Is gender addressed in the climate change discoursed

Gender Justice

The need for gender justice

Developing countries have identified climate change as a phenomenon linked closely to development. It is apparent that poorer countries and moreover the poor and vulnerable in such countries are the ones that are going to be affected adversely.

The National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) in India states further that climate change has different effects on women and men, that the impacts of climate change could prove particularly severe for women and special attention should be paid to the aspects of gender (Government of India, 2008). Studies on gender and climate change claim that by ignoring the gendered effects of climate change, policy makers and others can make position of women even more vulnerable.

Changes in climate patterns impact the management and access to natural resources such as water and forests. In many communities where women are responsible for getting water or collecting fuelwood, this greatly affects their daily lives and household burdens. The health effects (increased malaria and dengue cases, for example) of climate change will fall mainly to women as they are usually responsible for caring for the ill.

Values and ideas of what is appropriate for women vis a vis men can affect women adversely. Activists have pointed to the situation during the tsumani in 2004 wherein there were a higher number of women fatalities because women were never taught to swim as it was not considered appropriate for them to be out in the water. As past development research has pointed out, the spokespeople for communities and in public fora are most often men.

Due to the gendered division of labour that often prevails in most communities, not having women in public discussions or advisory situations when negotiating development programmes or projects meant to tackle climate change leads to ineffective and incomplete implementation apart from its negative impacts on women. These are some of the things that policy makers and others need to keep in mind when formulating programmes to deal with climate change and associated issues of development.

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The overriding solutions to deal with climate change that have emerged are market driven mechanisms: be it carbon emissions trading, clean development mechanisms or technology transfer. The focus has been on one particular gas, carbon dioxide. Carbon trading has emerged from the assumption that we all share one atmosphere and that the harmful effects of too much carbon in the atmosphere can be reduced from anywhere, the location of emission reduction being irrelevant.

This has led to the idea of trading carbon credits, i.e., richer countries that are responsible for the high emissions pay for development works and other mitigating factors in developing countries that would reduce carbon emissions and benefit the whole earth. This is based on certain economic thinking that assumes that it would be cheaper to mitigate climate change in developing countries. Clean development mechanisms (CDM) spring from this in the idea that the developed world funds projects in the south that would mitigate the effects of climate change. Lastly, this is to be done with a transfer of the latest and cleanest technology to developing countries. These are all highly contentious issues.

GenderCC, a network formed by gender activists and experts at a side event at the Conference of the Parties in Milan in 2003 criticise the move towards the market in a number of publications. One of the members, Ulrike Röhr (2008), cites the Stern Report that states that climate change is the biggest market failure that the world has ever seen. In her opinion then as women in the GenderCC, they do not trust the markets that have failed in the past to preserve the earth from climate change. Taking the example of CDM she writes that CDM is not pushing the most sustainable projects or the ones with the most co-benefits like poverty reduction, but those where the highest returns of investments in terms of carbon credits are expected such as in the field of industrial gases, landfill gas utilisation and fossil fuels. Röhr writes that the CDM projects do not meet the needs of the less developed countries nor of the people at the end of the poverty chain – the majority of whom, she claims, are women. On the contrary, she points out that many of these projects depend on substantial land use change which compounds the problems of local men and women. The effects are worse for women since the projects offer cash awards and technology transfers and it is often men who enjoy access to them. Wherever there is land involved, especially collective land, it becomes all the more difficult for women since it is mostly men who hold titles to land.

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Although, the interface between gender and climate change is still in the stage of being conceptually understood, Ulrike Röhr, one of the most important observer, highlights the inadequacy of market based mechanisms in general, which are not applicable to sectors that are not market driven. Given this, the women, landless farmers and others who lack access to the markets especially in the developing world, would have no use for these mechanisms.

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