Joanne Lim

The issue of climate change has definitely captured the attention of the world more than it ever has before, and more and more people are demanding climate action from their governments. There is also already a heightened awareness regarding the greater vulnerability of women to climate change, and the importance of factoring in gender issues in formulating an effective response to the climate crisis. Join any climate protest, and you’re bound to see a placard with the slogan “No climate justice without gender justice”. With such consciousness from the public, it is thus important to assess whether our governments and institutions have similarly recognized the gender dimension of climate action in its policies. This recognition can be initially measured by the presence of gender-related words and phrases in its policies.

The Convention on the Elimination on all Forms of Discrimination (CEDAW), the primary treaty dealing with women’s rights, was signed by the Philippines on 15 July 1980, and ratified on 5 July 1981. As early as 2009, the CEDAW Committee released a Statement on Gender and Climate Change, where it “expresse[d] its concern about the absence of a gender perspective in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other national policies and initiatives on climate change”. It underscored that climate change disproportionately affects women more than men, and emphasized the need to ensure the participation of women in climate-related policies and programs.

The CEDAW Committee has adopted three general recommendations which consider how climate change affects women’s rights. These are General Recommendation No. 27 on the rights of older women, General Recommendation No. 34 on the rights of rural women, and General Recommendation No. 37. General Recommendation No. 37, which was adopted in 2018, zeroed in on the gender dimension in climate change and disaster risk reduction. It emphasized, thus–

“State parties and other stakeholders have obligations to take specific steps to address discrimination against women in the fields of disaster risk reduction and climate change, through the adoption of targeted laws, policies, mitigation and adaptation strategies, budgets, and other measures…[;] that all stakeholders should ensure that climate change and disaster risk reduction measures were gender responsive and sensitive to indigenous knowledge systems and that they respected human rights.”

The 2015 Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change also made mention of gender. In its preamble, it thus states-

“Acknowledging that climate change is a common concern of humankind, Parties should, when taking action to address climate change, respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights, the right to health, the rights of indigenous peoples, local communities, migrants, children, persons with disabilities and people in vulnerable situations and the right to development, as well as gender equality, empowerment of women and intergenerational equity…”

Under the climate adaptation measures in the Paris Agreement, it also stated that “Parties acknowledge that adaptation action should follow a country-driven, gender-responsive, participatory and fully transparent approach…”. Under capacity building measures for mitigation and adaptation action, it also stated that “capacity building measures should be an effective, iterative process that is participatory, cross-cutting and gender-responsive”.

Other relevant international frameworks tackling gender and the climate include the Lima Work Program on Gender for the UNFCCC and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030, which both underscore the importance of women’s participation in climate action.

The following are our primary local laws which relate to climate and/or gender: the Magna Carta of Women Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9710), the Women in Development and Nation Building Act of 2010 (Republic Act No. 7192), the Climate Change Act of 2009 (Republic Act No. 9729), as amended, and the Philippine Disaster Reduction and Management Act of 2010 (Republic Act No. 10121).

The Magna Carta of Women Act of 2009 stresses the right of women to participate in decision-making processes, and that the “State shall undertake temporary special measures to accelerate the participation and equitable representation of women in all spheres of society particularly in the decision-making and policy-making processes in government and private entities to fully realize their role as agents and beneficiaries of development”. Similarly, the Women in Development and National Building Act of 2010 declares as its policy to “ensure active participation of women and women’s organizations in the development programs and/or projects including their involvement in the planning, design, implementation, management, monitoring, and evaluation thereof”.

The Climate Change Act of 2009’s Declaration of Policy states that the “State… [shall] incorporate a gender-sensitive, pro-children, and pro-poor perspective in all climate change and renewable energy efforts, plans and programs”. The Climate Change Act was also amended in 2012 to establish the People’s Survival Fund for the financing of climate adaptation programs and projects. The amendment qualified that the criteria to prioritize use of the fund shall be based on the “[r]esponsiveness to gender-differentiated vulnerabilities”, among others.

The Philippine Disaster Reduction and Management Act of 2010 declares as policy of the State to “[c]onduct early recovery and post-disaster needs assessment institutionalizing gender analysis as part of it”. It also echoed the CEDAW Committee’s General Recommendation No. 37, where it stated as policy to “ensure that disaster risk reduction and climate change measures are gender responsive, sensitive to indigenous knowledge systems, and respectful of human rights”.

Admittedly, mere inclusion of gender-related words and phrases in policies is not sufficient to ensure that climate action from our governments will be gender-responsive. Mechanisms must be put in place to ensure women’s participation. The obligations and responsibilities of the different climate actors regarding their gender-responsive climate action must also be clearly stated. Actual implementation of the policies is also another matter. Nonetheless, such acknowledgement of the gender dimension in climate laws and policies provides us with an opening to demand more concrete measures from our governments and institutions.