Gender and the Environment: Building the Evidence Base and Advancing Policy Action to Achieve the SDGs, 21 May 2021


Opening Remarks by Angel Gurría,

Secretary-General, OECD

Paris, 21 May 2021

Dear Minister Hatzidakis, Friends,

I am delighted to launch the OECD report, Gender and the Environment: Building the Evidence Base and Advancing Policy Action to Achieve the SDGs” I would like to first thank the Government of Greece for their generous support in advancing this work.

We face a mounting set of interconnected global emergencies – health, environment and socio-economic. Yet our approaches to these problems are often siloed, fragmented, and inadequate. Our policies in addressing climate change is a good example.

Today, it is pretty clear that the impacts of climate change are not gender neutral. In developing and advanced economies alike, women are more vulnerable to environmental impacts than men. This is due to the interplay of uneven access to resources, to cultural norms and entrenched social structures.

For example, women tend to be overrepresented in low-income groups, which are most affected by pollution in cities and environmental damage from industry. Lower access to finance and education increases their economic vulnerability and constrains their ability to prepare for and respond to environmental shocks. Furthermore, studies show that disasters caused by natural hazards increase the triggers for violence against women, compounding women’s health consequences.

If we are to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis, our policies need to account for these differential impacts of environmental factors on men and women. Until now, gender equality has been a missing part in most of our climate solutions. We need to fix this.

The 2021 edition of the OECD’s Going for Growth advocates coupling policies aimed at building resilience and long-term sustainability with those aimed at supporting vulnerable groups during transitions. These synergies between policies are critical.

We need to better understand the complex relationship between the green transition and gender equality. For instance, data from the EU indicates that women prefer working in the renewable part of the energy sector, despite only representing 32% of its workforce. There is a pitfall – many green jobs in sustainable infrastructure, renewable energy, low-carbon manufacturing, and green construction are STEM-intensive. Given that only 32% of OECD bachelor graduates in STEM are women, we will not achieve an inclusive path to a net-zero future without a concrete policy to address the gender gap in STEM education.

To implement change in policies, we need to level any uneven power dynamics. Women and girls are boldly leading on climate justice, yet at the political level they only represent 30% of climate negotiators. Their perspectives in disaster management are also not adequately considered and met, despite the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction.

The COVID-19 pandemic is giving us a unique opportunity to do this differently. More than an opportunity, we have a responsibility to integrate gender and environmental considerations into our national recovery plans, because these will define the type of societies we want to build in the coming decades.

Let me highlight three central recommendations from our report:

First, more must be done to support countries in systemically integrating gender analysis into data collection efforts. Only by doing this, can governments and business define their strategies and projects in a more gender-sensitive way.

Second, there is potential to better utilise existing and new resources when the cross-cutting objectives of gender equality and tackling climate change are both integrated into development co-operation policy. Only 57% of climate-related bilateral aid implemented between 2018-19 either integrated or targeted gender equality. There is significant scope to boost gender mainstreaming in development co-operation programmes.

Third, while promoting the transition to greener economies, governments should invest more in skills-training, and more generally in easing access to quality jobs and broad-based social safety nets, combining income assistance during transitions with incentives for learning and access to work.

Dear Friends,

Overcoming gender inequality is a cornerstone of climate resilient development. Improvements in this sector may have far-reaching benefits for adaptation and mitigation.
Together, we can make the Gender-Environment Nexus a force for transforming our economies and our societies to be more resilient, inclusive and sustainable.

Thank you.


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