Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2021 > Women at COPs: Journey So Far | Shweta Prasad

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 47, New Delhi, November 6, 2021

Women at COPs: Journey So Far | Shweta Prasad

Friday 5 November 2021


by Shweta Prasad *


The beginning of the COP 26 in Glasgow is a moment to pause for a minute and do a stock-taking of various commitments that need to go into the discussion related to emission cut and maintaining global warming at 1.5 degree. It is also a time to analyze critically the contributions women can make and their journey under the UNFCCC so far. Also, attention should be paid to making various instruments, policies, mechanisms etc. to achieve the gender-just target of SDGs by 2030.

The COP26 has begun amid hopes and challenges to save the earth from climate change related disasters. This is being regarded as the last chance to act, hence, raises serious concerns too. While the world struggles to meet the carbon cut target set under the Paris agreement, the role of different segments of society in this process, has received due recognition over time.

Inclusion of gender perspective in climate change discourse and climate actions is the result of the recognition of the role women can play in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change effects. It was part of the Agenda 21 of 1992 that stated, “women have considerable knowledge and experience in managing and conserving natural resources.” [1]

Despite this, the two most important treaties of the 90s, the UNFCCC and the Kyoto Protocol had missed the gender concerns initially. The absence of gender perspective from these treaties to combat the effects of climate change, relegated the women’s concerns in the climate change discourse and climate actions to the background for years to come.

Further, for long, climate change has been viewed as a universal problem needing scientific and technological solutions. This undermined the gender concerns despite the recognition that women can play crucial role in the mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

To achieve a secure future for human beings, since 1995 the COPs to the UNFCCC started discussing ways to combat the climate change effects. However, till COP6, we see no serious efforts to incorporate a gender perspective to climate change policy making other than few side events organized during these COPs such as during COP1 at Berlin, a parallel event by a women’s forum was held and COP6 in 2000 at Hague organized a side event on the power of feminine values in climate change [2].

However, after the 6th COP, President Jan Pronk in an interview accepted the crucial role of women in the context of energy usage especially in developing countries [3]. Immediately after the COP6, in the preparatory meeting of the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Berlin, the need for gender analysis in the context of international energy-related processes was discussed and accepted. In 2001, the COP7 at Marrakesh officially mentioned the word “women” and a decision on enhancing gender balance and increasing women’s participation at all levels of climate change related decision-making process, was taken. The UN Secretariat was directed to focus on the gender composition of the various bodies and report it.

From COP8 to COP11, some informal organizations like ENERGIA, LIFE, WECF and later Care France, Adéquations and Women in Europe for a Common Future etc. organised activities drawing attention to the inclusion of a gender perspective in the climate change discourse. The COP12 in Kenya witnessed growing interest in making women part of the climate negotiations. The trend continued in COP13 as well. Subsidiary Bodies meeting in Bonn six month before the COP13 also expressed the commitment towards the involvement of women and mainstreaming gender. At its eighteenth session in Doha in 2012, the COP decided to increase gender balance and improve women’s participation under the UNFCCC negotiations, in the representation of Parties and in various bodies established in accordance with the Convention or the Kyoto Protocol. Thus, moving one step further in the direction of gender-sensitive climate policies [4].

The continuous efforts by the Women and Gender Constituency resulted in the formulation of Lima Work Programme on Gender in 2014 followed by the Paris agreement in 2015 reiterating the commitment towards gender-responsive climate policies.

At the COP 23 in 2017, the Gender Action Plan (GAP) was adopted. It was a landmark decision that aimed at weaving gender equality and human rights concerns into climate actions. The overall aim of the GAP was to support the implementation of the gender-related decisions and mandates in the UNFCCC processes by strengthening of gender responsive policies in different adaptation and mitigation activities as well as implementation processes. It also aimed at ensuring women’s participation in the decision making vis-à-vis the implementation of climate policies. The GAP recognised the need to mainstream gender in all these policies, activities and implementation processes to increase the effectiveness. It went beyond the limited approach of merely balancing gender to integrating gender equality in climate change discourse and actions [5].

Through the GAP, the UNFCCC targeted at the inclusion of gender perspective in climate change policies and programmes besides initiating dialogue on the issue in its working group meetings, increase funding to enable the female delegates to participate in its meetings, and organize training programmes for women at local levels [6].

At COP 24 in 2018, the gender composition report pointed towards the increasing representation of women in various bodies established under the UNFCCC including their election as chair and co-chair of these bodies. Besides, the UN Women also played key role in increasing the visibility of women by supporting the parties’ initiatives [7].

In 2019 at COP 25 the key outcome from a gender perspective was the adoption of the enhanced five-year Lima Work Programme on gender and an updated Gender Action Plan- GAP 2.0. Crucially, the updated GAP takes into account human rights, ensuring a just transition, and the rights of Indigenous People via a set of new activities aimed to meaningfully shift towards capacity building and enhanced implementation of gender-responsive climate action at all levels, including, for example, the promotion of gender-responsive technology solutions and preserving local, indigenous and traditional knowledge and practices in different sectors [8].

The COP 26 is being organized at a time of ever-increasing climate impacts and disasters, and a global pandemic that has deepened the inequalities driving millions into greater poverty and instability. The emission targets are inadequate to deal with the ensuing mega climate crisis and generating a fund of US Dollar 100 billion per year towards climate actions, are still a distant dream. [9]

In this backdrop, COP 26 has to focus on gender-just climate solutions, creating a gender-just regenerative economy, advance actions on GAP besides ensuring human rights and prioritizing loss and damage.

* (Author: Dr Shweta Prasad is Professor at the Department of Sociology, Banaras Hindu University and Coordinator, Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policy, Banaras Hindu University. Email: shweta1_bhu[at]

[1Gender equality and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change: A Compilation of Decision Text @ accessed on 15 oct, 2021

[2Hemmati, M. and Ulrike Röhr. 2009. Engendering the Climate-change Negotiations: Experiences, Challenges, and Steps Forward, Gender and Development, Vol. 17 (1): 19-32, Climate Changes and Climate Justice

[3Wamukonya, N. and M. Skutsch. 2001. ’COP6: The Gender Issue Forgotten?’, Energia News, 4(1)

[4Prasad, Shweta, 2021. Mainstreaming Gender in Climate Change: Discourse & Actions in Manish K. Verma (ed.) Environment and Sustainable Development: Perspectives and Issues, Routledge: London


[6UNFCCC, 2018. Gender Equality Crucial to Tackling Climate Change – UN at

[7UN Women, 2018. Take five: UN Women at the global climate conference, COP 24 at accessed in Dec., 2018

[8WGC, 2021 @ ACCESSED ON 15 SEP., 2021


ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.