CARE research finds UK is failing to meet ambitions to progress women and girls’ leadership in tackling climate change

Mable and Lumuno, Zambia

04 December 2023


“Women and girls are the ones that contribute the least to climate change, YET they are the ones leading climate action in their communities, and YET they are the ones that face most barriers to access climate finance.” - Stephanie Eyram Akrumah, Founder and Director of the Centre for Green Growth

As delegates gather in Dubai to discuss the vital role that gender justice plays in climate action, CARE International UK has published new research that finds the UK is failing to meet its own ambitions to progress women and girls leadership in tackling climate change. Despite the Governments repeated recognition of their crucial role in delivering gender-just climate action, the Government is yet to put its money where its mouth is, and just a tiny fraction of UK climate finance reaches women’s rights organisations – last year less than 0.2%. We are calling for the UK Government to turn those promises into progress and accelerate support for the women and girls being forced to adapt to climate change. More finance must reach them, and their leadership should be realised at all levels of decision making.

Download the research

The world’s poorest women and girls have contributed least to the climate emergency but are bearing the brunt of its impacts. As droughts, extreme weather and temperature shifts disrupt livelihoods, women and girls face increased vulnerability to displacement, gender-based violence and loss of livelihoods.

Phong is a mother of 3 and a farmer in the north of Vietnam and a member of what CARE is calling ‘Gen Adapt’ – a generation of women and girls who are the first to have to adapt to a new, tougher climate reality in order to survive and thrive. Vietnam is one of the five countries most affected by climate change globally. She told us:

The erratic weather reduces the yield of rice, affecting women’s lives. They have nothing to sell … no money to buy things for their children, support their schooling, or buy food for them.”

Phong - Farmer

Women and girls on the frontlines of the climate crisis also have the power, expertise, resilience and potential to adapt. Engaging women in a full and meaningful way, and supporting their leadership, increases the quality of decision making around climate change and helps to ensure that the needs of women and girls are met.

However, women and girls are still left out of decision making, at the local level their needs are not considered in climate adaptation programmes, and in climate negotiations men dominate the conversation. Women’s rights and women-led organisations are crucial agents of change in gender-just climate action but face high barriers in accessing support.

Josselyn, a smallholder farmer from San Isidro in Ecuador, is the president of the Association of Organic Producers and Entrepreneurs of Cotopaxi. She is also part of a group called Andean rural women against climate change. She says:

Everyone should know that women are not just victims. We are strong and intelligent and able to contribute to the solutions to climate change. But we need the world’s leaders to take action on climate change because it affects us all. Tomorrow may be too late.”

Josselyn, Ecuador

The UK Government has made commitments towards supporting gender equality in climate action, including in the International Women and Girls Strategy, and the recent International Development White Paper which references the importance of women leading climate responses in their communities.

However, our new research ‘Turning promises into progress – how the UK can realise the potential of gender-just climate action’ finds that more rapid action is needed.

Key findings from our research highlight that:

  • Less than 1% of UK bilateral climate finance targeted gender equality specifically last year, despite evidence that addressing climate and gender justice together is effective and necessary.
  • Less than 0.2% reached the hands of women’s rights organisations last year, even though they are recognised as crucial agents of change in gender-just climate action.
  • The UK would also have to redouble its efforts to ensure it meets the target of mainstreaming gender equality in 88% of bilateral international climate finance, as demanded by women's rights organisations,5 as only 47% of spend between 2015-2022 did so.
  • Gender equality is not being consistently applied to UK Government policies guiding efforts towards a green transition, with women at risk of losing out on the new economic opportunities created in the shift to a low-carbon economy.

There are steps the UK Government can take to meet its promises to women and girls being forced to adapt to climate change. We are calling for them to:

  • Meet the target: 88% of UK bilateral climate finance should be marked as mainstreaming gender equality aims by 2026.
  • Fund the changemakers: Climate finance must be equitable. That means women’s rights organisations must have greater access to climate finance – this would mean actively designing programmes that would support their leadership, and removing administrative barriers that get in the way.
  • Build support: We want to see greater support for women’s equal voices and leadership at climate negotiations and for gender equality to be a priority for all UK climate negotiators. [SD1] [FR2]
  • Future-proof it: All UK strategies for accelerating the green transition should include gender equality aims and specific measures to ensure that marginalised women and girls can benefit from new economic opportunities.
Download the research

Meet GenAdapt

Women and girls demand action from world leaders at COP28

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