Women Still Underrepresented in Decision-Making on Climate Issues under the UN

The new Gender Composition Report by UN Climate Change shows that the number of women represented in the bodies of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is not in line with efforts to create gender balance in the Convention. Only two constituted bodies reported near gender balance in 2019 as opposed to three last year. This points to a step back in gender balance in climate decision-making under the UN.

Women and girls around the world are demanding more climate action at the national and international level and have received increasing recognition for their leadership. However, in the climate decision-making process, women’s voices are not yet equally represented.           .

In 2012 Parties to the UN Climate Change Convention reaffirmed the urgent need to ensure gender balance in all aspects of negotiations and decision-making. They agreed a goal of gender balance in bodies, as well as annual reporting on progress towards achieving the goal.

The annual Gender Composition Report includes the gender composition of decision-making and technical bodies under UN Climate Change as well as national delegations to climate conferences. It shows that the first positive trend towards more gender-balanced constituted bodies that was reported in 2018 has been reversed in 2019.

The report posits that changes in gender balance are inconsistent. Based on the current data collected, only 5 out of 15 constituted bodies had female representation exceeding 38%.  Overall, female representation on constituted bodies averaged 33%. The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Executive Board produced the lowest number, with only 10% female representation.

However, the report also showcased a positive step forward. For the first time, two constituted bodies have more than 50% female representation. The Adaptation Committee (AC) had 56% female members and the Paris Committee on Capacity-Building (PCCB) peaked at 58%.

A lack of progress in achieving equal representation in climate decision-making is also apparent in national delegations. Only 38% of the delegates to the 2018 UN Climate Change conference in Katowice, Poland, were women. The numbers were generally lower for the heads of delegation, only 27% of whom were women.

Despite these statistics, the importance that Parties place on achieving more equal representation and meaningful participation is reflected in one of five priority areas under the UN Climate ChangeGender Action Plan (GAP), on gender balance, participation and women’s leadership.

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