International framework

In the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (2015), specifically in SDG 13, the international community commits to promoting mechanisms to raise capacity for effective climate change-related planning and management in least and small island developing states, including focusing on women, youth and local and marginalised communities.1

Under the Paris Agreement (2015) within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) the international community recognises gender equality and women's empowerment as fundamental principles in the fight against climate change and calls for gender-responsive approaches to adaptation and capacity building. 2

Registered country delegates at the UN climate change summits between 2000-2010.3

Female 30%

Male 70%

Climate Change

„Climate change affects us all, but it does not affect us all equally. The poorest and most vulnerable – those who have done the least to contribute to global warming – are bearing the brunt of the impact today.‟ 11
(UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, 2009)

In many regions, women are disproportionally affected by the impacts of climate change, natural disasters and environmental degradation.4 Multiple reasons increase women’s high vulnerability to climate change: being poor, being highly dependent on local natural resources for their livelihoods, having unequal access to resources, services, decision-making processes, limited mobility, low income and living in informal settlements in landslide or flood prone areas.5

Natural disasters and climate change often exacerbate existing social and gender-based inequalities and discrimination and can lead to new forms of discrimination.6 Women’s and girls’ lives are directly affected by natural disasters and climate change as they are often responsible for the majority of unpaid care work within households worldwide. Thus, climate-related shortages of energy, water, food and land often force women to spend more time to meet the basic needs of their families and lead to an additional work burden for women in the household.7 They have to spend more time and walk longer distances to fetch water, food and firewood.8 As a consequence, they often have less time for income-generating activities, education and training as well as participation in community activities and decision-making processes.9

At the same time, women are highly important actors for fighting climate change: their knowledge and expertise is of significant value for climate change mitigation, disaster reduction and adaptation strategies. Also in light of their responsibilities in households and on community level, women must be considered as agents for change who can make valuable contributions to implement livelihood strategies aimed at changing environmental realities.10

Disaster Risk Management

Female fatalities

In 1991, 140.000 people died from flood-related effects of Cyclone Gorky in Bangladesh. The female to male ratio was 14:115, i.e. women accounted for 90% of the fatalities.16
70% of those dying during the Indian Ocean tsunami in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, in 2004 were women.17
In 2008, 61% of fatalities after Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar were women.18
Women account for more than 75% of people displaced by natural disasters and 70 – 80% of people needing assistance in emergency situations.19

Between 1994 and 2013, on average 218 million people were affected by natural disasters every year.12 Post-disaster assessments found that, influenced by socio-economic differences and inequitable power relations, women’s and children’s risk of dying during a natural disaster is up to 14 times higher compared to men.13 Women’s voices are largely marginalized in disaster policies which often ignore specific vulnerabilities of women, such as their relatively lower access to means of communication, limited mobility and dependence on male family members for timely evacuation decisions and special relief needs. Social norms may impede women’s access to early warning systems on extreme weather events and to emergency or post-disaster services during and after disasters such as shelters.14 Floods and other disasters often reinforce, perpetuate and increase existing gender disparities.

Sustainable Development

Health impact of indoor air pollution.

Household air pollution resulting for example from cooking with biomass or coal is the most important environmental health risk factor worldwide. Exposure to household air pollution causes 4.3 million premature deaths each year. Women and children are facing especially high risks. 60% of the premature deaths due to household air pollution are women and children.21

Sustainable development is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. […] In essence, sustainable development is a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, the direction of investments, the orientation of technological development; and institutional change are all in harmony and enhance both current and future potential to meet human needs and aspirations”. 20

