Topic 3: Intersection of gender and climate change

Under this topic relationship between gender equality (SDG 5) and climate change (SDG 13) will be analyzed.

Many governments and organizations including UN Women noted that “women are increasingly being recognized as more vulnerable to climate change impacts than men, as they constitute the majority of the world’s poor and are more dependent on the natural resources which climate change threatens the most”.

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SDG 13 on climate action is essential for achieving all other sustainability development goals, in particular, SDG 2 (zero hunger), SDG 3 (good health and well-being), SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (clean energy), SDG 9 (sustainable and inclusive infrastructure), and SDG10 (reduced inequalities), SDG 11 (safe, sustainable and inclusive cities), SDG 12 (responsible consumption and production), and Goals 14 and 15 on protection, restoration and sustainable use of land and water resources.

Tackling climate change is also intrinsically linked to SDG 5. However, there is only one SDG 13 target specifically with a gender equality angle: raise capacity climate-change related planning and management including focusing on women (13.b).

There is an extensive literature exists on the intersection of gender equality and climate change, revealing that woman and men encounter and react to climate change in different ways. In general, women face higher vulnerability due to their reliance on natural resources and the structural inequities.

A 2019 study focusing on Spain, showed women – across all age ranges – are more susceptible to death from cardiovascular disease linked to climate change related temperature increases. 

Based on review study review study, in Europe, women are more likely than men to live in flood zone, where the effects of climate change are mostly acutely experienced.

Research has also indicated that gender-based violence, encompassing physical, psychological, and reproductive violence against women, tends to increase in frequency following natural disasters, resulting in multifaceted and profound effects on health and overall well-being.

Research indicates that women exhibit a higher propensity for taking action and seeking solutions in the context of climate change. A study by the Women’s Forum, encompassing nearly 10,000 individuals across G20 countries, revealed that women, more frequently than men, altered their behavior to reduce carbon dioxide emissions through practices such as recycling, supporting local products, and curbing water and meat consumption. In Canada, multiple studies have shown that girls and women are more inclined than boys and men to view climate change as a significant issue and express a greater sense of urgency for proactive measures. According to the largest public opinion survey on climate change conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), involving 1.2 million people from 50 countries, Canada exhibited the most prominent gender gap in perceptions of climate change. Canadian women and girls surveyed were 12 percent more likely than their male counterparts to consider climate change an emergency.

Scientific research becomes more precise and advantageous when gender is taken into consideration.

For example Throughout studies on seatbelt safety and clinical trials for drugs, men have traditionally been regarded as the default test subjects. However, it is crucial to acknowledge, as articulated in a study on whiplash, that “women are not scaled down men.” When research overlooks gender and sex as variables, it is not uncommon to observe disparities in safety and health outcomes between men and women manifesting in real-world settings.

Women contribute distinct perspective and experiences to the realm of research. Incorporating women and minorities into research empowers these groups to act as catalysts for change in their communities, shedding light on their lived experiences, perspectives, and the unique challenges they encounter. While women face heightened vulnerability in the climate crisis, they also occupy a unique position to serve as influential agents of change. On average, women exhibit smaller carbon footprints than men, adopt more responsible attitudes towards climate change, and demonstrate a greater interest in environmental protection. Female leaders are actively addressing the climate crisis at various levels, from grassroots initiatives to top corporate positions. Studies indicate that organizations with more female executives and board members tend to perform better in terms of both environmental impact and overall corporate social responsibility (CSR) or Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG).