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Gender and Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform: Current status of research

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International Institute for Sustainable Development
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This research project aims to investigate the impacts from fossil fuel subsidy reform on poor women in Bangladesh, India and Nigeria. This initial scoping report finds no primary, quantitative research on the question of the gender-differentiated impact of fossil fuel subsidy reforms. However, there is a large body of literature linked to energy access and gender; growing research surrounding energy subsidies, access and impacts on the poor; growing research regarding solar energy and cook stoves and gender; and a body of research assessing targeted cash transfers (sometimes used as mitigation measures to energy sector reform) from a gender perspective.

The report explores the literature by first providing a global picture of energy subsidies, energy access and gender empowerment as background to the research. It then reviews the literature regarding access to energy and gender empowerment (Section 3.1), fossil fuel subsidies and gender (Section 3.1.1), subsidy reforms and gender (Section 3.1.2), and mitigation measures such as cash transfers and targeted energy interventions (Section 3.2). Finally, it provides an overview of energy subsidies and reform with implications for gender across this project’s three focus countries: Nigeria (Section 3.3.1), India (Section 3.3.2) and Bangladesh (Section 3.3.3). Case studies on Peru, Mexico and Morocco on the impact of energy subsidies, their reform and potential targeted mitigation opportunities for women are also included in Appendix I. The literature review reveals that the impacts of energy subsidies, the impacts of energy sector reform, and workable or appropriate mitigation measures associated with any reforms are extremely context specific. Nonetheless, strong evidence indicates that in many countries a significant proportion of subsidy benefits are captured by well-off households, suggesting a general phenomenon of energy subsidy inefficiency if the desired policy objective is to target income and energy access benefits to women and men living in poverty. As a result, the research covers a broad range of fuel types and potential interventions, investigating these from the perspective of income, energy use and energy supply effects on gender (see Figure ES1 for a summary of likely impacts).

The literature review synthesises a fuller body of research undertaken by national project partners in this project’s three focus countries: the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) in Bangladesh, Integrated Research and Action for Development (IRADe) in India, and Spaces for Change (S4C) in Nigeria. It is also based on a global review by the Global Subsidies Initiative (GSI) of the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) on the literature on gender and energy sector reform and possible methodologies for exploring this area.