Many celebrated the outcomes from COP28.

 

For PICAN, it was clear that there was a critical failure in delivery across our Climate Justice Demands.

 

 

As a regional network working in the Pacific, when we talk about climate justice, we make it clear that climate justice encompasses human rights, gender equality, intergenerational equity and the cessation of all forms of exploitation and violence against people and the planet. Under this lens, the outcomes of COP28 must have significantly delivered on addressing the needs of communities worldwide, particularly those who are the most impacted by the climate crisis.

 

Despite the decision text from COP28 taking the progressive step in deciding to transition away from fossil fuels, this was surrounded by false solutions and distractions that threaten the viability of the 1.5°C goal and, by extension, the survival of countless people across the globe with women and children being amongst the most vulnerable.  Moreover, the lack of clear commitments to gender-responsive approaches and human rights in the final decisions further dilutes the potential for genuine climate justice.

 

 

Finance, or the lack thereof, emerges as a critical area of failure at COP28, with developed countries falling short of their obligations to support climate ambition in developing nations with the absence of significant strides towards financing human-rights-based, gender-transformative, and locally-led climate action. The newly established Loss and Damage Fund has many concerns beginning with its vagueness in addressing the scale of needs. Again it is women who bear the brunt of impacts. If the Fund cannot deliver community-based, gender-responsive grant-based funding to the scale of needs, then it is but a futile exercise.

At COP29 the significant issue will be finance with the new goal (New Collective Quantified Goal) that will replace the highly inadequate 100 billion in climate finance promised from developed to developing countries must be negotiated in a participatory manner that includes women, gender-diverse groups, Indigenous Peoples, and other marginalised communities. The discussions on Just Transition and Adaptation reveals a glaring lack of concrete outcomes and support for the most vulnerable, highlighting the need for a drastic scale-up in adaptation finance and international cooperation.

 

There is also a significant moment for the Gender Action Plan (GAP) which will undergo its 5 year review of the workplan.

 

In the world of international climate negotiations, the adoption of the first GAP at COP23, under Fiji’s presidency, marked a historic moment. It represented a collective acknowledgment of the critical role gender equality plays in the fight against climate change. However, as we look back from the perspective of recent COP28 data, it’s clear that while the GAP was a significant step forward, the journey towards gender equality in climate negotiations has been largely inadequate and marked only by slow and incremental progress.

 

Gender Representation in the Climate Conferences

The Gender Action Plan, born out of the need to integrate gender responsiveness into climate policy and actions, aimed to address the underrepresentation of women in climate discussions and decision-making processes. It was a response to the understanding that climate change affects women and men differently, and that policies are more effective when they address these differences. The GAP set out to improve gender balance, enhance participation, and ensure the development of gender-responsive climate policies at all levels.

 

Fast forward to COP28, and the landscape, in terms of gender representation, appears dishearteningly similar to a decade ago. According to new analysis from the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), women constituted only 34% of Party delegates, a figure that mirrors the percentage from ten years prior. This stagnation in progress is alarming, particularly in light of the increasing size of delegations at annual climate negotiations. With over 20,000 delegates at COP28, the largest number on record, the fact that gender parity has barely shifted speaks volumes about the global community’s commitment to inclusivity.

 

WEDO’s analysis reveals not just a failure to increase women’s participation but also highlights a broader issue of exclusion. The narrative from COP28 included voices from small island nations and civil society representatives who expressed their marginalisation from critical decision-making spaces. This echoes the larger issue of inclusivity in climate negotiations, where the voices of those most affected by climate change—often women, indigenous peoples, and frontline communities—are sidelined.

 

Moreover, the representation of gender-diverse individuals remains nearly invisible within the UNFCCC’s framework, indicating a gap in the inclusivity and recognition of non-binary and gender-diverse participants in climate discussions.

 

The disparities in participation rates across different regions also underscore the intersectionality of gender with geographical and socio-economic factors. With Africa and Asia showing lower rates of women’s participation compared to Europe, Latin America, and Oceania, it’s evident that achieving gender balance in climate negotiations is not merely a matter of policy but also of addressing underlying inequities.

 

The analysis of speaking times during negotiations adds another layer to the gender disparity, showing that women are less likely to speak than men. This is not just a matter of numbers but of influence and leadership. It points to a deeper issue where women, even when present, may not have equal opportunities to shape discussions and outcomes.

 

As we reflect on the progress since COP23, it’s clear that the Gender Action Plan was an essential first step, but far from a solution. The slow pace of change and the persistence of gender disparities in climate negotiations underscore the need for more robust, sustained action. The fight for gender equality in this arena is not just about representation but about recognizing the unique contributions and perspectives that women and gender-diverse individuals bring to the table.

 

The lipservice paid to gender inclusivity was in full show in the selection of an all male commitee by the Azerbijan Presidency for COP29. After significant backlash women were added but it is precisely this kind of behaviour that tokenises women’s participation. Women must not be an afterthought.

 

The evidence is undeniable: diverse voices lead to more effective and sustainable outcomes. As Mary Robinson, Chair of The Elders, aptly noted, “We simply cannot advance if half of the world’s population is not represented.” The journey towards gender equality in climate negotiations is far from over, and it requires urgent, concerted efforts from all stakeholders to ensure that no voice is left behind.

 

It is clear that achieving gender justice in climate action is not just about increasing women’s participation or ensuring gender balance in negotiations. It’s about fundamentally rethinking our approach to climate justice to ensure it is inclusive, equitable, and responsive to the needs and rights of all, especially those most affected by climate change.

 

About the Pacific Islands Climate Action Network (PICAN):

PICAN is a regional alliance of non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations, social movements and not-for-profit organisations from the Pacific Islands region working on various aspects of climate change, disaster risk and response and sustainable development.

 

PICAN is a partner and working group member of the Pacific Feminist Defending the Living Planet Campaign and this is their blog contribution towards the campaign.

 

For more information on PICAN, visit https://www.pican.org