Climate Change Isn’t Gender-Blind—This COP27, Our Data Shouldn’t Be Either

Natalie Cleveland November 14, 2022

It’s Gender Day at COP27. But where’s the gender data needed to assess global progress?

Climate change is affecting populations worldwide—but its consequences are far from equal. Entrenched social and economic inequalities mean that women, girls, and gender-diverse people are often most susceptible to negative impacts. Indeed, the gendered effects of climate change are well-documented. The UN estimates that 80% of individuals displaced by climate change are women, and by 2025, climate change is expected to prevent at least 12.5 million girls worldwide from finishing school each year. More frequent droughts have been connected to higher rates of child marriage and adolescent births, and the gender digital divide means that women are less likely to have access to the internet—a primary source of disaster early warning information. For the world’s most vulnerable, the intersection of gender inequality and climate change can be devastating. At the same time, these communities are often at the forefront of driving local climate change solutions, and ensuring their equal representation and participation in the formation of climate policies is critical.

In acknowledgement of the disparate gendered impacts of climate change, November 14 marks Gender Day at COP27, an annual event highlighting the need for gender-responsive climate action. Yet despite growing global recognition of gender as both a risk factor and lens for equitable decision-making, gender-environment data—necessary to highlight gendered inequities and monitor progress toward policy solutions—remains particularly scarce. For example, few environment indicators across the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are gender-relevant, demonstrating the lack of a strong normative framework for measuring the gender-environment nexus. Where data is available to track existing indicators, they suffer from poor country coverage, meaning that few countries collect or publish requested information. Further, at the international level, no globally agreed data framework to monitor gender and climate change currently exists.

In other words, countries recognize that climate change is not gender-neutral. Yet the data they rely on to inform gender-responsive policy solutions still is. 

Countries recognize that climate change is not gender-neutral. Yet the data they rely on to inform gender-responsive policy solutions still is. 

Natalie Cleveland, Policy and Advocacy Manager at Data2X

A missed opportunity to bolster climate adaptation and resilience

During COP27, gender and climate change comprises a full agenda item for consideration, including an analysis of gender integration in Parties’ reporting under UNFCCC (FCCC/CP/2022/6). While gender was referenced in 90% of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) in the last year, just 22% of those submitted in 2021 included any data disaggregated by sex. Of those, UNFCCC reports that most references to gender “occurred in demographic data, with the aspiration to undertake gender analysis to make climate policies more effective.” However, aspiration without action to collect, analyze, and use gender data more broadly means that Parties will remain unable to craft evidence-based climate policy, let alone monitor progress. 

Beyond gender policy, gender data is relevant—but often invisible—across COP27 agenda items. For example, agenda item 6 on adaptation reports that the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee calls for climate action to be gender-responsive, but fails to mention the need for gender data to capture existing inequalities and point toward solutions. Further, agenda item 8 on financing calls for significant investment in climate funding, claiming that “a substantial increase in finance is needed to facilitate the implementation of actions set out in NDCs and long-term strategies.” This should include dedicated reference to financing for gender-environment data, which remains chronically underfunded and was already identified as a Member State priority in the agreed conclusions of the 66th Commission on the Status of Women earlier this year. 

Indeed, the need for data to achieve Parties’ shared objectives is not new. Parties have recognized the role of gender data across several already-agreed global climate policy frameworks. Most notably, the Enhanced Lima Work Programme on Gender and its Gender Action Plan (the GAP) recognizes the need for increased capacity-building for gender data, and use of sex-disaggregated data to inform Parties’ climate policies. The GAP also calls for gender-responsive policies to boost response and recovery—and it is well-established that gender data is a key solution to support community resilience. Additionally, the need for decision-making based on gender data is highlighted in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, and both the Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Convention to Combat Desertification’s Gender Action Plan recognize the need to collect baseline gender indicators to achieve national climate targets. To further bolster climate adaptation and resilience, gender data must be prioritized across UNFCCC mechanisms and processes, including during COP27. 

Leaders must advocate for gender data at COP27—and beyond

Although gender data is a key gap in the existing COP27 agenda, Parties still have an opportunity to advocate for the data needed to advance climate justice and gender equality. During negotiations in Egypt, leaders must highlight the importance of gender data for achieving their shared goals. This includes:

  1. Assessing progress toward existing data objectives during midpoint review of the GAP, reinforcing the importance of statistics in achieving the Enhanced Lima Work Programme by 2024.
  2. Using gender data to assess the inclusivity of Parties’ climate policies, plans, and strategies during the Global Stocktake. 
  3. Highlighting gender data as a key lever of gender-responsive climate action—and incorporating data reporting requirements—during negotiations on a New Collective Quantified Goal on Climate Finance and as part of the Glasgow-Sharm el-Sheikh Work Programme.

Of course, achieving these objectives beyond COP will require a long-term vision, from investing in gender data systems to ensuring that women and gender-diverse people are equitably engaged in data collection and decision-making. But the sooner that Parties recognize gender data as a strategic imperative, the sooner they can address social inequality and support sustainable development more broadly—and ultimately demonstrate accountability to the communities they serve.

To learn more, read Data2X, IISD, and WEDO’s joint policy brief on gender data and climate justice.

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