What Do Women Really Get in COP28

At the same time as our planet is aflame in flames, neoliberal ideologies are igniting the climatic crisis; jeopardizing global stability, security and resilience.

At the same time as our planet is aflame in flames, neoliberal ideologies are igniting the climatic crisis; jeopardizing global stability, security and resilience. As a result of human-generated emissions of greenhouse gases, climate change seems to be a global emergency. In the midst of a whirlwind of global crises, the United Arab Emirates hosted the 28th Conference of the Parties (COP28). Ahead of the conference, climate defenders indicated the UAE’s appointment of Sultan Al-Jaber, who runs the state oil company, to preside over the climate negotiations, as well as the country’s long history of close ties to fossil fuel interests, leads to the current international political chaos.

Heretofore, Dr. Quamrul Haider, a physics professor at New York’s Fordham University, tagged, COP28 is like “asking a fox to guard the hen house”. Along with escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine and Israel and Palestine, people throughout the globe are currently dealing with difficulties like inflation, limited supplies of energy, acute poverty, food insecurity, and severe weather added another level of complexities. Here arises a question. How can delegates expect to come forward with a worldwide green new deal at the COP28 symposium when the world remains so divided?

The UN Women addressed “the climate crisis is not gender neutral,” and concerns regarding global gender inequalities were raised early at the summit. In addition to being a significant factor in adaptation and mitigation strategies, gender is a non-neutral variable in climate change. Feminist activists, climatologists, global citizens all were dissatisfied since previous conferences had not established any climate justice as women’s justice. At the same time, they called for gender-specific funding, and highlighted the gaps in gender inequality in areas such as women’s livelihoods, health, and safety as a result of changing climate. Reasoning, the existence of food insecurity impacts women and girls more than men in the aftermath of a catastrophic events and they are they have solely restricted access to aid and assistance. At the same time, Climate change is a root cause of many conflicts, which in turn put women and girls in jeopardy such as direct violence, sexual abuse, and child marriage.

A UNFPA observation found that sex trafficking soared after cyclones and typhoons in the Asia-Pacific area, and intimate partner violence rose after drought in East Africa, tropical storms in Latin America, and comparable severe weather events in the Arab States region. The effects of climate change are exacerbated for women and girls in vulnerable situations, such as those who are disabled, migrants, live in rural areas, or live in areas prone to violence and natural disasters. inequality.

Again, a UN report showed that “80% of those impacted by climate change around the world are women”. If we look at women leadership, shockingly, there are currently only 13 women serving as heads of state out of the 193 member states of the UN, according to the Pew Research Centre. However, they have failed to confirm their intentions to include a gender perspective and meaningful results in the decision-making processes of their respective governments and states in COP summits. From the first COP, which was held in Berlin in 1995, when Angela Merkel presided, only five women have been presided over in these 28 COP summits. To close the gender gap at this pace, we would need to wait until COP44, which is scheduled for 2039.

Furthermore, distributive inequalities are palpable in research conducted by Oxfam International. That shows that only 1.5% of overseas climate-related development assistance identified gender equality as a primary objective, and two-thirds of projects and programs do not consider gender equality in their design, budgeting, or implementation. Just 0.2% of this assistance is sent to women-led organizations or run by women. 

23rd COP summit, which was held in Germany in 2017, firstly addressed the Gender Action Plan. Though UNFCCC created a separate platform for women’s climate leadership events, this platform did not create raid-fire knock to achieve their goals. Sheikh Hasina, Honorable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, was addressing the “Women’s Climate Leadership Event–COP26: High-Level Panel on Women and Climate Change”. She said the most vulnerable and marginalized people around the world are also the greatest victims of the adverse impacts of climate change for a number of socio-economic and cultural factors “women and girls are major among them.”

Consequently, if we look at the aftermath of the 1991 storm and flood in Bangladesh, the female mortality rate was about five times higher than the male mortality rate. It is evident, since women were restricted from leaving the house without a male relative in this patriarchic society, many of them died while waiting for their relatives to come home and take them somewhere safe made them more vulnerable. Likewise, though coastal women in Bangladesh became aware these consequences, there is a lack of gender-friendly architecture and an insecure atmosphere in the cyclone shelters. In addition, the right to privacy of women seems to be totally violated during floods. The situation with sanitation worsens, particularly for pregnant women. Teenage females often get urinary rashes and urinary tract infections when there is no access to clean water for personal hygiene practices. A research show that, due to climate change, 95.5% of coastal women need more time to fetch water for drinking than women in high barangay and northern river basin regions.

On December 4, 2023, during the COP28 summit, there organized a Gender Equality Day. The conversation was designed how to finance climate action and just transitions that are sensitive to gender. In this session, participants agreed upon vulnerable populations would feel the effects of climate change more acutely than wealthier ones and climate funding should be structured to consider gender. Saber Hossain Chowdhury, Honorable Member of Parliament and Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh on Climate Change echoed the same, as he stated at a side event organized during the COP28 summit that “gender equality in decision-making must be prioritized.” 

Ahead of the summit, low-income and most vulnerable countries expected the $100 billion finance first agreed in 2009 to be delivered during this year’s COP28 climate negotiations stole the headlines. Many vulnerable and underdeveloped nations have urged to commit developed countries to delivery of “Loss and Damage” based financing and triggering pledges as donations. In pursuit of creating change, the COP28 agreement constitutes a historical “de facto phase-out of fossil fuels.” As part of its final agreement, a pledge to operationalize a new loss and damage fund to aid countries that have been hit adversely by climatic disasters was unflagged, with a budget of $700 million. Concerns as well as expectations, unlike developed nations, which have failed to deliver on the US$40 billion to US$50 billion a year committed in 2021 to double adaptation funding, this falls within the 2009 funding objective of US$100 billion annually for mitigation (emission reduction) and adaptation. 

Unflagging efforts towards reforms, let’s discuss gender-inclusive financial regulation. Needless to say, COP28 has not developed a budget specifically addressing gender-related issues; their limitations were solely based on their observance of a gender-specific day. However, the promotion of women’s empowerment, and the allocation of a budget specifically for gender-related issues, which remains an issue of quietness. Against this backdrop, I would like to say that the COP28 summit offered women just a little coffee; it failed to engineer a major breakthrough for them.

In order to make communities more resistant to the effects of climate change at the local level, it is essential to strengthen the role of community networks. Both women and men in the worst-affected parts of the globe should be the primary recipients of the $100 billion annually that wealthier nations wanted to pledge. It is crucial to lower gender inequalities in climate risk to expand access to agricultural services for rural women. These services include weather and climate information, technology, renewable energy, finance and climate change negotiations. Women’s participation in climate politics is essential, and it is high time for the world to acknowledge that sexual and reproductive health and rights are part of climate policymaking. Including women in policymaking benefits the earth, includes lower carbon footprints and more land set aside for conservation. When Earth is healthier, we are all getting better payoff.

Sauid Ahmed Khan
Sauid Ahmed Khan
Freelance Contributor & a Student of Department of Peace and Conflict Studies,University of Dhaka.