Opinion: G7 punch below weight on funding for gender-equal climate adaptation


By Sven Harmeling 

Climate change is exacerbating inequalities, and governments need to invest more to protect women from its impacts

Significant climate change impacts can no longer be avoided. The world is already experiencing devastating consequences, particularly in places where extreme weather worsens the living conditions of people living in poverty. Additionally, the poorest families – those who have contributed the least to carbon emissions and have the fewest resources to adapt – are left to foot the climate change bill. 

The costs of climate change adaptation in developing countries may reach as high as $500 billion per year in the 2050s, according to U.N. estimates. We also see that climate change is exacerbating existing inequalities.

At the same time, gender inequality is a key driver of vulnerability to climate change impacts and other stressors. Investing in adaptation can promote gender equality, economic growth and stability, in line with the Paris Agreement, which more than 190 governments adopted.

Key things that need to be pursued in CARE’s experience are to assess, analyse and address gender relations, to ensure inclusive participation of men and women, and to have monitoring and evaluation systems that take into account different gender roles.

To confront these challenges, more financial support for adaptation in developing countries is needed. The G7 countries, whose climate ministers are meeting this week in Canada, are the most important donor group when it comes to supporting poor countries on adaptation.

Notably, the G7 nations are obliged to provide such financial support under the Paris Agreement and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Yet, there is just over a year before the 2020 deadline for developed countries to mobilize $100 billion annually to address the needs of developing countries in confronting climate change – and there is no firm plan to reach that goal.

Drilling into the data

CARE has published new research following on from other reports that have examined the climate finance developed countries report to the OECD based on a so-called “marker” system. We thought it timely to investigate the trends in G7 adaptation finance, and whether it adequately addresses gender equality.

In absolute terms, EU institutions, Japan and Germany reported average adaptation finance totals of over $2bn between 2013 and 2016. Canada and EU institutions show a positive trend with continuous increases since 2014, with the United States stepping up in 2016 under the Obama administration. Unfortunately, the Trump administration’s turnaround on climate finance threatens this positive trend and may leave more people unprotected from climate risks.

All other countries have shown a decline, with Japan falling below 2013 levels in 2016. In 2016, the G7 reported approximately $26bn in climate finance, of which only 37 percent was for adaptation. This should triple and reach 50/50 with mitigation by 2020.

When it comes to adaptation projects that also seek to promote gender equality, the United States (74 percent), Canada (71 percent), and Germany (61 percent) invested the most from 2013-2016, whereas Japan (29 percent) and France (24 percent) invested the least.

Based on a sectoral perspective, most of the adaptation finance between 2013-2016 was for projects in the water supply and sanitation sector ($8.5 billion), in agriculture ($7.1 billion) and general environment work ($6.8 billion).

The agricultural sector has been found to be the most gender-sensitive among the three areas listed above, with 9 percent targeting gender equality as a “principal” objective, and 69 percent as a “significant” objective. Main recipient countries have been Vietnam, India and Ethiopia, with the last two showing a much higher share of projects that include gender equality objectives.

However, the absolute numbers reported to the OECD must be handled with caution due to concerns of inaccurate accounting practices by donor countries – backed up by CARE’s research – where often questionable project objectives are reported.

G7 tasks

There are three key areas of work for G7 countries.

First, they should increase efforts to promote gender equality through their bilateral climate finance and in multilateral mechanisms, so that by 2020 at least 20 percent of the projects coded as adaptation pursue gender equality as a principal objective and at least 80 percent as a significant objective.

Second, they should apply more rigorous coding and detailed project descriptions to ensure that where the principal objectives are climate change adaptation and gender equality, those are clearly addressed in practice.

Finally, as the countries most responsible for climate change, the G7 need to step up support for climate change adaptation to vulnerable countries.

We estimate that by 2020 it is necessary to triple the $9 billion in adaptation finance reported to the OECD in 2016, as an appropriate contribution to the $100 billion goal.

Clear signals from G7 ministers that they will increase adaptation finance would also help build confidence for the crucial upcoming COP24 climate summit in Katowice, Poland.

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