  1. UN General Assembly A/RES/70/1 (2015): “Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”. https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/post2015/transformingourworld
  2. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2015): Paris Agreement. http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/convention/application/pdf/english_paris_agreement.pdf
  3. FAO: “Food security in the face of climate change”. http://www.fao.org/climatechange/38080-0e86363b233f2bd2c8dd37574ff90cc86.pdf.
  4. BMZ Strategy Paper 2/2014e (2014): "Gender Equality in German Development Policy. Cross-sectoral strategy". http://www.bmz.de/en/publications/type_of_publication/strategies/Strategiepapier340_02_2014.pdf p. 11.
  5. GIZ (2015): “Guidebook Gender and Urban Climate Change” p. 4; 17.
  6. Ferris, E./Petz, D./Stark, C. (2013): “The year of recurring disasters. A review of natural disasters in 2012”. The Brookings Institutions. London School of Economic. Project on Internal Displacement. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2013/03/natural-disasters-review/Brookings_Review_Natural_Disasters_2012.pdf?la=en p. 71.
  7. GIZ (2015): “Guidebook Gender and Urban Climate Change” p. 17. and BMZ Strategy Paper 2/2014e (2014): "Gender Equality in German Development Policy. Cross-sectoral strategy”. http://www.bmz.de/en/publications/type_of_publication/strategies/Strategiepapier340_02_2014.pdf p. 11.
  8. BMZ (2010 - 2015): "Arbeitsfelder und Instrumente: Frauen, Klimawandel, Katastrophenrisikomanagement und nachhaltige Entwicklung“. http://www.bmz.de/de/was_wir_machen/themen/menschenrechte/frauenrechte/arbeitsfelder_und_instrumente/klimawandel/index.html.
  9. Bridge (2011): "Gender and Climate Change“ p. 2.
  10. UN WomenWatch (2009): "Women, Gender Equality and Climate Change“.http://www.un.org/womenwatch/feature/climate_change/downloads/Women_and_Climate_Change_Factsheet.pdf p.1
  11. Bridge (2011): “Gender and Climate Change. Overview Report”. http://www.eldis.org/vfile/upload/4/document/1211/Gender_and_CC_for_web.pdf p. 7.
  12. United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (2012): “UNISDR chief calls for women and girls to take lead on disaster management”. http://www.unisdr.org/archive/29064.
  13. GTZ (2010): “Climate change and gender: economic empowerment of women through climate mitigation and adaption? Working Paper”. http://www.oecd.org/dac/gender-development/46975138.pdf p. 5 and Ferris, E./Petz, D./Stark, C. (2013): “The year of recurring disasters. A review of natural disasters in 2012”. The Brookings Institutions. London School of Economic. Project on Internal Displacement. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2013/03/natural-disasters-review/Brookings_Review_Natural_Disasters_2012.pdf?la=en p. 76.
  14. GIZ (2015): “Guidebook Gender and Urban Climate Change”. p. 18.
  15. The World Bank Group (2011): “Gender & Climate Change. 3 Things you should know”. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTSOCIALDEVELOPMENT/Resources/244362-1232059926563/5747581-1239131985528/5999762-1321989469080/Gender-Climate-Change.pdf p. 4.
  16. Ferris, E./Petz, D./Stark, C. (2013): “The year of recurring disasters. A review of natural disasters in 2012”. The Brookings Institutions. London School of Economic. Project on Internal Displacement. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2013/03/natural-disasters-review/Brookings_Review_Natural_Disasters_2012.pdf?la=en p. 76.
  17. The World Bank Group (2011): “Gender & Climate Change. 3 Things you should know”. http://reliefweb.int/report/world/gender-and-climate-change-three-things-you-should-know p. 4.
  18. The World Bank Group (2011): “Gender & Climate Change. 3 Things you should know”. http://siteresources.worldbank.org/EXTSOCIALDEVELOPMENT/Resources/244362-1232059926563/5747581-1239131985528/5999762-1321989469080/Gender-Climate-Change.pdf p. 4.
  19. Ferris, E./Petz, D./Stark, C. (2013): “The year of recurring disasters. A review of natural disasters in 2012”. The Brookings Institutions. London School of Economic. Project on Internal Displacement. http://www.brookings.edu/~/media/Research/Files/Reports/2013/03/natural-disasters-review/Brookings_Review_Natural_Disasters_2012.pdf?la=en p. 72.
  20. “Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development. Our Common Future”. Transmitted to the General Assembly as an Annex to document A/42/427. http://www.un-documents.net/wced-ocf.htm chapter 2: Towards Sustainable development, para. 1 + 15.
  21. WHO/UNDP (2009): "The energy access situation in developing countries”. http://www.undp.org/content/dam/undp/library/Environment%20and%20Energy/Sustainable%20Energy/energy-access-situation-in-developing-countries.pdf p. 2.