Gender and climate change: acting on the gap for people and planet

Updated: May 13


A stylised lineup of women of various nationalities who work in the business sector.

The strong connections between Gender and Climate Change, and between Gender and Climate Action, have long been recognised. In 2019, the COP held in Madrid built on the Lima Gender Action Plan and reinforced why we must view gender and climate change together to forge effective and equitable solutions.


Climate change impacts on women and men can often differ owing to historical and current gender inequalities and multidimensional factors and can be more pronounced in developing countries and for local communities and indigenous peoples.
Presidential Proposal, COP 25, Madrid November 2019

After #COP26, where do we stand, and how can we all focus on supporting the joint strands of gender equity and climate action?

How does gender equity intersect with climate change?


A group of women campaigning for gender equality and women's rights.

In 2010, former President of the Republic of Ireland, Mary Robinson, founded the Mary Robinson Foundation: Climate Justice. As both the first woman to hold the office of President in Ireland and having served as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, she was determined to bring attention to climate and gender justice.

The Foundation established three key areas of work: Human Rights and Climate Justice, Women's Leadership and Gender and Climate Change, and Future Generations. From 2010 to 2019, Mary Robinson and the Foundation team were critical in convening events and thought leadership connecting human rights and gender justice and highlighting the central role of women in terms of both impacts on them and their potential to implement positive change.


Their Legacy report highlighted how climate justice had gone from being taboo to the mainstream and how the links between gender and climate justice were now forming the basis for strategic and targeted action.


What is happening on gender and climate change now?


The UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is driving a continued focus on the need to integrate gender-responsive planning on climate action. Its #ActOnTheGap campaign picks up the themes of enabling women's participation to advance climate justice.


As we review the ongoing impacts of the global COVID-19 pandemic, we can see that while there were some temporary positive gains on climate change, the direction of travel for SDG 5, Gender Equity, has been backwards. Girls and women worldwide have been at the frontlines of COVID at work and home, and we have seen many hard-won gains lost. The impacts of climate change continue to impact women disproportionately, and they still lack leadership roles in decision making on climate action in business and the public sector at national and global levels.


The UN is calling for partnerships bringing together public, private and third sector actors to focus on gender and climate change. Those responding to the call include Annika Degen, who is forging her career in gender and climate, focusing on what role SMEs and other corporate actors can play.



SDG Changemakers Co-Founders were delighted to join one of the first editions of Annika's new podcast, where we discussed the connections between the need for women's leadership in business and climate.



Who is providing resources to support women's leadership in climate action?


Corporate foundations stand out as funders and partners who really understand this need to direct support to address women's leadership and to change the climate conversation.


One example is the Swarovski Foundation, whose priority areas include gender and human empowerment along with environmental action. They partner with innovative organisations such as Barefoot College - the Foundation supports work in Brazil to train largely uneducated women to become solar engineers who then electrify their rural communities.


The Swarovski company and family has also supported the Swarowski Water School Network since 2000. Its curriculum is now used in over 2500 schools across eight countries along major rivers. By supporting clean water, sanitation and hygiene projects, all children, especially girls, benefit and understand how to lead their communities in climate action.


Cartier Philanthropy also focuses on women's social and economic empowerment and the creation of sustainable livelihoods and eco-systems as two of their four priority areas. Projects have included supporting indigenous women in Guatemala's rural Chota valley to develop resilient and eco-friendly micro-businesses.


What next for gender and climate?

A stylised image of a group of people devising solutions and ideas.

Building on the leadership of the Mary Robinson Foundation - Climate Justice and the continued work of organisations like the Swarowski Foundation and Cartier Philanthropy, we can all focus on the UN's call for collaboration in all areas of gender and climate action.


Businesses can look at their supply and value chains and their own employment practices; foundations can support the areas which need ongoing support for systemic change, such as women's leadership.


Together, we can keep the focus on gender and climate action. As the 2020 World Economic Forum succinctly put it:

The links between climate change and gender are well-established.
It is also now clear that gender inequity is making the impacts of climate change worse.
Bringing more women's voices into our responses to climate change will help all of us - as well as the planet itself.

Contact us

In this decade of action, knowing where to start on your journey towards gender equality can be a challenge. But we firmly believe that businesses of all sizes can enact the change.


To learn more about SDG Changemakers and how we support organisations to look at their business operations through the gender and climate lens - get in touch with Felicity Jones or Claire Benson.

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