Real commitment to rights-based, gender-just solutions to climate change is imperative for the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement.
The members of the Women and Gender Constituency (WGC) participated in the SB48 climate talks that took place from 30 April to 10 May 2018 in Bonn, Germany. The sessions will be resumed from 3-8 September, 2018 in Bangkok in order to finalise the Guidelines of Implementation of the Paris Agreement at COP24 in December in Katowice, Poland. Below, we have shared some key highlights from our work in Bonn.
Gender equality and human rights in the Paris Rulebook
The WGC came to Bonn with a strong call for the rights based principles that Parties already agreed upon in the Preamble of the Paris Agreement – gender equality, rights of indigenous peoples, ecosystem integrity and protection of biodiversity, respecting human rights and intergenerational equity, ensuring food security and just transition as well as public participation – that have come to be known as “The Great Eight”, to be incorporated into singled items under the APA in order for them to be operationalized.
The WGC welcomed that the new informal note, the so-called navigation tool on the guidance for the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), invites Parties to provide information on gender and rights based principles in NDC planning process. Looking towards COP24, Parties must ensure that this integration remains and that gender dimensions are strengthened across other items of the Rulebook, not only in adaptation communication (Article 7.5), but also under the respective issues negotiated by the SBI and SBSTA such as Article 6 on cooperative approaches, non-market and the sustainable development mechanisms.
“On the Paris Rulebook, we remind Parties that there can be no effective climate action unless it is people-centered, ensuring human rights, gender equality and other rights-based principles in all aspects of implementation.” Kalyani Raj- All India Women’s Conference (AIWC)
Progress under the Gender Action Plan (GAP)
In this first UNFCCC session since the adoption of the Gender Action Plan at COP23, there were positive signs and actions on this issue at SB48.
On May 2, the first full day of a two-part gender workshop, a range of Parties and stakeholders shared initial experiences with translating the GAP into national contexts and integrating it into national planning. The three thematic areas covered in the workshop were: how sex-disaggregated data can support identifying gender differentiated impacts and inform climate policy and action, gender analysis and budgeting as the foundation of gender-responsive climate policy and action, and governance and coordination mechanisms to facilitate gender-responsive climate policy and action.
On May 4, the COP23 Presidency hosted a breakfast with Heads of Delegations and National Gender and Climate Change Focal Points (FP) to discuss the needs for capacity-building and support for the gender focal points and to share experiences. To date, only 22 countries have nominated FPs, and the WGC calls on Parties to nominate their FPs and to equip them with the needed resources and competencies to effectively operate.
On May 5, a Gender Dialogue was held with the Chairs of all Constituted Bodies under the UNFCCC to discuss coherence in implementation and reporting on gender mandates and to discuss a technical paper recently produced by the UNFCCC Secretariat. It was one of the few times all the Chairs of these Bodies had the opportunity to meet, resulting in several constructive recommendations, particularly related to enhanced guidelines for mainstreaming gender in national communications.
On May 9, the second, half-day of the Gender Workshop focused on equal participation and looked at strategies and policies to enhance women’s participation in national delegations. It was emphasised during the discussion that gender balance is not just a technical requirement but that gender parity is a prerequisite for gender justice. Nevertheless, gender equality and climate justice require not only the equal participation of women and men, but the systematic assessment and integration of gender in all aspects of climate policies and action and their implementation as well as the consultation of gender experts and women and gender non-governmental organisations.
“We are pleased that there seemed to be real momentum and political will from Parties during the Bonn session to see real actions coming from the GAP, both in terms of how it relates to their own national strategies and priorities, as well as how they will be able to measure concrete results at the end of 2019. It is key to remember that as there can be no effective climate action without people-centeredness, so too must these dialogues contribute to real and meaningful climate action on the ground.” Nanna Birk, LIFE E.v.
Need for a robust scheme to operationalize the LCIPP at COP2
On May 9, the SBSTA agreed to continue considerations of the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform (LCIPP) at SBSTA49 in Katowice, since no agreement on the establishment of the Facilitative Working Group (FWG) of the LCIPP could be reached. The WGC supports the Indigenous Peoples organizations (IPO) UNFCCC Constituency and looks forward to the adoption of the platform at the end of the year in Katowice and its operationalization.
“Local communities and indigenous peoples are often at the frontline of climate change and their knowledge is critical to enhance resilience and adaptation. Their rights have to be ensured in all action taken under the Convention and the Paris Agreement.” – Edna Kaptoyo, Indigenous Information Network, Kenya
‘Talanoa for Ambition’ held but ambition remains elusive
The Talanoa Dialogue originated from a plan in the works since the Paris Agreement was adopted to have a substantive discussion about global progress toward the 1.5 degree Celsius warming limit to inform Parties’ Nationally Determined Contributions, and was shaped by the COP23 Presidency of Fiji through the concept of Talanoa – a tradition focused on participatory, transparent dialogue facilitated through the art of storytelling. Designed as a discussion to catalyze ambition and appropriate action to course correct the NDCs from their trajectory of 3+ degrees of warming to 1.5 degrees, the three questions of Where are we? Where do we want to go? and How do we get there? were ultimately unable to be answered to their fullest as submissions and speakers were prohibited from detailing the actions or history of specific Parties in a mistaken effort to prioritize comfortable inclusivity at the expense of transparency. Without this reckoning with what brought us here and what must change if the failed policies of the past are not to be repeated, the Talanoa stories were incomplete.
