ABANTU for Development is a sub-regional gender and policy advocacy NGO with a vision of promoting women’s rights and gender justice for trans-formational leadership and change in Africa. The main focus of the organization’s work is to promote women’s active participation and representation at all levels of decision-making. The increasing relevance of climate change in the lives of citizen’s and the activities being implemented at level through the initiatives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) led ABANTU to actively participate in advocacy at all levels with other organizations to promote gender responsiveness in policy formulation processes on Climate Change.
In 2008, ABANTU started work on the Gender and Climate Change thematic area with the goal of deepening and sharing knowledge with a range of actors in the field to strengthen policy advocacy. Initially, a core group of activists on gender and climate change came together to develop the Gender and Climate Change Programme and mobilize groups to constitute the Gender Action on Climate Change for Equality and Sustainability (GACCES). The coalition has a seven- member steering committee including a Convenor who provides leadership for the implementation of GACCES’S programme. Membership to the Coalition is open to individuals and organizations committed to gender equality, women’s rights and climate justice.
With a membership of 63 organisations and 2,000 members across the country, GACCES serves as the framework for policy analysis and policy influencing on gender and climate change.
Overview of Climate Change
Climate Change also known as global warming refers to any significant change in measures of climate such as temperature, precipitation or wind lasting for a longer period usually decades or more. Climate Change is caused by the increasing greenhouse gases from activities such as burning of fossil fuels (coal, oil, and natural gases), land clearing and intensive agriculture. Carbon dioxide (CO2) methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) are among the greenhouse gases making the largest contribution to global warming.
Climate Change has become a global threat with grave consequences for under-developed and developing countries. The Inter- governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has predicted that the impact of climate change will be differently distributed among different regions, generations, age, class, income groups, occupations and genders. The poorest of communities have been identified as those who will be worse affected by climate change. Already, the impacts and risks associated with climate change are happening in many system and sectors essential for human livelihoods including water, food security, coastal zones and health. In Ghana, the main impacts of climate change on ecological, economic and social systems are: ecosystems and natural habitat; forests; desertification and land degradation; aquatic ecosystem; water resources, tourism; food and agriculture.
Over a decade ago, attempts at reducing global warming led to an international treaty known as the United Nation Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which most countries signed on to. Later on in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol which had more powerful (and legally binding) measures was added to the UNFCCC. The first commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol is expected to end in 2012.
In 2007, the Bali Action Plan was agreed at the UN Climate Conference in Bali, Indonesia. The Plan launched a “comprehensive process to enable the full, effective and sustained implementation of the Convention through long term cooperation action, now, up to and beyond 2012”. The Bali Action Plan was structured under five building blocks: Shared vision, Adaptation, Mitigation, Finance and Technology.
Efforts by the United Nations to put in place a new multilateral framework to take effect after the 2012 commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol failed to reach an agreement. An ambitious outcome was required at the December 2009 UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen. However, after intense negotiations, activism and lobbying an accord which eventually come out was not unanimously adopted by Parties but was taken note of. This accord could then be the basis of further negotiations before the Mexico climate conference in 2010. Ghana has since January 2010 indicated her support for the Accord which enjoins the country to implement actions in compliance with the five identified pillars for the benefit of the citizenry. Since 2010 ABANTU and GACCES have worked with the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) as well as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ensure that gender issues are addressed in all climate change discussions and processes.
Gender Issues In Climate Change
As the saying goes “Development that is not engendered is endangered”. Even though data is limited on the impact of environmental degradation and climate change on women it is known that women are largely responsible for food, water and household fuel collection. This means that their time burden will increase if drought, floods, deforestation and erratic rainfall undermine the quality and availability of natural resources.
The protection of the environment and sustainable use of resources is therefore a critical gender issue requiring accountability from power holders. Unequal gender relations and disparities work to limit women’s access and control over natural resources. At the same time, women’s traditional responsibilities for family wellbeing mean that they are more likely to suffer most from worsening environmental degradation and climate change. To this end an increased representation and engagement of women in indecision-making in the use of natural resources must be fostered. This should be backed by the needed institutional mechanisms that will enable women to advocate for gender equality agenda in climate change in sustainable way.
In October 2009, ABANTU for Development and the Gender Action on Climate Change for Equality and Sustainability (GACCES) applied for the UNIFEM Catalytic Grant to implement a two-year project that will enhance the gender responsiveness of Climate Change policy making, mitigation and adaptation measures in Ghana. The UNIFEM Grant was announced in October 2009. The application by Abantu and GGCCC was among the six projects in Sub-Saharan Africa that received approval and an award from UNIFEM.
