Climate adaptation will not be possible if we do not address social transformation with a gender lens

The second report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, presented on 28 February, includes multiple references to the need to address gender equality in order to achieve climate change adaptation and mitigation.

Bearing in mind that it is societies and communities, as well as ecosystems, that will see their capacity to adapt and mitigate limited, increasing or reducing their environmental losses and damages - which translate into social and economic losses as well - the report stresses that, for a forward-looking approach to climate change, either catalytic conditions are put in place that transform political, fiscal, economic and cultural structures, or we will not achieve adaptation and mitigation of its impacts.

The response to climate adaptation necessarily involves applying a transformative gender perspective. On the one hand, with "formal structures" that design instruments - laws, policies, plans - and mechanisms - tools, decisions, provisions - in which women have equal access to natural resources for the sustenance of their local economies and livelihoods. On the other hand, from the "informal structures" of society, those that culturally shape us from birth in a given context - often "imperceptible" - such as social norms: norms that habitually disadvantage women, that condition or prohibit their participation, that undermine their self-esteem, their confidence, their ability, and that limit the potential development of capacities that women have as human beings. These norms attribute socially assigned roles to women and men. We will not be able to talk about development or adaptation to climate change if these formal and informal "structures" are not addressed from a gender-transformative perspective. 

Although the international community has made and continues to make great efforts to achieve environmental sustainability and adaptation to climate change - through numerous environmental conventions and agreements, legal instruments and decisions of the United Nations Framework Convention on the Environment - effective adaptation to climate change will not be achieved if these are not addressed with a gender perspective that goes further, that transforms social relations, structures and promotes the capacity of women in all its spheres and forms. We understand that it is societies and communities that have an impact on ecosystems, and therefore on the ecosystem services that nature and its biological diversity offer us: access to water, pest control, the barrier against new viruses and bacteria that affect human, animal and plant health, the health of the soil as sustenance for productive activities that feed us and of the forests, which are the lungs of the planet, and the habitat of numerous species of biodiversity, among many others.

The COVID19 health crisis has exacerbated these inequalities; our lives have been reshaped by the unfolding pandemic. COVID19 has deepened the structural knots of gender inequality, exposing the vulnerability of women who have taken on care work at home and in the community, as well as losing paid jobs. Both crises contribute to widening the already "large" gender gap in Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Therefore, climate change action and post-pandemic recovery action can and should be an opportunity to identify and address gender inequalities through gender-responsive and inclusive policymaking. Addressing social complexity is a challenge for all countries - there is no country in the world that will achieve full equality within the horizon proposed by the 2030 Agenda - and this will be especially challenging for Latin American and Caribbean countries with their socio-economic inequalities and the volatility and political instability of their governments. Social discrimination is not the product of a single cause, but of an intersectional approach that crosses multiple social dimensions, including gender, social class, ethnicity, race, age, sexual orientation, disability, ... in the same person.

From line 6 of the EUROCLIMA+ programme, gender and vulnerable groups, at FIIAPP, we address adaptation to climate change, not with technical and technological solutions, but by accompanying the development of plans, policies, instruments and mechanisms that incorporate the gender perspective in public climate policies. We recognise that more egalitarian societies will be more resilient and better adapted to the effects of climate change.

Climate change does not affect us all in the same way, just as we are not all the same in society. However, gender mainstreaming in climate policies will contribute to the well-being of all: women and men.

Teresa Aguilar, Fátima Andrade: Gender and Climate Change Specialist Technicians of the EUROCLIMA + Programme at the International and Ibero-America Foundation for Administration and Public Policy, F.S.P. (FIIAPP). 

Euroclima is the European Union's flagship programme on environmental sustainability and climate change with Latin America. It aims to reduce the impact of climate change and its effects in Latin America by promoting climate change mitigation and adaptation through resilience and investment. 
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