Mainstreaming gender and data in the climate change conversation

August 16, 2019

Climate change — and the environment more broadly — isn’t one of Data2X’s core focus areas, but we recognize that it is a critical driver for development progress, and it is also an area that is rife with gender data gaps.

Indeed, we undertook a deep-dive exploration into gender data gaps earlier this year, adding “environment” to the domains we examined in the report. We included the environment in our focus because, as an organization that focuses on the intersection of data and gender to promote the wellbeing of women and girls, we understand that climate change is linked to our areas of work, such as economic empowerment.

This connection between gender and climate change, and the gender data needs that underpin this work, is underscored by the new report released last week by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)—the UN body tasked with evaluating the latest climate change science.

The findings of the report are cataclysmic at worst and action-oriented at best: climate change and land-use change are putting enormous pressure on land, reducing its biological productivity and its benefits to all. Together, both have the potential to affect entire ecosystems, crop production, and food security. And human activity — through agriculture, deforestation, desertification, and carbon emissions — is largely responsible for these challenges.

Congo River, DRC at sunset. UN Photo/Marie Frechon

Yet the report also emphasizes tangible opportunities for human action. For Data2X, one of the most important action points is the IPCC’s call for mainstreaming gender into land and climate change policy — a key reminder of the role policymakers can play in advocating for women and girls.

This consideration is significant for two reasons. First, it recognizes that climate change can affect people differently; for example, women can face barriers to participation and decision-making in response to climate change issues that men don’t. Second, the call acknowledges the role of sex-disaggregated data in fostering gender-inclusive approaches to climate change, a necessary foundation for mainstreaming gender in policy.

We commend the IPCC for acknowledging this developing intersection of gender, data, and climate change, and we implore policymakers and other stakeholders to ensure that gender data is a central tenant of their gender-sensitive climate policy responses.

Mainstreaming gender in policy cannot happen without good gender data. And without gender-sensitive policies, solutions to the climate crisis will not adequately reflect the experiences, needs, and desires of women and girls.

This call by the IPCC shows progress; historically, gender has often been neglected in the climate change conversation, even though we know that events associated with climate change, such as severe weather-related environmental damage that affect agriculture and water sources, can disproportionately impact women and children.

Much like in other crises — such as in refugee scenarios or in armed conflict — women’s access to resources and their roles in society can make preparation for and recovery from climate-related disasters harder.

And for many of the subject areas mentioned in the report — such as smallholder farming, food security, and unpaid work, like collecting water — we know that large gender data gaps exist. Such data gaps make it difficult for policymakers to understand and make appropriate, timely decisions on climate-sensitive issues that affect women and men differently.

While the linkages between data, gender, and climate change have not been fully formed, the report makes one thing clear: to combat the gendered effects of climate change, policymakers must mainstream gender into climate and land policy.

And if Data2X makes one thing clear, it’s that in order to mainstream gender in policy, policymakers must call for and use quality gender data.

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