Nevertheless, the WGC proudly shared the feminist strategies being implemented around the world to create a just and healthy planet. The WGC ‘Where are we?’ speaker, co-Focal Point Bridget Burns, shared the urgent reality of this crisis by highlighting the gap between commitments and the action necessary for limiting warming to 1.5° Celsius.
“We must never forget what we are doing here. 2018 must be a year of enhanced ambition if we are to have any chance of fulfilling the goals of the Paris Agreement. It is great that the Fiji Presidency has oriented us in the spirit of Talanoa, to speak together, to listen and to find urgent solutions. But it only works if this dialogue is truly fearless, fierce and frank. It only works if it leads to a political process centered on raising ambition, in delivering on finance commitments in a real and abundant way, and in enhancing national climate contributions. We simply have no time to waste and as women’s groups working on solutions to the climate crisis across the globe, we will hold countries’ feet to the fire in meeting the promises of Paris.”- Bridget Burns, WEDO
The WGC also called on countries to urgently lay out the political process for ensuring the Talanoa Dialogue, including clear activities at the next session in Bangkok, will lead to real enhancement of ambition, via support and stepped up NDCs, in the context of equity and justice.
Paying for loss and damage: focusing only on insurance schemes is not a solution
Climate-induced losses and damages are one of the largest threats to social justice. With the recognition that the world has to respond to this in Article 8 of the Paris Agreement, the WGC had hoped that governments would step up to real action in order to protect the most vulnerable. While the Suva Expert Dialogue that took place during the first week of SB48 could have been a meaningful mechanism to kick-off action, true commitments did not materialize. Insurance is neither an adequate nor an appropriate solution, as many affected communities cannot afford to insure themselves from climate change impacts that they did not, and are not, causing. This dialogue should reflect the urgent need to make polluters pay and come up with more creative ways to pay off the ecological debt.
Now it is time to understand what loss and damage actually means – disasters, slow onset events, non-economic losses, a threat to food security, forced migration and displacement. Gender sensitive data and gender parity in expert bodies and meetings must be at the core of the work on loss and damage to respond to the needs of women and to live up to the fact that women suffer most from the impacts of climate change.
Controversial Polish Bill creates an atmosphere of intimidation amongst civil society
With a critical advocacy agenda for integrating human rights and gender equality into the implementation guidelines of the Paris Agreement, members of the WGC spent time during the Bonn intersessional challenging the incoming COP24 Polish Presidency on its commitment to upholding human rights. Earlier this year, the Polish Government passed a law, commonly referred to as the ‘COP24 Bill,’ imposing limitations on assembly as well as allowing for data collection on participants to the upcoming meeting in Katowice, Poland. Hundreds of civil society groups, including feminist allies and networks that launched a ‘sign-on’ in March 2018, and UN Human Rights experts have spoken out against this bill. And in Bonn, the WGC shared its concerns directly to the Presidency as well as the UNFCCC Secretariat.
WGC member from GenderCC, Women for Climate Justice, Patricia Bohland stated, “Effectively prohibiting the freedom of assembly, among other rights, cultivates an atmosphere of intimidation and fear and reinforces the highly worrisome tendencies of shrinking spaces for civil society worldwide. The measures put in place under this bill, such as the collecting and storing of personal data about the participants at COP24 pose an immediate and disproportionate risk to those at the forefront of advocating for environmental protection and human rights.”
Further highlighting a tone and environment of intimidation, during an approved peaceful action led by the WGC and youth organizations to draw attention to this bill and the concerns of civil society, participants were not allowed to name the country of Poland, were criticized for holding a sign naming the ‘COP24 bill’ and were even reprimanded for hosting such a ‘controversial’ action. Right after the action, meters away, a dialogue for Action for Climate Empowerment (ACE)–focused on the ‘right to participation’–took place as part of the formal process.
This calls to attention an alarming trend of stifling participants from speaking truth to power in spaces of the UNFCCC, both in actions as well as in formal submissions made to the process – often rejected if they specifically name any one country. These actions effectively impose a ‘gag rule’ on pointing fingers at those who are most responsible for climate and social injustice. And this is not limited to actions from civil society but also to dialogues among Parties where, as we saw in the Talanoa Dialogue, Parties were asked to refrain from ‘naming and shaming’. Is this not the point of international policy, particularly in the context of a ‘bottom-up’ and nationally determined climate agreement with only a facilitatory compliance mechanism? If the people of the world cannot hold countries accountable, what and who will?
Certainly, the WGC will not be silent about where we are.