Preparing for the COP21 in Paris – Women and Climate Finance

The twenty-first UN Conference of the Parties on climate change will address the issue of gender inequality also with respect to access to financial resources.

The HEURA (Household Energy and Universal Rural Access) project, a ten-year funding program  for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions promoted by the World Bank was concluded in Mali in June 2012. The project aimed to increase access to energy in rural areas and, ultimately, to stimulate economic growth and remove barriers to the use of renewable energy. The main beneficiaries of the project were women, who played a key role in the success of the initiative.

One of the topics on the agenda of the COP21 session to be held in Paris is the improvement of the financing mechanism for all programs that aim to combat climate change within an area generally referred to as Climate Finance. At present, the capital flows channelled into climate action have a number of origins and are coordinated in a rather confused manner. This raises the question of the effectiveness of the system since the communities that are most vulnerable with respect to climate change are rarely involved in the management of financial resources and a recognized difficulty to access the system of funding often prevents the awarding of funds to the countries most in need. A step towards a fairer system was made in 2010 during the COP16 session with the creation of the Green Climate Fund, an operational entity of the financing system of the UNCCCP (Convention on Climate Change of the United Nations), which was supposed to ensure greater support for environmental projects, programs and policies in developing countries. Amongst other things it was hoped that the GCF would address the failure to introduce a gender perspective in a field as important as that of accessing assets and financial resources for the empowerment of women in response to climate change. Unfortunately, the GCF did not venture beyond a general encouragement to consider gender issues in relation to climate change and did not provide for any substantial action for their integration in the Climate Finance system.

However, to include a gender perspective in this area would be a determining factor in increasing the chances of success of any initiative within the sphere of climate issues. The HEURA project is an example of this. Women living in the rural areas of Mali are the main consumers of the country’s firewood and as the sole subjects responsible for the care of their families and households they are heavily dependent on such natural energy resources. The World Bank project has adopted renewable energy technology to provide access to electricity and increase the use of telecommunications. Moreover, through a particular micro-credit program women have been able to purchase highly energy-efficient stoves. The savings for each family have been significant, without considering the positive impact on the health of the population thanks to a drastic reduction in emissions. Access to electricity has also allowed for the use of machinery for the processing of agricultural resources, freeing women from heavy burdens. This has allowed them to engage in alternative activities, such as the extraction of oil from agricultural crops for the production of soap, which may be sold in the local market and from which a personal gain may be ensured. The project has led to social and economic development in the communities and has definitely enhanced the quality of life in rural areas, especially for women.

The World Bank is one of the actors on the international stage which view the gender approach as a necessary factor leading to a more effective use of available financial resources. It is evident that the gender perspective should be integrated into financial aspects relating to the climate at every level and that the role of women can no longer be ignored. In this regard the recent publication of the new Gender Policy and Action Plan of the Green Climate Fund has been very encouraging. It would appear that the dossier will lead to major advances with respect to action so far taken by the financial facility.

We trust that the action of the COP21 session will move in this direction and that this time the various declarations will be followed up by concrete and possibly binding commitments.

Chiara Soletti

Published for Italian Climate Network on the association’s website.