The words sex and gender, although wrongly used interchangeably by many users, are two different terms. While sex means biological characteristics that define humans as female or male, gender refers to socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviours, values, relative power and influence that society ascribes to the two sexes on a differential basis. Gender is relational and refers not simply to women or men, but to the relationship between them.

The European Institute for Gender Equality (2020) defines gender as:

“Social attributes and opportunities associated with being female and male and to the relationships between women and men and girls and boys, as well as to the relations between women and those between men”.

Even if the notion of gender is socially constructed and intersects with other social relations, for instance, age, race, disability, and religion, there are differences in the way men and women are affected by climate change. Gender often defines the type of roles women and men play in society, including reproductive and productive roles, community managing roles and political roles. Because of gender norms and stereotypes, women are often left with lower paying and less secure jobs than men, and as it has become more evident, climate change hits the poorest hardest. The 2014 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) stated that climate change has prevented millions from escaping poverty and forcing some back into it.  At the same time, studies have found that women make up to 70 to 80% of the victims of natural disasters, and equally exposed to  gender based violence when climate disasters occur. Women are 14 times more likely to die from the shocks of climate change.

Intersections of social differences along gender lines differentiate the ways in which impacts of climate change are experienced and responded to. The IPCC acknowledges that the impacts of climate change are differential across social strata.


However, women must not be labelled as only “vulnerable” populations in climate action projects and efforts. Conversely, women need to be agents of change by drawing on their distinct experiences in communities and households. Including women in decision-making processes by looking at their roles, capacities and potential will increase the effectiveness and sustainability of climate responses. Due to women’s dependence on nature for their activities, they have been able to develop knowledge to be able to  not only play a crucial role in decision-making processes, but contribute to climate mitigation.


When talking about gender in the context of the UNFCCC, this includes both ensuring the policies of the Convention are taking gender into account, as well as that there is a gender balance in decision-making. Gender made a first appearance in climate negotiations in 2001 and received its own dedicated programme during the Lima conference in 2014.

2001 (COP 7)

Decision 36/CP.7 was adopted at COP 7 in Marrakech. It is the first stand-alone gender-decision and focused on the participation of women in bodies (including Parties) under the UNFCCC.

2009 (COP 15)

The Women and Gender Constituency was  founded as an Observer constituency to the UNFCCC.

2012 (COP 18)

Decision 23/CP.18 was adopted in Doha, recalling decision 36/CP.7 and highlighting the importance of further promoting gender balance and improving the participation of women in UNFCCC negotiations and in the representation of parties in bodies established pursuant to the Convention and its Kyoto Protocol.

2013 (COP 19)

In Warsaw, SBI highlighted in the report FCCC/SBI/2013/20 with concern the number of less than 30 % representation of women in bodies under the Convention and the Kyoto Protocol (see the report on gender composition), the SBI welcomed the UN Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, recognised the need to strive for more gender balance within bodies of the UNFCCC, encouraged the development of further tools and strategies for implementing gender-sensitive climate policy.

2014 (COP 20)

The SBI adopted decision 18/CP.20, termed the 2-year Lima work programme on gender, which aimed at further implementing decision 23/CP.18, recognizing the progress made to advance gender balance and gender equality in climate policies, however noting that it requires further strengthening, requested the integration of gender issues across UNFCCC negotiations topics by organizing two in-session workshops on gender-responsive climate policy in mitigation action and technology transfer as well as adaptation and capacity building, requested technical paper on tools for integrating gender in climate change activities.


2015 (COP 21)

Gender was mainstreamed into the following areas of the Paris Agreement: Its Preamble, adaptation (Article 7 Paragraph 5) and capacity-building (Article 11 Paragraph 2), acknowledging the need for considering gender equality and the empowerment of women when taking action to address climate change, the need for gender-responsive adaptation action and capacity-building.

2016 (COP 22)

The Parties extended the Lima work programme for an additional two years until 2019 (decision 21/CP.22) and requested the development of a Gender Action Plan (GAP) during COP23.

2017 (COP 23)

With a specific Gender Day organized during the COP24, countries were able to put forward actions, progresses and approaches undertaken to advance gender-related climate actions and adaptation strategies. Still, human rights references, including gender rights, have been removed from important sections of the Paris r´Rulebook text, including, for instance, NDC guidance and adaptation. This has led many civil society actors to call out the Katovice package as failing to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. 


In its review of the GAP, the Chair of the SBI requested in a draft conclusion the review of the Lima work programme on gender and its GAP to suggest areas of progress and improvement for consideration at COP25.


At COP 25 in 2019, Parties agreed on a five-5 year enhanced Lima work programme and its gender action plan (decision 3/CP.25), the priority areas of the former GAP remain, which constituted a success. Notably invited the Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples Platform Facilitative Working Group to collaborate in a dialogue to advance leadership and solution of local communities and indigenous women. A synthesis report by the UNFCCC secretariat highlighted progress in integrating a gender perspective in constituted bodies. However, challenges remain with regards to a real commitment to rights-based, gender-just solutions to climate change for the effective implementation of the Paris Agreement:

  • Still lack of understanding at national level on what it means to integrate gender, and a lack of technical support to do so, gender is often used as a synonym for women, lacking an understanding and integration of non-gender-conforming individuals in the climate regime

  • Lack of resources at all levels. The Lima Work programme on gender is not fully funded yet so any GAP will need an additional commitment of resources.

  • Stalled progress on enhancing gender balance and rights-based principles: At COP25 Parties began re-negotiating principles of gender-equality which were already agreed on in the previous GAP

  • Lack of consistent and quantifiable indicators for taking stock of progress 


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  • Women and Gender Constituency, the constituency gathering the NGOs working to advance gender-just and ecofeminist considerations within the UNFCCC negotiations.


  • YOUNGO Women and Gender working group -  The working group has been engaged in the mobilization of  young people interested in pushing the agenda for more inclusiveness of youth, women and other gender in climate spaces, specifically during climate negotiations since 2016. With members across different continents, the YOUNGO women and gender working group has submitted several policy papers on the Gender Action Plan, Lima Work Programme and Gender mainstreaming in adaptation planning for the adaptation committee and  the UNFCCC secretariat during COP23, SB48, SB48-2, COP 24 , SB 50 and COP 25. The women and gender working group has also worked with the Women and Gender Constituency during COP 25 in the organization of the Gender Just Climate Solution exhibition, UNFCCC climate division during the regional UNFCCC gender workshops in 2020 and with the UNFPA during the ICPD25 summit in 2019. 



European Institute for Gender Equality (2020). Gender. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 28 September 2020]. 2020. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 October 2020].


Source for definitions of sex and gender: UN Women. 2014. Gender Mainstreaming in Development Programming: A Guidance Note. New York: UN Women. p. 46