Georgetown Calls for U.S. Leadership on Gender-responsive Climate Action


Ahead of Biden’s “Leaders Summit on Climate,” experts call for gender action

WASHINGTON, D.C.—April 21, 2021—The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security (GIWPS) calls for gender-responsive US climate action ahead of a climate summit hosted by President Biden in lead-up to COP26.

Signaling renewed US leadership on the existential threat of our time, President Biden has convened a Leaders Summit on Climate this week to raise global ambition to address the climate crisis. Leaders from the world’s major economies will discuss how to strengthen efforts to achieve targets outlined under the UN Paris Agreement, which the US rejoined in January, and shift the current trajectory of global warming. During this summit, the United States is expected to announce a new, ambitious Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) in an effort to advance the common good and to galvanize more serious global action.

The Summit is a key step in the lead-up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26), set to take place in November 2021, where, parties will gather to finalize technical aspects of the Paris Agreement, and more crucially, to set the world on a path to reach net-zero emissions by 2050.

Gender must be a central consideration across all strategies to achieve climate targets, including NDCs. Sustained efforts are needed to implement the UNFCCC Gender Action Plan that calls for gender-responsive climate actions to achieve more robust efforts and better outcomes. 

Women are one of the best and most underutilized forces to combat the climate crisis. Further empowering women at all levels – and tapping their diverse experiences and perspectives – will accelerate progress to meet climate targets. Evidence shows that greater representation of women in political leadership is connected to more ambitious climate action, yet too often women are excluded from these roles.

Worldwide, women comprise just 15 percent of environmental ministers and included only 21 percent of heads of delegation at COP25. Additional measures are needed to address barriers to women’s inclusion in climate decision-making, especially for women from climate-affected contexts, to ensure women’s voices and interests are represented at top leadership levels.

Yet increasing gender parity in climate leadership alone will not be enough to move the needle; gender considerations must also be meaningfully integrated into policy and programming. While women and girls bear the brunt of impacts from climate change, GIWPS research demonstrates they are also uniquely positioned to advance solutions through sustainable natural resource management, climate adaptation, and climate-proofing economies.

Governments should scale-up gender-responsive climate action, starting with the key themes of the Summit, which in addition to reducing carbon emissions, center on the economy, transformational technologies, and protecting lives and livelihoods. Each of these can be leveraged as entry points to buffer the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women, incorporate their experiences and know-how, and build their capacity to engage in the solutions. 

The transition to green economies, renewable energy, and climate-smart agriculture must not leave women behind. For example, women farmers produce a large share of the world’s food supply, yet less than 15 percent of all landholders are women. Empowering women and closing gender equality gaps is key to successfully meeting climate targets and also presents a significant market opportunity.

A gender-lens investing strategy – focusing on women-centered investments in renewable energy, agriculture, education, healthcare and entrepreneurship – can deliver effective climate outcomes, increase financial returns, boost the economy, and accelerate gender equality. It can also build climate resilience by strengthening women’s capacity to absorb and cope with future climate shocks, leading to greater security.

Now is the time to act. We should embrace this critical window of opportunity to harness synergies between COVID-19 recovery and climate action in order to build back better, greener, and more equitably. We urgently need ambitious political action undergirded by greater international cooperation. The Biden administration has taken important first steps in concert with global leaders, but climate goals will not be met without the full and meaningful participation of women at all levels. Inclusive climate action translates to better outcomes for all.

Media Contact
Sarah Rutherford

Georgetown University’s Institute for Women, Peace & Security seeks to promote a more stable, peaceful, and just world by focusing on the important role women play in preventing conflict and building peace, growing economies, and addressing global threats like climate change and violent extremism. We engage in rigorous research, host global convenings, advance strategic partnerships, and nurture the next generation of leaders. Housed within the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown, the Institute is headed by the former U.S. Ambassador for Global Women’s Issues, Melanne Verveer.