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United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP15), Copenhagen Summit, December 2009

As in the energy sector, the integration of gender and social justice themes into climate-change related policies and programs was slow and limited, as was the participation of civil society organizations in the formal climate change negotiations. Already in 2005, the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) undertook an in-depth discussion on how best to ‘engender’ the climate change debate.

Establishing an advocacy team

Two years later, together with the UN Development program’s Gender Team, and the UN Environment program, WEDO and IUCN formally launched the Global Gender and Climate Alliance (GGCA) at the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP13) Climate Change Convention in December, 2007. ENERGIA was among the early members, and given our experience in advocacy and in co-convening the Women’s Major Group at the UN Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD), we led the advocacy team with WEDO on behalf of the GGCA. The team aimed to put gender equality on the agenda as a prerequisite for achieving sustainable development and poverty reduction, two pillars of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

At COP13, Parties adopted the Bali Action Plan, a two-year negotiation process towards a binding agreement to be finalized in 2009 at COP15. The Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Ad Hoc Working Group on Further Commitments for Annex I Parties under the Kyoto Protocol (AWG-KP) were created to lead the negotiations and to report the outcome to the COP15.

The Bali Action Plan comprised five categories, which summarized all major and concerning aspects of climate change: shared vision, mitigation, adaptation, technology and financing. All these critical areas lacked a gender component. In 2008, WEDO and ENERGIA established a targeted advocacy team to work closely as technical advisors with government negotiators.

Advocacy team

Over the years, the advocacy team worked closely with governments, participated in major negotiation meetings and built meaningful partnerships. The advocacy team also engaged with negotiators to contribute to their understanding of gender issues as a key condition in responding to climate change, and provided specific inputs for negotiating meetings.

Some of the advocacy team’s core activities included capacity building, training of trainers and briefings for delegates. The team organized sessions for negotiators and published a number of publications, toolkits and manuals to raise awareness of the urgency to include gender in climate change discussions.

Increased participation in negotiations

In early 2009, the advocacy team included climate change experts and gender advocacy experts from all over the world who attended the six major UNFCCC negotiating meetings that year, working with more than 100 governments. These long-term efforts, in which ENERGIA participated with other like minded organizations, brought a historical change: the number of women and gender references in negotiating documents increased from zero in December 2008 (at COP14) to more than 40 by March 2009. Meanwhile, civil society organizations focusing on women and gender issues were acknowledged as a special observer group.

“This sounds a bit formal, but is nevertheless a major step forward in giving women and gender issues greater prominence. After several years of awareness raising and advocacy, we have reached a point where the gender dimensions of climate change and climate policy can no longer be denied” – Energia News • May 2010.

Although the final documents did not reflect most gender-related issues and unsolved political issues led to a lack of legally binding commitments on climate change, WEDO and ENERGIA’s work did not get lost. The team made a small but essential step towards highlighting the importance of applying a gender-sensitive approach to climate change negotiations, and continued to work with delegates, negotiators and actors to engender the climate change debate.