Climate Protection: What's Gender Got to Do with It?

By Alber, Gotelind; Roehr, Ulrike | Women & Environments International Magazine, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Climate Protection: What's Gender Got to Do with It?


Alber, Gotelind, Roehr, Ulrike, Women & Environments International Magazine


How is climate policy linked to gender justice? How can local governments promote equal participation of women and men in municipal climate protection? A recent project of the Climate Alliance of European Cities, a collaborative effort with 10 major cities form Germany, Italy, Sweden and Finland, funded by the European Commission and the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth addressed these questions.

Recent European studies on the perceptions of climate change suggest that women consider climate change impacts to be more severe, and they are more sceptical regarding the effectiveness of current climate policies in solving the problem. Therefore, women usually argue for more effective climate policy, and are more willing to change to a more climate-friendly lifestyle. In contrast, men tend to put their trust in scientific and technical solutions. This suggests that the gender dimension plays a role in climate change policy, and that women would set different priorities for climate protection. Moreover, there are strong indications that policies and measures to mitigate, and to adapt to the impacts of climate change, are not gender neutral.

For example, given that in the European Union, on average, women earn 25 per cent less than men, and 27 per cent of single mothers are living below poverty level, are these different preconditions taken into account in the design of policies and measures? Are circumstances of caregivers of children and the elderly, who are also employed, adequately reflected in the design of climate protection measures?

Climate protection policy areas (energy policy, transportation planning, urban planning) tend to be male-dominated. What is the effect on measures and policies if they are planned from the viewpoint of one gender?

The project "Climate for Change - Gender Equality and Climate Policy", supported by the European Commission and the German Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth, was the first attempt to link local climate policy and gender equality. The project focussed on assisting local authorities to promote equal participation of women and men in climate change decision-making, to achieve a balanced local climate policy.

Gender and climate policy in 10 cities: organisation of the project

Ten major cities in four European countries were partners in the project "Climate for Change": Berlin, Dresden, Frankfurt am Main, Munich (Germany); Ferrara, Genoa, Naples, Venice (Italy); Lahti (Finland); and Malmoe (Sweden). The project was supported by an expert on gender and climate change, Ulrike Roehr from LIFE e.V. / genanet. Regional coordinators were the Union of Baltic Cities for Scandinavia and the Alleanza per il Clima Italia for Italy. The lead partner, the Climate Alliance of European Cities (see box) whose Secretariat is located in Frankfurt (Germany), was responsible for the overall coordination.

Data surveys of the gender balance in climate policy at local and national levels were prepared, and obstacles to women's participation were investigated. We looked at the priorities of local climate protection activities, and whether the prevalence of technological approaches were barriers to the participation of women. Would more emphasis on communication and collaboration affect the level of women's participation?

Specific project tasks were:

* To analyse the conditions for the participation of women in formal and informal decisions in the area of climate protection;

* To develop methods and instruments to improve the participation of women, examining experiences in various European countries;

* To sensitise local decision-makers in climate policy to a balanced participation of women;

* To instigate discussions on the issue, providing supporting materials and information resources;

* To enhance city networks' capacity to improve equality of opportunity, and to contribute to a "climate for change"

Findings and outcomes of the project

Data collection, interviews and discussions in the pilot cities during the course of the project inherently helped to raise awareness of gender and climate change policy. …

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