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“The problem of women representation at COP 26 is a result of… the patriarchal nature of the society, gender stereotypes, lack of opportunity for women, pay gaps etc.”

Aug 31, 2021
Nimisha Srivastava is a lawyer by education, qualified to practice law in India. She has cumulative 3 years of work experience in the insurance regulatory and corporate commercial space. Presently she is on a journey to explore career alternatives, using the knowledge and skills acquired as a practicing lawyer. 

Strong pushback

‘The goal of gender balance is yet far from being achieved. Mere words on paper are not enough for achieving a gender balance at the COP meetings, rather systems and processes should be put in place to ensure that women get the requisite opportunities, training, support to be able to represent their concerns at the global decision-making spaces, emphasises Nimisha.

‘The problem of women representation at COP 26, is a result of a number of underlying issues, including emanating directly from the patriarchal nature of the society, gender stereotypes, lack of opportunity for women, pay gaps etc.’, she says.

Numbers speak

Nimisha beefs up the state of women representation at major United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) bodies, with some hard statistics.

‘In 2021, women represented 36% of the cumulative membership across all UNFCCC bodies, a mere increase of 1% from 2020. While, some committees have successfully achieved a gender balance, for instance the COP bureau, the Adaptation Committee, the Paris Committee on Capacity building, with women composing of at least 50% of the total membership, greater gender disparity remains in the constitution of other UNFCCC bodies. Here is a brief summary based on the gender composition data released by UNFCCC:

  • In 2021, the Advisory Board of the Climate Technology Centre and Network had only 5 women members (a decrease from 6 women members in 2019) out of a total 20 members.
  • In 2021, the Compliance Committee Enforcement Branch had only 5 women members out of a total 20 members.
  • In 2021, the Compliance Committee Facilitative Branch had only 4 women members out of a total 20 members.
  • In 2021, the Consultative Group of Experts had only 6 women members (an increase from 5 women members in 2020) out of a total 24 members.
  • In 2021, the Executive Board of the Clean Development Mechanism, had only 4 women members out of a total 20 members.
  • In 2021, the Executive Committee of the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage had only 8 women members (a decrease from 9 women members in 2020) out of a total 20 members.
  • In 2021, the Paris Agreement Committee on Implementation and Compliance has only 8 women members (a decrease from 9 women members in 2020) out of a total 20 members.
  • In 2021 and 2020, the Standing Committee on Finance has only 6 women members (a decrease from 8 women members in 2019) out of a total 20 members.
  • In 2021, the Technology Executive Committee has only 3 women members (a decrease from 4 and 6 women members in 2020 and 2019 respectively) out of a total 20 members.
  • In 2021 and 2020, the Paris Committee on Capacity-Building has only 6 women members (a decrease from 7 women members in 2019) out of a total 12 members.
  • In 2021, the Least Developed Countries Expert Group has only 6 women members (an increase from 4 members and 5 members in 2020 and 2019, respectively) out of total 13 members.

This clearly represents a lack of balance in gender representation at the most important climate change convention of the world. Further, the bodies on finance and tech have dismal representation of women, indicating a further problem of male dominance and stereotyping in the respective sectors.’

What needs to be done?

Here is a very clear headed diagnosis and the prescription from the budding lawyer: ‘The parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change during the COP 18 meeting in 2012, held in Doha, Qatar, agreed to a goal of gender balance in bodies under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol. The parties also agreed to make an annual reporting on the progress towards achieving the goal of gender balance.

Gender Action Plan (GAP) under the Lima Work Program was instituted under COP 22. Parties noted the lack of progress made by delegations towards the 2012 goal of gender balance and prompted for the inclusion of gender within the climate policy using five priority areas. This includes capacity building, pursuing meaningful participation especially among indigenous and grassroots communities and effective monitoring and reporting mechanisms. The plan, however, lacks clear targets and indicators to adequately evaluate progress. Moreover, the Convention failed to set rules or implement guidelines, mandating representation of women.

The UNFCCC, therefore, urgently needs to ponder upon the failure of the delegations to achieve the gender balance and lay down stricter guidelines to ensure the delegations comply with the 2012 goal. Clearer benchmarks, reporting mechanisms and indicators laid down by UNFCCC will ensure that the participants have a positive obligation to take steps ensuring more women represent them at the COP meetings.’ Sincerely hoping that all concerned will act on the invaluable inputs and insights from the young leader.

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