GEST and Gender Issues at the COP22 Climate Conference in Morocco


28.11.2016 - 28.11.2016


Marrakesh, Morocco (view on map)


Gender and climate change activists' panel on the Indigenous Women's Day on the second week of the COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco

Gender and climate change activists' panel on the Indigenous Women's Day on the second week of the COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco. Image by GEST.

Following the 21st Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework for Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) in Paris last year that resulted in an historical climate deal also known as the Paris Agreement , the COP22 in Marrakech was the “Conference of Action” to take the Paris Agreement forward. Thanks to strong gender advocacy by civil society at COP21, the Agreement provides opportunities for progress on gender and climate change, and COP22 was about making sure that these opportunities are implemented and that gender is integrated in all aspects of climate change policy globally as well as locally.

The Women and Gender Constituency – group of observing civil society organizations advocating for gender rights and climate justice in the UNFCCC negotiations – did a lot of preparation for COP22, releasing their demands, studies and papers on gendered effects of climate change, its mitigation and adaptation. The topic was taken up by international organizations participating in the COP22 and influential think tanks, such as OECD, Green Climate Fund and Global Environmental Facility, which indicates that gender is no longer seen as an add-on to sustainable development, but as an important component, and if done right, both issue can and should be taken into account simultaneously.

From the outset, COP22 was a very important conference not only for making the Paris Agreement work, but also making it work in a just way, from a human rights-based approach to climate change action and with a specific focus to gender equality and women’s empowerment. So, was it a success? Yes and no. From the gender equality point of view, there was a lot of attention given to women’s issues especially in the developing countries, yet, as it often happens in a global climate conference, the negotiations process was painfully slow and complicated, and results “watered down”.

Here are some points that our representative at COP22 in Marrakesh took away:

  • There is a general dissatisfaction of observers and civil society about the inaction - things are not moving as fast as expected in setting policy implementation mechanisms. The Paris Agreement was ratified by countries faster than expected, but the negotiations on action plans are very slow and demoralizing for the civil society.
  • The U.S. election undoubtedly cast a shadow on the COP22, which translated into uncertainty among most actors, and therefore inactivity. There is a general fear that the new president will pull out of the Paris Agreement or drastically cut climate change funding, which are both likely and both disastrous for UNFCCC work. This fact and these fears could certainly be felt in Marrakesh.
  • While gender was almost invisible in climate negotiations up until around 2008, the gender equality issues have been picked up on at COP21 in Paris last year, and got a real momentum now. The Moroccan Minister for Hakima El Haite Minister Delegate in Charge of Environment of the Minister of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment, is a strong advocate of women's rights, and the issue of gender justice and climate action has come to the forefront of negotiations, becoming one of the main themes of this year's COP. Compared to Paris, gender issues have gotten increasingly more attention being included in most discussions, even if as an add-on. There are also discussions among gender equality activists and officials about bringing up the issues of gender and climate change at the UN General Assembly and creating a resolution similar to the UN Security Council´s Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security. It will be interesting to see how that works out – there certainly seemed to be a momentum for that at COP22.
  • The Lima Work Programme on Gender adopted at COP20 in Lima, Peru, a key platform for institutionalizing gender equality into the work of UNFCCC, was enhanced and kept for at least another three years, to a great relief to the Women and Gender Constituency.
  • The Conference of Parties also requested the Subsidiary Body for Implementation to develop and clear practical gender action plan with areas of priority, key activities and indicators, timelines for implementation and the responsible actors as well as indicative resource requirements and monitoring mechanisms. At the present moment this is still just a requirement, but this marks a push for gender equality in the implementation of Paris Agreement, which is a welcome sign that marks a considerable progress for gender equality advocates.
  • Apparently, businesses are getting relatively more influence in the official negotiations than before, which is a concern to the civil society and gender advocates because UNFCCC gets influenced by market-solutions that are not necessarily equitable. This was noticeable in the award ceremonies for climate change innovation, e.g. Momentum for Change, where business actors played the central role and took the spotlight as the leaders of change towards low carbon future.
  • Climate finance was a central but controversial topic, and the financial details of implementation of the Paris Agreement remain under discussion, with most countries urging to scale up support to the $100 billion for the Green Climate Fund by 2020, and achieve greater balance between adaptation and mitigation.
  • Adaptation Fund-related discussions fell flat with parties agreeing to continue negotiations on the topic throughout next year. The financial details of the fund are obviously difficult to agree on.
  • “2018 Facilitative Dialogue” was the key theme of this COP. All the practical details regarding the implementation of the Paris Agreement, including standards and rules on how countries will assess each other’s and collective progress in the 2018 global stock-taking, should be set by the end of 2017. The process, however, is likely to be longer.
  • “Orphan issues” that no one was assigned responsibility for include common timeframes for future climate pledges and new future goals for climate finance. This casts a shadow on the overall future of climate change action in the long term.
  • “Loss and Damage”, an issue particularly important for the least developed and vulnerable to climate change countries, was addressed with a five-year work plan for dealing with climate change impacts beyond adaptation, e.g. loss of cultural values and identities.
  • “Marrakesh Action Proclamation” was signed by the majority of parties to lift the morale of the conference in the shadow of the results of the U.S. election, reaffirming the global commitment to the Paris Agreement. This may not have been a ground-breaking statement, but a much-needed reaffirmation that the most world leaders see climate change as a dangerous threat to humanity and are determined to combat it with or without the U.S. on board.
  • A new Global Environmental Facility (GEF) fund of initial $50 million was launched with the purpose of boosting the implementation of the Paris Agreement – also good news.
  • “2050 Pathways Platform” was launched at the conference to help the parties formulate their long-term climate change mitigation and adaptation plans; it includes 22 countries, 15 cities and 196 businesses so far. As mentioned before, the emphasis on green finance and business innovation is growing in the global climate talks, and without the clear leadership by state actors, private sector is willing to take the leading position, which has its benefits and dangers. The fact is, however, that if we are to curb climate change at least under 2°C, everyone, including big business, has to be on board.
  • “Climate Vulnerable Forum” was launched at the COP22 by 47 of the World’s poorest countries committed to generating 100% of their energy from renewable sources as soon as is possible, preparing long-term strategies and updating their nationally determined contributions to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This marks a new development path for these countries, where they forgo the carbon-intensive development strategies used by the Global North in the past, and highlights the need and opportunity for a “greener”, more inclusive and equitable development paradigm that is central for gender equality advocacy in this context.

To sum up, overall the COP22 was very important for gender equality and climate justice advocates as these issues received a large amount of attention. However, the slow implementation process and other obstacles discussed above indicate that there is still a lot of work to be done, and incorporation of gender considerations in the global climate change action not only depends on effective advocacy, but also the effectiveness of the global climate action itself – there is not much to be incorporated in a flawed or stagnant system. The climate conference provided some hopeful signs that the Sustainable Development Goals concerning climate change and gender equality may go hand in hand in the coming years. Let us just hope the processes will be quick enough to prevent irreversible damage of climate change under the “business as usual” model and manage to keep the gender and human rights focus in the ongoing climate talks.