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Focusing on gender differences can help countries respond to climate change

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Yianna Lambrou
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In most societies, women have lower incomes and fewer opportunities than men. This limits their capacity to respond to the effects of climate change. In fact, existing international climate policies neglect addressing gender. Considering how men and women cope could increase the ability of developing countries to deal with the impacts of climate change.Natural disasters and environmental damage associated
with climate change are worse for vulnerable populations, including women and
children. They depend largely on the environment for their livelihoods and have
less access to natural and economic resources for recovery. Research
from the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization shows that current climate
policies do not represent women adequately.
Negotiators for mitigation and adaptation policies have
focused on scientific and technological solutions, rather than addressing
social impacts of climate change and finding people-based solutions. This
approach fails to acknowledge that poor women especially are less able to adapt
to climate change. They are also least able to take advantage of any
opportunities that climate change may bring in terms of sustainable livelihoods.

Focusing on women’s vulnerability is misleading,
though. Women have skills and coping strategies that can minimise the impacts
of environmental change and natural disasters. Research in areas affected by
the Asian tsunami in December 2004 showed women to be better at helping their
communities to respond, organising groups and caring for affected people. The report
also shows:
women in programmes for education and skills training can strengthen their ability
to adapt.
Women’s local
knowledge systems are an important source of information for natural resource
management in areas affected by climate change.
The gendered
division of labour, particularly in poor households, means women need to
negotiate with men over key choices about mitigation or adaptation.
The Clean
Development Mechanism (CDM) of the Kyoto Protocol can offer women access to a
range of projects using new technologies in household energy, agriculture and
food processing.
Environmental policies, such as the CDM, must identify
and specifically include women’s needs. A community-based response that considers
the particular needs of women will reduce their exposure to the threats of
climate change, as well as help to change some existing beliefs and prejudices about
what women can or cannot do.
Policymakers should:
ensure funds are
available that allow women to learn about and acquire improved energy
ensure that more
research is carried out to identify the gender differences in dealing with
climate changes (such as emissions and lifestyle choices)
increase the
availability of gender disaggregated data on households and emissions profiles
develop a
marketing strategy based on gender differences in CDM projects and make government
agencies ensure that gender differences have been properly considered
introduce gender
concerns as an issue into international climate change negotiations and at conference
side events
increase collaboration between the Convention to Combat Desertification,
the Convention of Biological Diversity and the Climate Convention to increase
awareness and conformity of  integrating gender