UN introduces feminist climate justice framework for policymaking

By on 06/12/2023 | Updated on 06/12/2023

A new UN report has set out a framework for enabling women’s contribution towards climate justice and how it can be applied to policy in practice.

The report shows how crises around the world, ranging from economic inequality to geopolitical gridlock, are amplified by climate change and have disproportionate impacts on women and girls.

It notes that feminism is a powerful tool in the fight against climate change, and calls for a clear vision of feminist climate justice “that integrates women’s rights into the global fight against environmental catastrophe”.

The report points to a growing body of evidence which finds that gender inequalities and a failure to take gender issues into account in environmental policymaking have negative impacts across a range of economic and social outcomes for women, girls and people who are gender-diverse.

The UN estimates that by 2050, under a worst-case scenario, climate change could push up to 158 million more women and girls into poverty globally – 16 million more than the total number of men and boys – and see 236 million more face food insecurity.

Women and girls are more vulnerable to disasters, both in terms of the immediate impacts and their capacity to recover in the aftermath, it highlights.

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Evidence shows that tensions within families and between partners worsen and that gender-based violence escalates in communities that face recurrent crises. For example, rates of child marriage are increasing in places experiencing environmental stress, and droughts have been found to increase a preference for sons and cases of sex selective abortion, as well as a greater likelihood of girls dropping out of school.

“Without action to halt climate change, the world’s women and girls now face wholesale reversal of their human rights… [changing this] requires not tinkering around the edges but the transformation of every part of the world’s economies and societies,” the report said.

Reversing the trend

“Using the frame of feminist climate justice, this paper provides a vision of where the world needs to go in this critical moment as well as a policy framework to guide action towards it.”

The report recognises the leadership and agency of women and gender diverse people “particularly when they organise collectively, in adapting and driving the change that is so urgently needed”, and said that while feminism is a “mode of analysis”, it is also about “progressive action to transform institutions, laws, policies and practices towards greater gender equality”.  

Read more: UN calls on countries to include women’s reproductive health in climate plans

The paper defines feminist climate justice, outlines a framework for it drawing on American philosopher Nancy Fraser’s theory of justice covering recognition, redistribution, representation and reparation – in this case recognising women’s rights, labour, and knowledge; redistributing economic resources; representing women’s voices and agency; and repairing inequalities and historical injustices – and provides practical guidance for policymakers.

It also addresses accountability, presenting how this might be achieved, in part through a soon-to-be-released accountability tool – the gender equality and climate policy scorecard – being developed by UN Women, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and the Kaschak Institute for Social Justice for Women and Girls at Binghamton University.  

“The vision for feminist climate justice is a world in which everyone can enjoy the full range of human rights, free from discrimination, and flourish on a planet that is healthy and sustainable,” the UN said.  

Read more: COP28 climate summit just approved a ‘loss and damage’ fund. What does this mean?

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

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