Press Release: Collective Power Shines Amid a Process That Fails on Urgent Climate Action

November 20, 2022

Sharm El Sheik, Egypt – As feminists and women’s rights advocates strategized daily to advocate for gender-just and human rights based climate action, negotiators once again ignored the urgency of our current climate crisis.

While we acknowledge that developing countries, grassroots movements and civil society pushed forward a once unthinkable collective demand for a fund on loss and damage, and we honor the thirty plus years of advocacy and persistence to deliver this outcome, we condemn the fact that negotiators played politicking and wordsmithing at the cost of substance and action to deliver climate justice. 

The achievement of a loss and damage fund in the face of such odds defines what it means to stand together and transform power,” said Zukiswa White, WGC Coordinator, South Africa. “Developing countries, and in particular those most vulnerable to climate impacts, represent the Global Majority. The leaders of movements and grassroots organizations at the forefront of the fight to protect land and life have demonstrated how we can meaningfully realize climate justice if we ground ourselves in the sincerity of our visions for a truly transformative gender, environment, and climate just world. You simply cannot have this without the kind of solidarity and commitment we have witnessed over the past three decades. Now, we must hold this process accountable to a funding mechanism that urgently delivers resources to communities whose lives and livelihoods are being devastated at increasing rates due to climate-induced loss and damage.”

However, as echoed by Carmen Capriles, Reaccion Climatica, Bolivia in the closing intervention from the Women & Gender Constituency: “We refuse to be complacent in an outcome that treats the symptoms but not the cause.” Capriles called attention to Parties’ failure to take urgent action to mitigate this crisis – to keep 1.5 alive in particular – as well as their refusal to call for the full phase-out of all fossil fuels, while allowing carbon offsetting and loopholes drive us deeper down the path of false solutions. As she noted, “we are plugging holes in a dam that’s structurally fractured and ready to break.”

No Gender Justice in the Gender Action Plan

On gender equality, specifically the expected mid-term review of the UNFCCC  gender action plan (GAP), the WGC left COP27 deeply frustrated with the process and outcome. 

“The WGC recognizes an eleventh hour decision under the gender action plan  but we remain deeply frustrated with the total lack of substantive review that occurred here and in the lead up to COP,” said Marisa Hutchinson, IWRAW – Asia Pacific, Malaysia. “Gender experts and women’s rights advocates were left out of the rooms while Parties tinkered at the edges of weak and vague text that failed to advance critical issues at this intersection, nor deliver adequate funding.  We demand that the social protection of women and girls in all their diversity be at the forefront of the gender and climate change negotiations of the UNFCCC.”

Notable Wins: Human Right to Healthy Environment and Reforms for Financing Institutions

There were some notable highlights beyond the fund for loss and damage. The COP27 outcomes marked the first multilateral environmental agreement to include an explicit reference to the human right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment. This should open a path for this right to be recognized across all environmental governance. 

Additionally, the COP27 outcomes call for the needed reform of Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs) and International Financing Institutions (IFIs), challenging them to re-envision their operational models more fit for purpose for climate action, including via a focus on grants and simplified access, as well as to increase climate ambition in their own policies and financial mechanisms.

“For too long MDBs have been operating janus-faced, calling for extractive, fossil fuels-driving growth in ‘client countries’ while claiming to be the largest multilateral climate finance providers,” said Liane Schalatek of the Heinrich Boell Foundation, USA. You cannot have it both ways. Show backbone and coherence!

Gender Just Climate Solutions 

Ambitious and just climate action can only be achieved by raising the voice and human rights of the populations most affected, as well as by supporting and scaling up the solutions that center gender justice. While Parties are failing to effectively reduce emissions and ensure a just and inclusive transition, we showcase every year during COP the most exemplary Gender Just Climate Solutions to inspire world leaders on how to implement feminist climate policies. 

“The solutions we celebrated this year at COP27 challenge patriarchal systems and bring forward innovative solutions for transformational change based on care and well-being, such as bridging indigenous women’s ancestral knowledge with modern science for ecosystem protection, or strengthening women’s labor rights in climate affected territories, or supporting cooperative models for a gender inclusive energy transition,” said Anne Barre, Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF), Germany.

False Solutions Reign While Human Rights Languish

Even with the small wins, this process continues to fail to meet the urgency and clarity of purpose that science and experience are calling fora full-scale, just, equitable and gender-just transition away from a fossil fuel based extractive economy to a care and social protection centered regenerative economy. 