The project titled “Building Capacities to Influence Climate Change Policies from a Gender Perspective” has the following objectives:
• To enhance awareness on the gendered nature of climate change
• To promote women’s active participation in all decision-making processes on climate change at all levels.
• To sensitize critical actors on the relevance of acknowledging women’s experiences and views on climate change.
• To strengthen the capacity of different actors especially women on climate change mitigation and adaptation measures.
• To conduct research and produce publications on the gendered dimension of climate change in Ghana as a basis for future policy advocacy and information sharing.
• To monitor government’s compliance in the implementation of Climate Change Conventions to ensure that the strategies meet the specific need and concerns of women.
• To establish a relationship with critical actors such as policy makers, civil society groups and community leaders to ensure continuous engagement on the issues of climate change in the medium to long term.
• Strengthen the relationship between climate change experts and gender based networks for effective collaboration on Climate Change issues.
The project targets women and gender based institutions and networks as primary actors and beneficiaries. Other target groups are policy makers, media practitioners, chiefs and community leaders, private sector institutions and civil society organization. The two year programme which is being sponsored by UNIFEM is generally expected to achieve long term impacts on the promotion of women’s rights and gender responsiveness in Climate Change policy making, mitigation and adaptation measures in Ghana.
In order to consolidate the work around Gender and Climate Change, the ideas generated from the project has been shared over the years with a broad range of actors to ensure greater commitment and action on the issues being addressed. Opportunities for expanding this initiative in the sub-region have also been explored.
The Fourth Assessment Report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) specifies that climate change is already having discernable impacts on communities and that these impact will intensify (IPCC, 2007). The developing world will bear the heaviest burden of climate change, despite having contributed least to the greenhouse gas emissions which is responsible for climate change. Consequently, policy measures which recognize women’s critical relationship with climatic changes are required to enable societies to avoid adverse impacts and support livelihoods and well-being.
Current Initiatives on Gender and Climate Change
As a country, Ghana has actively participated in the UNFCCC through the COP processes and has acted on requirements and commitments on adaptation and mitigation, through the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation (MESTI) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As part of this, the government has developed a National Climate Change Policy (NCCP) and a (National Climate Change Action Plan). Ghana also prepared its Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) for reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The INDCs were to be produced by countries that have signed onto the UNFCCC as a requirement in the lead to COP21 held in Paris, France in 2015. The ratification of the Paris Agreement meant that the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDC) had become the first greenhouse gas targets under the UNFCCC that applied equally to both developed and developing countries. The Ministry of Science Technology and Innovation (MESTI) has set up a technical committee that is currently going through the process of finalizing the country’s Gh-NDC.
Women’s rights organizations in Ghana, through the Gender Action on Climate Change for Equality and Sustainability (GACCES) which is hosted by ABANTU for Development, has been a platform for strengthening women’s leadership and capacity to engage in climate change decision-making and implementation. These efforts have succeeded in establishing a ground breaking process of civil society engagement and awareness raising about the gender dimensions of climate change, linking gender perspectives with climate change policies, and providing technical guidance on gender issues towards the development of the National Climate Change Policy in Ghana (NCCP). The inclusion of a full chapter on Gender and Climate Change in the NCCP by ABANTU and GACCES is a major achievement of the advocacy work by women’s organizations. This has increased the recognition of women as critical agents in addressing climate change impacts.
Achievements of ABANTU and GACCES in promoting gender and climate change include the following:
• Establishment of a broad-based platform on gender and climate change namely the Ghana Action on Climate Change for Equality and Sustainability (GACCES)
• Participant and contributor on gender and climate change to the development of Ghana’s National Climate Change Policy
• Member of the Steering Committee of the National Adaptation Fund Project (NAFP)
• Member of the National Climate Change Steering Committee (NCCSC).
• Member and national host of the Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA)
• Partnerships through the projects: Southern Voices on Adaptation (SVA) and Adaptation for Learning Project (ALP) to enhance gender and adaptation initiatives from a justice perspective to benefit citizens.
• Development of relevant gender and climate change tools for use by a range of actors.
In the coming years it is hoped that ABANTU’s wide experience on gender and climate change will continue to make meaning for both civil society and policy makers in ensuring that citizens’ rights on climate change issues are realised.