation finance and, secondly, a lack of systematic gender-responsiveness in policies and implementation processes.

Tackling these two flaws is of paramount importance in order to successfully cope with climate change and its impacts, especially with regards to the interests of the most vulnerable group of stakeholders: women. Expectations are high that the GCF will be up to this task since, firstly, it is the first international climate fund that incorporates gender considerations from inception; secondly, it is supposed to balance adaptation and mitigation finance; while, thirdly, it aims at facilitating access to funding.

Adaptive and mitigatory responses to climate change differ due to gender-specific roles, responsibilities and gender discrimination. In a recent report published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNEP), it is confirmed that ‘[t]here is substantial interplay between climate change, gender equality, women’s empowerment, and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals’ and therefore sustainable development. Sub-Saharan Africa, with a vast majority of its inhabitants depending on rain-fed agriculture, will be worst affected by climate change.

Poor rural women predominantly engaged in agricultural production and food security are the most affected by climate change impacts due to various disadvantages, such as constrained access to information, decision-making processes, credit, land, water and electricity. Nevertheless, based on the findings of the study ‘Gender and Climate Change: Regional Report’, commissioned by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in 2010, poor rural women are very knowledgeable, adept and innovative in coping with climate change-induced weather variability. Adaptation as well as mitigation projects and funding are thus needed to empower these stakeholders to develop their skills, enhance their resilience, alleviate multidimensional poverty and thus break out of gender roles and inequalities.

According to African Development Bank calculations in 2011, the African continent is the region most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. Adaption measures alone will require approximately US$20-30 billion annually in the next two decades. In 2011, Africa’s modest share of the globally approved US$10 billion adaptation funding was US$350 million, of which only US$130 million has been disbursed. Most of the disbursed funding did not reach women, partly due to the aforementioned disadvantages and discrimination. Moreover, the current bias towards large-scale industrial and high-tech projects neglects potential adaptive and mitigatory projects with a small-scale character at the household and community level, although these projects are frequently suitable for women’s needs and interests. The GCF might have the potential to make funding more balanced and accessible because of its simplified and more direct access modalities offered to countries and relevant stakeholder groups, like women’s groups.

In contrast to other international finance institutions and mechanisms, like the Climate Investment Funds, the GCF is the first fund to incorporate, or rather consider, a gender-responsive approach from the beginning in its governing instrument. This was approved by the 17th session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Durban in 2011. Regrettably at present, the board counts only 8 women among its 48 members and therefore gender balance within the decision-making bodies of the GCF, one of the few gender-sensitive requirements in the governing instrument, has not yet been met (though equal numeric presence of women on the board might not necessarily guarantee gender expertise and sensitivity).

Administrative and logistical issues were discussed at the first GCF board meeting, according to many civil society observers, leaving crucial topics in terms of gender-responsiveness – such as ‘operational modalities’ and ‘stakeholder input and participation’ – for the second board meeting in October and following meetings.

With the appointment of South Africa’s Zaheer Fakir as one of the two co-chairs of the GCF Board, South Africa is once again in the spotlight of international climate politics. South Africa’s numerous climate change-relevant policies are very similar to international policies: varying considerably in their gender considerations from gender blindness to modest gender sensitivity, arguably lacking concrete gender-mainstreaming strategies, and showing a tendency of depicting women mostly as victims of climate change. A further similarity is South Africa’s prioritisation of mitigation actions in order to tackle its considerable greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. South Africa’s most recently drafted Women Empowerment and Gender Equality Bill holds great potential to enforce systematic gender mainstreaming in all its strategies, policies, programmes and budgets throughout the government and private sector. Fakir should take advantage of his influential role as co-chair of the board and ensure that this October, the GCF adopts operational and stakeholder participation modalities that are exceptional among climate finance funds and not inferior to South Africa’s new gender equality bill or other climate policies, in order to guarantee gender-responsive, accessible and customised adaptation and mitigation funding.

In order to make international climate finance more inclusive and thus effective and sustainable, more substantial research is required in terms of the gender-differentiated impacts of climate change. Gender-disaggregated data from all regions of the world will be crucial for policy making as well as for all phases of adaptive and mitigatory project and programme planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation at local and regional levels.

The GCF as an institution and organisation is still in its infancy and thus quite malleable. Civil society, especially organisations with gender-mainstreaming mandates, need to actively engage in the second GCF board meeting in Songdo, South Korea in October, particularly with regard to the vital items on the agenda to be discussed (‘operational modalities’ and ‘stakeholder input and participation’), in order to define and pave the way for a future international climate fund that is accessible, equitable, effective and sustainable.