Financing climate and environmental actions

  • Event
    UN Women Roundtable
  • Publication date 17 May 2021

Dear colleagues and friends,

Many thanks to the Government of Germany and UN Women for the invitation to address this important roundtable on financing climate and environmental action to advance gender equality.

As the former Deputy Executive Director of UN Women and current Executive Director of the Green Climate Fund - I have seen first-hand that advancing gender equality in our response to climate change is one of the most effective mechanisms we have towards creating a low emission climate resilient and inclusive future for all.

On the one hand – women and girls are disproportionately affected by the devastating impacts of climate change. On the other – women, as agents of change, play a critical role in advancing gender responsive climate action that brings tremendous social, economic, and climate resilient benefits to all.

Let us take agriculture for example where women comprise close to 43% of the agricultural workforce, yet face significant gaps in their access to information, land, productive assets, financing, and markets. Closing these gaps represents a huge opportunity for women’s empowerment, reducing poverty, eliminating malnutrition, fostering economic development, increasing community resilience to extreme weather events. For example, it could increase agricultural outputs by an average of 2o to 30 percent in sub-Saharan Africa and accelerate the achievement of about a third of the 169 SDG targets.

However, a review of about 300 agricultural added value apps currently in the market to foster green, smart agriculture showed that very few of them were considering the specific barriers that women face. By being gender blind, they were de facto failing half of their intended customers, perpetuating gender inequalities and hampering efforts to foster sustainable development.

Climate change will affect women and men differently. Climate change will require greater upfront capital for investments in climate resilient infrastructure and assets; the adoption of new farming practices and technologies; and adjustment to new market conditions. It will exacerbate the impact of the existing gender gap in access to information, land, finance, technology, and markets. Women farmers are at risk of being trapped in a downward spiral in the absence of concerted efforts to close the gender gap in access to productive resources for climate resilient agriculture.

Unfortunately, similar missed opportunities and increased gender risks can be found for most climate priorities, including clean energy access, sustainable mobility, economic diversification, or disaster risk management. What role can climate finance play in addressing these challenges and creating co-benefits to advance both gender equality and climate action?

Climate finance can ensure that gender equality and women’s empowerment are systematically incorporated into climate action by putting women at the centre of our adaptation, mitigation efforts.

The GCF, as the world’ s largest dedicated financer of climate action in developing countries, is committed to making this happen. As part of the Action Coalition on Feminist Action for Climate Justice – GCF has committed to providing $10 billion a year in GCF and co-financing support that is designed to optimize the co-benefits between climate action and gender equality.

How does the GCF put this commitment into action?

The GCF is the first climate finance mechanism to mainstream gender perspectives from the outset of its operations. The GCF’s Governing Instrument mandates the mainstreaming of gender across all our interventions. Our Gender Policy requires project proponents to assess gender differentiated opportunities and risks from the outset of an investment, to foster social innovation, improve operational performance, and ensuring that new climate solutions benefit women and men equally.

Every single project funded by the Green Climate Fund includes a Gender Action Plan, with performance indicators. This action plan sets out how the project is to empower and benefit women. All these documents are published on the GCF website, providing an increasingly rich database of gender analysis - based on real world practice. As of today, GCF ongoing investments are expected to benefit over 180 million women.

GCF’s mandate is to accelerate and scale up climate innovation and investment. A key objective of our Environmental and Social Safeguards and our gender policy are also to ensure that the Fund exclusively promotes inclusive climate innovation- innovation that benefits the poor and the rich, and women and men alike.

In close collaboration with UN Women during the GCF’s early years, we have developed a manual on mainstreaming gender in GCF projects. Since we began using it in 2017, the manual has become an essential tool in mainstreaming gender throughout GCF’s project cycle. It is also supporting national governments’ enhancement of gender equality in climate change through our capacity- building Readiness Programme.

We are increasingly seeing the results of gender mainstreaming and our gender policy across the range of climate action GCF funds in developing countries. This includes boosting women’s access to climate and early warning information; addressing the gender gap to foster climate resilient agriculture, and support to women innovators and entrepreneurs.

We are using a variety of financing approaches to promote women leadership in addressing climate change. The experience gained from these projects will enable us to develop better climate financing models in future, that promote gender equality.

To promote women leadership in climate resilient agriculture, GCF is working with the African Development Bank to help local commercial banks in Ghana provide loans to enterprises and farmer associations led by women to overcome their current limited access to finance.

In Morocco, GCF has been supporting women-led cooperatives in sustainably managing the world’s only biosphere of argan trees to reduce emissions, enhance adaptation and boost livelihood benefits by improving access to global market profits. Grant finance was used to establish a commercial track record and enable them to qualify for loans from local financing institutions to scale up investments.

Similarly, to promote a greater involvement of women entrepreneurs in clean energy development, our low-carbon business development loans programme in Mongolia specifically targets women-led enterprises, providing them with access to affordable, long-term loan to invest in energy efficiency and renewable energy.

In parallel, GCF is also investing with Acumen to leverage private equity to support SMEs involved in off-grid renewable energy. GCF is providing USD 20 million in equity and USD 5 million in grant to the Acumen’s USD 110 million KawiSafi Ventures Fund. The KawiSafi makes investments of USD 2-10 million in 10 to 15 clean energy small- and medium-sized enterprises in Kenya and Rwanda. Acumen estimates that 40% of its beneficiaries/customers are women and that women account for 40% of the solar systems selling agents.

As GCF continues to mainstream gender across all its climate finance, I am confident the number of success stories featuring women and girls will grow. But we cannot afford to be complacent. Climate change is having an unprecedented impact across all our societies. GCF, with our partners - including UN Women, is committed to putting women at the center of our adaptation and mitigation efforts. Only by doing so can we simultaneously achieve the sustainable development goals and improve the lives and resilience of women and girls everywhere.