“In a spirit of reclamation and resistance, African feminists came to COP27 to affirm our place and stake in the future that we want,” said Mwanahamisi Singano, WEDO Senior Policy Lead, Tanzania. We see clearly that those who have led the destruction of our environment, through greed and plunder, are the ones who claim to care about it the most. Positing false and dangerous solutions as progress, hiding their ongoing exploitation and accumulation with green logos, green empty press statements, and green taglines. We will continue to say no to false solutions that displace our communities that rely on unproven and harmful technologies, and that sell us an “industrial revolution.”’  

These failed talks are happening in the midst of ever-increasing rates of violence against environmental and human rights defenders, and in contexts increasingly unwelcoming of effective civic space. 

“Negotiations at COP27 have taken place amid deepened injustices in terms of access and inclusion, with participants facing discrimination, harassment and surveillance, and concerns for their safety as well as the safety of activists and human rights defenders,said Gina Cortes Valderama, WGC Co-Focal Point, Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF). “Instead of this being the space for guaranteeing human rights to all, it is being utilised as an Expo where capitalism, false solutions and colonial development models are greeted with red carpets while women and girls fade away in the memories of their lost land, of their damaged fields, of the ashes of their murdered.”

Even as we call out the hypocrisy, inaction and injustice of this space, as civil society and movements connected in the fight for climate justice, we refuse to cede the space of multilateralism to short-sighted politicians and fossil-fuel driven corporate interests. 

“All across these two weeks, we have engaged in a politics of collective action, solidarity and power building, working alongside allied constituencies – from Indigenous Peoples, youth and trade unions, to large and small environmental justice organizations and movements around the world,” said Bridget Burns, WGC Co-Focal Point, Director,  Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO). “We will never tire of our call that ‘the people united will never be defeated’ because we will never cease in our demand for climate justice.” 

As echoed across our closing statements: “No climate justice without human rights – we are not yet defeated!”

Additional Quotes & Resources

Peoples Declaration

In the final days of COP27, the  Women and Gender Constituency together with different civil society movements across the world endorsed a joint COP27 Peoples’ Declaration for Climate Justice. In the declaration we call for: (1) The decolonisation of the economy and out societies; (2) The repaying of climate debt and delivery of climate finance; (3) The defense of 1.5c with real zero goals by 2030 and rejection of false solutions; (4) Global solidarity, peace and justice.

WGC Organizing

“Each day at COP27,  feminists and women’s rights advocates strategized, strengthened movement building, exchanged transformative pathways to climate justice through context specific and community-led climate solutions and facilitated solidarity and joy in the face of injustice, indecisive leadership and failed hope.” – Zukiswa White, WGC Coordinator

Lack of Urgency

“Even though COP 27 was meant to be an implementation COP, what we saw were submissions that further widened the gap between lived realities of women and communities at the frontlines of the crisis  and consultations that were taking place. As a result, we find ourselves having to wait until 2025 for a loss and damage finance facility as disasters mercilessly ravage the global south leading countries into greater debt, and women and children adversely impacted. We want our fair share of climate action for a crisis that we did not cause.” – Anne Songole, FEMNET Climate Justice Coordinator, Kenya

“COP27 gave us crumbs, with some concessions here and there. But these come at a very high cost of sacrificing the healing of the planet with no real carbon emissions reduction from historical and current emitters. This is unacceptable!” – Tetet Lauron, Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung, Philippines 

Unjust Process

The fact that COP27 was happening on African soil, a continent that continues to bare the brunt of climate change was sufficient enough to have a critical and diverse representation of the marginalized constituencies especially women & adolescent girls from remote and conflict climate affected areas attend and meaningfully participate at this year’s COP” – Zoneziwoh Mbondgulo-Wondieh, Women for A Change –  Founder and  Director, Cameroon

“We must ensure that pledges of developed countries to boost climate solutions and finance come hand in hand with the commitment to fulfill their human rights obligations. We can’t keep on negotiating peoples rights at global climate talks. The rich must stop commodifying our rights especially women’s human rights and start paying for their ecological debt” – Patricia Wattimena, Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development

 “Deliver Process Justice. Observers  were consistently locked out of the negotiations rooms for a repeated ‘lack of sitting space’ excuse, as if they did not know how many people they have accredited. We have also witnessed painful orchestration of last minute decisions with few parties  and cooperations who could afford extra days. This needs to be called out and ended.” –  Mwanahamisi Singano, WEDO Senior Policy Lead, Tanzania.

