Basically all gender dimensions can be identified as being relevant to the various areas of climate action, with considerable overlap in their effects.
Participation in changes and decision-making
There is no country in the world where men and women have the same ability to contribute to political processes or can exert equal influence on political decision-making. This is also true of climate politics, particularly when it comes to the highly technical sectors of energy and transport. As a result, women’s perspectives, needs and priorities are often neglected or remain at risk of not being seen as equally valid.
Socially-constructed roles and responsibilities
The different positions that men and women occupy in society is both a cause and a consequence of socially-constructed gender roles. Women are usually expected to take on the bulk of the care work within the family. Yet in many parts of the world, the impacts of climate change are already resulting in an increased workload in the household, due to water shortages, decreasing agricultural productivity, and the growing need to deal with the damage caused by climate-related extreme weather events and health risks.
Access to resources
As a result of these socially constructed roles and the unequal value that is attributed to different kinds of work, women have more limited access to resources of all kinds. This applies to education and information, which are necessary to adapt to and prevent climate change, but also to access to land, financial resources and loans, which are required to make changes and adopt more efficient ways of producing food or energy, as well as access to technologies and services.
Cultural and legal norms
In many contexts, the circumstances described above are further exacerbated by cultural and legal conditions. For example, if the inheritance system is patrilineal or if women aren’t allowed to own property, they are more likely to be allocated land that is unusable for industrial production, resulting in low productivity. Cultural or religious norms can also restrict women’s ability to move about freely or even limit their chances of surviving in the event of a natural disaster.
These four dimensions apply to all areas of climate protection – from energy supply and energy usage to mobility, agriculture, forestry, water supply, and consumption – with the result that women and men often have different ideas about how to develop sustainable solutions for the future. Furthermore, they are impacted differently and do not have the same possibility to exert their influence and participate in decision making.
These factors are closely linked with socially constructed gender norms and have little to do with biological sex. As a consequence, gender-sensitive responses to climate change require more than just gender-disaggregated data, which reveal that men and women are impacted different by climate change or highlighting that men and women contribute to it to a different extent. What is needed is a deeper understanding of how the impacts of climate change and climate policies designed to respond to it will affect existing gender inequalities, and in turn, how these inequalities could exacerbate climate change and its impacts.