GENDERED CLIMATE IMPACT


Our differential vulnerability, across the gender spectrum, to the effects of climate change. Neither climate change’s effects, or climate change policy is exempt from existing hierarchies of gendered power, as it intersects with class and race. It is increasingly accepted by policy makers that the experience of climate change is gendered, amplified by the fact that women make up the majority of the world’s poor, and that in the developing world, two-thirds of farmers are women.

Considering the gender-specific impacts of climate change, we take into account the words of activists Aletta Brady, Anthony Torres, and Phillip Brown: “Trans and queer communities, especially black and brown and low-income queer and trans people, live on the frontlines of climate change. Many young queer and trans people do not have the resources or ability to flee verbal, emotional, and physical violence in their hometowns. Instead, around the world, they are often abandoned by family and forced onto the streets with little to no support to survive.”(1) Put simply, those with economic security are more likely to be insulated from the harms of climate change; those who identify as trans and queer are more likely to be living on lower incomes, to experience homelessness, and have limited access to healthcare. 

This inequity translates to the availability of research itself. At the time of writing there is an inadequacy of major studies of the effects of climate change across the gender spectrum; for now this research appears to remain largely in a binary framework. Unequal access to resources and decision-making processes places women in a position where they are disproportionately affected by environmental changes that impact sources of livelihood. Loss of biodiversity, as a result of climate change, can mean that women have to travel further for food and water, while extreme weather events result in more deaths to women than men. Men are also generally more likely to migrate, while women stay home with dependants. Inequality that affects access to reproductive health services is compounded in events of disaster and instability, where the incidents of rape and assault are increased.(2)

It is also recognised that women are often the primary actors in strategies of mitigation and adaptation,(3) as well as being the first to respond in disaster situations. Sophie Huyer, in the ‘Gender Note’ report on Gender and International Climate Policy written after COP 21, notes that only 57 (40%) of the signing countries refer to gender in their submissions, none of these industrialised countries. Huyer writes, “The use of the term ‘gender-responsive’ in the Paris Agreement is a big step forward, however the Agreement fails to move beyond the attitude of women as victims of climate change in need of capacity building.”(4)

1. Aletta Brady, Anthony Torres, and Phillip Brown, ‘What the queer community brings to the fight for climate justice’, Grist, 9 April 2019, https://grist.org/article/what-the-queer-community-brings-to-the-fight-for-climate-justice/

2. See ‘Women as actors in addressing climate change: Incorporating women’s empowerment and gender equality in the agreement from the 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change,’ September 2015, http://www.hautconseil-egalite.gouv.fr/IMG/pdf/women_and_climate_advocacy_eng. pdf

3. Ibid.

4. Sophie Huyer, ‘Gender and International Climate Policy: An analysis of progress in gender equality at COP 21’, February 2016, https://cgspace.cgiar.org/bitstream/handle/10568/71106/GenderCOP 21 InfoNote.pdf?sequence 5”

Mark