Why climate change is a gender issue
As climate change continues to occur with increasing severity, it will have profound impacts in all areas of our lives and in all regions of the world. It is clear that measures to tackle climate change and lifestyle changes are urgently needed. If not enough is done to mitigate the effects of climate change, its impacts will be overwhelming and far-reaching. At the same time, gender equality has not yet been fully reached in any country in the world. Thus, it is important to understand that the social construction of gender and existing power relations interact with climate change and also play a role in climate policy.
Basically all gender dimensions can be identified as being relevant to the various areas of climate action, with considerable overlap in their effects. The explanations and examples given here are a summary from the final report Interdependente Genderaspekte der Klimapolitik, p. 112 ff (English summary on pp. 29-43).
Care economy / care work
Many climate protection measures affect the everyday routines of men and women, whether through changes in mobility behavior, more economical forms of energy use or less meat-heavy dietary practices. Since women still bear the responsibility for care/utility tasks in many households, they are also particularly affected by measures to reduce CO2 emissions in the home. This can lead to a feminization of environmental and climate responsibility, ascribing to women alone the responsibility for transforming everyday life in a climate-friendly way.
In most regions of the world, the impacts of climate change are leading to an increase in the amount of work required to provide care - whether through scarcity of water, reduction in agricultural productivity, repairing the damage from climate-related severe weather disasters, or increasing health burdens. Therefore, there is an urgent need to make climate adaptation measures gender-sensitive as well.
Market driven / labor economy
The decarbonization of the economic system opens up a wide range of new job opportunities, including in occupational fields that have traditionally been considered male. Climate policy can make an active contribution here by challenging traditional androcentric notions that attribute greater competence in technical matters to men than to women.
There is ample evidence that women's disadvantage in accessing management positions in companies is also an obstacle to a more climate-friendly economy. For example, it has been shown that companies with a higher proportion of women among their employees operate in a more climate-friendly manner.
Differences in income and wealth are also climate-relevant. For example, they mean that climate policy instruments can have different effects on the sexes. Female pensioners or single parents are disproportionately affected by precarious income conditions, and additional costs due to CO2 pricing thus hit them particularly hard. Women may also be more vulnerable to the impacts of global warming because they have more limited access to social and economic resources compared to men.
Social role attribution and distribution, as well as the unequal valuation of services, result in generally poorer access for women to resources of all kinds. This applies to education and information, which are essential prerequisites for adapting to and avoiding climate change; to access to land, financing and credit, which are prerequisites for, for example, changing food production or energy supply, or switching to resource-saving alternatives, technologies or services.
There is also a risk that gender needs will not be adequately addressed when dealing with natural disasters as consequences of climate change. For example, studies on dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (USA) show that men's activities in initiatives for equitable post-hurricane reconstruction were more likely to be noticed and considered more important than the engagement and needs of other population groups. Especially with increasing heat events / temperatures, it is relevant that the population has access to green spaces and thus cooling opportunities. People doing utility work, but also older women and single parents are particularly dependent on good infrastructural facilities in their living environment. This also applies to access to green spaces.
Shaping Power at actor’s level
Even after more than 25 years of climate policy, women's participation in climate policy decisions in Germany is still low. Nowhere in the world do women and men have the same opportunities to participate in political processes and the same influence on political decisions - this is also and especially true for climate policy with its technically dominated fields of action energy and transport. And this is exacerbated by further intersectional discrimination, such as skin color, cultural background, religion, inter- or transexuality, etc. As a result, their perspectives, needs, and priorities are often left out of the equation or run the risk of not being considered equal.
It is clear that gender and power relations in climate-related fields of action can only be changed if more decision-making positions are filled by women. However, it is at least as important to challenge the masculine norms that dominate these fields and that are constantly reproduced without considering a gender perspective.
Symbolic order (cross-cutting dimension)
The (sometimes unconscious) setting of masculinity or manliness as a standard is also anchored in science, politics and economics, where it can lead not only to devaluation but also to the fading out of living and everyday conditions that do not correspond to the perception and experiences of men. This social devaluation of (ascribed) femininity is reflected in many areas that are also relevant for climate policy. For example, it is expressed in the devaluation of care work as a non-paid activity (cf. dimension 'care economy'). Activities of the supply economy / care work are generally understood as 'consumption' and are also statistically subsumed to this, although production also takes place in supply (example: food). An example of the social valuation of (ascribed) masculinity is the equation of 'work' with paid gainful employment or the valuation of technical solutions over sufficiency approaches, which is common in climate protection.
