The importance of considering the various impacts of climate change on women and girls is increasingly critical. Women are often among the most disproportionately affected by the effects of a changing climate. This is particularly true in the developing world. The decrease in natural resources due to major climatic changes places additional burdens on women who typically have less access than men to educational, financial and employment opportunities.
Auspiciously, in recent years, the G7 has increased its efforts to take a more gender-sensitive approach to economic, social and environmental issues, including those related to climate change.
Several past G7 communiqués acknowledged the important links between women and social responsibility. This began in 2007 at the Heiligendamm Summit in Germany, where leaders called for women’s participation in social and economic development, followed by the link between gender and health at the 2009 L’Aquila Summit in Italy. However, none explicitly called for women’s participation in climate-related issues.
Discovering the correlation
Only recently was the link forged between gender and climate, and then pushed to the forefront of the climate policies of both the G7 and the G20.
This trend began in 2015, at the G7’s Schloss Elmau Summit in Germany. For the first time, the issue of women’s empowerment and gender equality was included throughout multiple sections of the communiqué, including those on the economy, development and food security.
The following year, in 2016 at the Ise-Shima Summit in Japan, the G7 built upon this work, making an explicit and interdependent link between gender and climate change. The communiqué directly recognised women’s empowerment and gender equality as ‘indispensable’ for women’s equal participation as agents of change in all spheres of society.
Ise-Shima was also the first summit where G7 leaders announced their commitment to take a gender-responsive approach to implementing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and to directly address climate change.
But at the 2017 Taormina Summit, the link between gender and climate was not as explicit as it had been in 2016. The leaders did acknowledge the importance of a gender-sensitive and multidimensional approach to the development of economic, social and environmental policies, but excluded that critical link between gender and climate in their final declaration.
For the Charlevoix Summit in 2018, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has identified gender and climate change as two of his five summit priorities. He has positioned gender as a cross-cutting priority to be incorporated across the G7 agenda, and to be included as a priority issue in negotiations on climate change, oceans and clean energy.
However, to bring this innovative and important synergy to life, the G7 leaders at Charlevoix should take several steps.
A priority come to life
First, at Charlevoix the leaders could create an official body to ensure that their summit commitments on gender and climate find their way into official-level forums, working groups, experts’ groups and task forces created by the G7. These forums would ensure the continuation of the G7’s policy direction on the gender-climate connection.
Second, Canada must continue to provide ministerial support following Charlevoix, beginning with the meeting of ministers responsible for environment, energy and oceans scheduled for
the autumn. Engaging these ministers in this process is critical, as they identify the more salient issues, provide the necessary policy advice to the leaders and can mobilise the resources required to make real progress.
Third, the G7 should continue to engage civil society, including non-profit organisations and non-governmental organisations, as well as intergovernmental organisations. Their involvement can be both formal and informal, and encompass lobbying, compliance monitoring, reporting or advocacy assessment, and information dissemination. These are all critical catalysts in moving this process forward.
Finally, the evidence suggests that the persistent push of same-issue commitments made at previous years’ summits has a very strong impact. It will thus be important for France, when it picks up the G7 torch from Canada to host the 2019 summit, to keep the gender perspective as one of the standard metrics on which climate is considered and for the United States to do so too as the 2020 host.