Through December 12, policymakers representing at least 195 countries are in Lima, Peru for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP20 (Conference of the Parties). The talks are a continuation of the UN Climate Summit in New York earlier this year, and a precursor to the 2015 climate meeting in Paris, where these world leaders are expected to finalize a new global climate agreement. Friday, the Climate Action Network (CAN), a civil society member of the UNFCCC’s Women and Gender Constituency (WGC), issued an assessment of the gender gap facing the ongoing global climate discussions.

In the Lima edition of the ECO newsletter, CAN acknowledged the COP20 President’s stated intent to advance “gender-responsive climate policy,” but called on the body to codify those commitments into the actual convention.  The Women and Gender Constituency is a coalition of civil society organizations that participates in the COP meetings. The WGC is working to ensure women’s rights and gender justice are central elements of the final UNFCCC agreement.

In a statement released Wednesday, the WGC stated that one of their two primary concerns is the development of a climate plan that includes a measure for gender equality. On the first day of COP20 talks, Carmen Capriles of Reaccion Climatica in Bolivia, addressed the larger delegation on behalf of the WGC. “In regions like ours here in Latin America, where women are distinguished by their triple work days; as heads of household, as mothers and as fundamental players in the economy, it is important to recognize that their livelihoods are being affected [by climate change]…which is compounded by poor access to resources and land, lack of education, and lack of access to decision-making,” Capriles said. “This reality has caused women to be on the frontlines of climate action.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that women produce more than half of all the food grown in the world, and women are responsible for some 60 to 80 percent of food production in most developing countries. According to a 2009 Resource Guide on Gender and Climate Change, the UN Development Programme determined that “poor women’s limited access to resources, restricted rights, limited mobility, and muted voices in shaping decisions make them highly vulnerable to climate change.” Despite their leadership and expert natural resource management and conservation, Indigenous women throughout the world are the first line of defense when extreme weather events and natural disasters happen, yet there is no formalized emergency response mechanism or communication system to reach them. The UNDP also cited how restrictions that aim to limit the mobility of girls and women can endanger those needing access to shelter or medical attention in a disaster emergency, but without gender-conscious climate policy, there is no account for such nuance.

Mrinalini Rai, representing the Global Forest Coalition, another member of the WGC, demanded that the 2015 talks in Paris be transparent, people-centered negotiations. “This includes women, youth, Indigenous peoples, and local communities, with considerable expertise to be found in each of the constituencies represented here in Lima,” Rai told the larger body last week. “This is the right moment to set the bar high and ensure that future climate policies take into account the rights, needs, perspectives, capacities and expertise of women and men alike, in order to achieve truly sustainable development and avert the climate crisis.”

Media Resources: Women Gender Constituency 12/4/14; Climate Action Network 12/4/14; Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN; UN Development Programme 5/6/09

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