Different perceptions, attitudes and evaluations result from the attribution of inclinations, abilities, characteristics etc. on the basis of biological gender as well as gender constructions and identities. In the area of climate change, women show a significantly higher perception of the threatening effects and a greater willingness to make a personal contribution to its mitigation in (almost) all surveys. Men, on the other hand, tend to have significantly more confidence that technological developments will solve the problem.
Institutionalized androcentrism/power of definition
The lack of a gender perspective in climate policy has meant that institutionalized androcentrism, i.e. the (sometimes unconscious) setting of masculinity or manliness as the standard, has hardly been questioned in climate science and policy. This also has counterproductive consequences for climate policy. The importance of androcentric thought patterns can be illustrated by many examples, e.g. from transport policy, where masculine norms dominate, which are constantly reproduced without considering the gender perspective. In consumer research, consumption is also often reduced to market participation, i.e. the purchase of products or services. Climate-relevant activities related to the storage, processing, preparation or maintenance, and disposal of products are thereby omitted, as are the knowledge and skills required to do so.
Body, health, self-determination and privacy ('intimacy')
The life domain 'body, health, security' is of central importance for both climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. Gender plays an important role, for example, in the perception of environmental and health risks. Women are also affected differently and often more severely than men by environment-related health risks. This connection between climate change and gender is particularly evident in the effects of heat waves. Research shows that women's mortality rates are significantly higher than men's during heat waves. These health effects of heat events have physiological causes but are influenced by social factors. The socially constructed responsibility for providing care and care work by relatives plays an important role (cf. gender dimension 'care economy').
Climate-related extreme events such as drought, floods or forest/bush fires can also have gender-differentiated consequences. For severe bushfires in Australia, it was shown that 60 percent of fatalities were male, which is related to rigid male roles as rescuers and protectors. These also lead to high rates of suicide among men when they are unable to perform these roles after droughts or bushfires. Climate policy measures for health protection must therefore take into account not only the different economic situations, but also the influence of gender roles on the vulnerabilities of men and women.
Survey of Gender Bias in the IPCC
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change needs to do more to include the expertise and voices of women, even as numbers and policies improve. The number of women involved in writing the IPCC report have increased steadily, from 8% of authors in the first IPC assessment report in 1990 to one third in the current IPCC assessment team.
- Women have lower representation at senior levels. Women were 15% less likely than men to agree that everyone had equal opportunities to be nominated, speak, shape content or lead chapters.
- More women than men reported that they had observed someone else take credit for a woman’s idea (38% versus 24%) or had seen a women being ignored (52% versus 30%) or patronized (41% versus 27%).
- The survey highlighted the importance of other dimensions of diversity that intersect with gender, and can be barriers to inclusion, including ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, disability, and age.
You can download the paper here
W7 - the women's policy dialogue on G7
Next year, Germany will take over the presidency of the G7 (Germany, France, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan, Canada and the United States). Since 2018, the G7 presidencies have been inviting participants to a parallel women's policy dialogue, the so-called Women7 (W7). The aim is to address proposals on gender equality to the G7 governments in a civil society process. One of the main topics of the W7 in 2022 will be climate justice.
During the German presidency, the National Council of German Women’s Organizations (Deutscher Frauenrat) is coordinating these activities, and has set up a women's policy think tank for this purpose. We are pleased to be able to contribute our expertise on climate justice and gender-equitable economic policy there.
Dialogues Project: Shaping the energy transition and climate neutrality close to citizens
With "Citizen Action Labs" in 8 countries, the Dialogues project wants to contribute to shaping energy transition and climate neutrality close to citizens. The Citizen Action Labs are based on the concept of real laboratories: in real environments, citizens and researchers will jointly test innovative ideas and proposals in the areas of decarbonization of buildings, introduction of renewable energies, energy storage and sustainable mobility. The Action Labs also aim to strengthen citizens' "energy citizenship" and support them in making their contribution to the energy transition and climate neutrality.
GenderCC is responsible in the research project funded by the EU program HORIZON 2020 for including a gender perspective in all activities from the beginning. The project also provides the opportunity to process the most recent research results on gender and energy. A repository of available data will be created and screened for usable gender data. On this basis, requirements for future data collection will be formulated.
Carbon pricing from a feminist perspective - a gender analysis
At the beginning of 2021, a carbon price was introduced in Germany on the fossil fuels coal, petrol, diesel, heating oil and gas. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and thus contribute to achieving the climate goals. The level of the price, its effectiveness and, above all, who will be particularly affected and how the additional costs can be socially compensated are hot debates in the political landscape. With this working paper, we are pleased to present the effects of the carbon price and the various compensation proposals for private households/individuals and to analyse their equity effects, especially from a gender perspective. This is not to reject carbon pricing in principle; on the contrary, we consider it a useful instrument. But its implementation and compensation measures should and must be critically examined and adjusted.