“I am getting completely disillusioned with the way the negotiations are progressing. Year after year Parties from the world over, creating a huge level of carbon footprints  gather in COP to  discuss how each country should reduce their carbon emission and carbon footprint. And then there is prolonged debate on the ‘politics of words’ without actually discussing concrete action plans. Is the next COP going to be the same? But I am a woman from the south and I don’t give up. I hope that keeping in view the increasing climate crisis, I look forward to the Parties coming to Dubai with only delivery of pledged commitments, implementations and actions which are centered around cross-cutting issues of gender, human rights, life and planet.” – Kalyani Raj, All Indian Women’s Conference (AIWC)

Gender action plan

“I feel terrible that when it comes to gender issues, it becomes difficult to get commitments and yet we keep stating that it is important. How important gender issues cannot be qualified as we continue to fight for everything. We fought to get a GAP and now we are still fighting for the resources for the same implementation of the gap and the LWPG, so how truthful are we about gender? As African women and Girls, we are deeply concerned about the lack of commitment by parties as climate change continues to impact negatively on the continent thus impacting more on the women and girls” – Priscilla Achakpa, Women Environmental Programme Executive Director, Nigeria

“As a young African climate justice feminist, I came to COP27 excited to see concrete decisions to follow the intermediate review of the Gender Action Plan (GAP). I was keen to see ambitious vital texts that would draw on the recommendations of the Women & Gender Constituency. I longed for an outcome that would mandate equal and meaningful representation, leadership, and participation of women in UNFCCC’s decision-making and clear progress indicators in the next three years of the GAP implementation. A review that would strategize tangible resources and resourcing, including technical and financial, for National Gender Focal Points in a manner that legitimizes their role both at national and international climate policy decision-making levels. Rather, I witnessed restrictive negotiation processes that undermined my contributions. I observed the cunning political power play of ‘who pays for what’, at the expense of the sufferings of women and girls of intersecting diversities. I saw a weak, intangible, eleventh-hour GAP decision that merely sought to tick the box of arriving at an outcome. COP27 side-lined the gender agenda in climate action. It failed women human rights defenders, indigenous women, young women, National Gender Climate Change Focal Points and gender climate justice advocates clamoring for gender equality in climate action. – Zainab Yunusa, Climate Change and Development Activist, Nigeria

“Remarks about women and youth engagement have been regurgitated in well crafted speeches. Promises have been made year in year out but the reality check keeps us guessing whether the implementation of the GAP is a promise that may never be achieved.  A gender responsive climate change negotiation is what we need. The time for action is yesterday” – Imali Ngusale, FEMNET – Communication Officer, Kenya

‘We are celebrating the historic establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund. Yes! It is a landmark. However, we are saddened by the outcomes of the implementation for the GAP. The GAP remains the beacon of hope for women and girls who are at the frontline of the climate crises.  A gender-responsive solution equals a true climate justice” Queen Nwanyinnaya Chikwendu, Climate Change and SRHR Activist, Nigeria

Other Outcomes

Action for Climate Empowerment → “The approval of the Action for Climate Empowerment-ACE-Action Plan has provided a glimpse of hope that Parties understand there won’t be climate justice without Human Rights. The Action Plan will help to develop capabilities to protect and enhance the rights of access to  information, to public participation, and for education. The plan is coming close to an intersectional analysis focusing on the needs of children and youth, women and girls, indigenous Peoples and people with disabilities.  We regret that the collaborative ACE consultations including observers’ expertise was an exception during this COP27. We demand the same standard for all themes from L&D, adaptation, mitigation and article 6 to Gender.” – WGC ACE team (Babitha PS, Floridea Di Ciommo, Pat Bohland)

Agriculture → “The recognition of the fundamental priority of safeguarding food security and ending hunger and the particular vulnerability of food production systems to the adverse impacts of climate change are important steps at this COP. However, we are concerned with the enhancement of carbon sinks for issues of soil carbon, soil health and soil fertility instead of considering agroecology as a natural, ecosystem based approach. While small-scale farmers and women are recognized as key-role players, it has been missed to apply a gender responsive approach.” – Ndivile Mokoena, GenderCC, South Africa

Markets →“While running out of time to keep the 1.5°C temperature goal in reach, this COP has shown once again that off-setting, the creation of loopholes, and paving the way for risky technologies through market mechanisms are more agreeable than ensuring the establishment of social and environmental safeguards, and gender-responsive solutions and action to phase-out fossil fuels.” – Hwei Mian Lim, Independent Advisor


Zukiswa White,

Lindsay Bigda,