WOCAN Organized the COP21 Side Event to Discuss Gender and Climate Finance

December 8, 2015

Gender equality and women’s empowerment are pathways to achieving greater progress in better development outcomes, including reducing greenhouse gases and building resilience for climate change impacts. Climate finance is a critical element of the climate agreement, but which climate finance mechanisms exist that are ‘truly’ gender-responsive and inclusive for women in its design, governance and implementation? Can the progressive gender policy of the Green Climate Fund be realized and inspire other investors to use innovative policies, approaches and tools to achieve similar goals? How can investors be confident that their funds are contributing to changes in the conditions and positions of women and gender equality?

Women Organizing for Change in Agriculture and Natural Resource Management (WOCAN) organized the COP21 side-event on 7 Dec in Paris –hosted by IUCN - to highlight innovative approaches to gender-responsive climate-finance. Speakers presented approaches and tools they are using to shape a more inclusive climate change-financing environment that benefits women and gender equality.

Jacob Waslander, Green Climate Fund (GCF) Board member and Head of Climate and Energy Division at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, NetherlandsMr. Waslander highlighted the importance of taking into account gender issues for more effective climate change solutions to support women as change agents, reduce the gender gap and build resilience of communities. He indicated that though the GCF requires entities to demonstrate gender policies, procedures and competencies, most entities applying for GCF accreditation still do not address gender as a priority within their climate adaptation and mitigation initiatives; gender doesn’t come up automatically. In order to incentivize change in practices, the GCF gives a ‘conditional accreditation’ to organizations that will benefit from the Fund and ask them to make progress on tackling gender issues. Mr. Waslander supports the idea that the GCF Readiness Fund should include gender capacity building funds and as part of the Risk Mitigation Committee, he argues for non-financial risks to be considered (like neglecting gender).

Bernard Giraud, Senior Sustainability Adviser at Danone and President and Co-founder of Livelihoods Venture. Mr. Giraud shared his experience of learning about the important role of gender and women’s empowerment in climate change related projects such as mangroves restoration and cook stoves. He explained how the Livelihoods Fund finances projects, by providing the resources upfront and building partnerships with local NGOs, which are selected based on the quality of their work. He stated that the Fund is ready to take the risks to bring financial resources to NGOs, through investing in mitigation and livelihoods’ projects based on estimated outcomes, taking carbon credits in return for their investing companies. Mr. Giraud encouraged a shift in mindset and practices from grants to investments in order to make project developers and implementers more responsible, suggesting, for example, that the GCF buy carbon units in order to assure results (instead of giving grants). He concluded by mentioning that he likes the approach of WOCAN, with its W+ Standard, where investors could ‘pay for results’ on women’s empowerment.

Maria Lee, Program Coordinator, WOCAN. Ms Lee mentioned that less than 10% of OECD funds for climate finance is gender responsive, and stated her belief that we need to make clear choices if we want things to change in regards to gender in climate change. The growing recognition of the crucial role of women in climate adaptation and to a lesser extend mitigation, has not yet translated into the necessary scale of action and investment flow. She presented the W+ Standard as a response to this unacceptable gap and described the first W+ project in Nepal. The W+ Standard is a results-based framework that measures outcomes in women’s empowerment. It includes 6 domains (time, income and assets, leadership, knowledge and education, health, food security) and can be applied to projects such as renewable energy and agro-forestry among others. The Standard also creates a new revenue stream for women’s groups through its generation of W+ units, which can be sold to investors, individuals and organizations. She concluded by highlighting the opportunities to invest in projects that contribute to lowering carbon emissions while benefiting women. She mentioned that the Livelihoods Fund will soon be applying the W+ to a new project in Kenya.

Liane Schalatek, Heinrich Boll Stiftung North America. Ms. Schalatek reviewed the gender policies of the GCF, stating that the GCF has broken new ground as the first fund that has placed a strong focus on gender right from its beginning. She stressed the fact that we cannot only go for results based financing, because most small NGOs don’t have upfront financing. Multiple approaches are needed. While acknowledging the efforts of the GFC in including a gender perspective, she reminded us on the importance to go beyond the gender policy and ensure the implementation of appropriate action plans. Her suggestions were for the GCF to go further, to include a Information Disclosure Policy that can facilitate transparency, monitoring and accountability. On this final point, Ms Schalatek emphasized the need for 3rd party verification, and participative monitoring by communities, especially women’s groups. She concluded with a statement of the importance to enhance the participation of women’s groups through a small grant mechanism designated for this purpose.

Lorena Aquilar, Global Senior Gender Adviser and Head of the Global Gender Office, IUCN. Ms Aquilar focused on the fact that policies are important but the real challenge lies in the implementation. She recommended that the GFC build strategic partnerships to ensure the gender agenda translates into concrete actions and investments that will benefit women.

In conclusion, Jeannette Gurung, Executive Director of WOCAN stated that accountability for gender within climate finance is key, to avoid ‘pink washing’ in organizations that pay only lip service to gender integration.She mentioned that not all organizations – particularly women’s organizations - are ‘investment ready’, and that intermediaries and models that facilitate a mix of grants and investments are required.