At the COP26 climate summit, the leaders of Estonia, Tanzania and Bangladesh were the first to sign the Glasgow Women’s Leadership statement, calling for countries to support the leadership of women and girls on climate action at all levels of society and politics. Yet these three women comprised nearly a third of all female leaders at the conference, out of 140 heads of delegation.

On Gender Day at the COP, countries including the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada pledged to further integrate gender into their climate finance arrangements. While the pledges reflect a growing awareness of “gender-responsive” finance, which promotes gender equality, the amount of money mobilised so far falls short of what is needed around the world. Attention to gender in climate finance negotiations remains negligible. Making the Glasgow Women’s Leadership statement a reality will require scaled-up funding for women’s capacity-building and community-level climate action.

The negative impacts of climate change disproportionately affect women and girls, especially in the global south. This is not due to inherent vulnerability but the result of gender inequalities in the political, social and economic realms that intersect with other axes of social disadvantage, such as race, sexuality, gender identity and disability status. For example, during and after climate-related events, women and girls are more exposed to gender-based violence, and girls are less likely than boys to continue their education. The Malala Fund estimates that in 2021, climate-related events will prevent at least four million girls in developing countries from finishing their education. When it comes to employment, women in developing countries are more likely to work in the informal sector, making their livelihoods more vulnerable to economic and environmental shocks.

Despite these challenges, women and girls have a crucial role in achieving the climate targets set at COP26. As valuable members of society, they deserve to participate equally in public life. It is also notable that their participation generates more effective and equitable climate outcomes, from sustainable land management to last-mile solar panel deployment. Research demonstrates that due to socially-prescribed gender roles, women assess risk differently to men and typically prioritise the welfare of their families and communities in resource management decisions.

Read the full article about women in climate action by Nina Jeffs at Eco-Business.