Global Forum on Environment : Mainstreaming Gender and Empowering Women for Environmental Sustainability


Remarks by Angel Gurría

OECD Secretary-General

5 March 2020 - Paris, France

(As prepared for delivery)



Dear Excellencies, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Welcome to the OECD’s 2020 Global Forum on Environment, which will focus specifically on the gender-environment nexus and measures to empower women for environmental sustainability. Today’s Forum sits proudly alongside other gender events in the OECD’s March on Gender month.

It is also timely: 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, a commitment to fostering women’s active participation in all spheres of public and private life by ensuring they have a full and equal share in economic, social, cultural and political decision-making.

It is an honour for me to open today’s event with Ambassador Staur, a champion of gender equality and youth empowerment. Thanks to all of you for joining us today either in person or remotely, in light of the growing travel restrictions related to the coronavirus.


The environmental crisis calls for a gender-specific action plan

The global environmental crisis has reached a tipping point. Despite some encouraging developments in recent months – such as the flattening of carbon emissions in the energy sector last year, and the European Green Deal – the world does not have a credible plan to deliver net zero emissions by 2050, stop biodiversity loss, and repair the damage we’ve caused to our oceans.

Some of the solutions to tackle these challenges are well known. For years, the OECD has urged governments to put a meaningful price on carbon; to phase out state support for fossil fuels; to stop deforestation; and to promote more sustainable patterns of consumption.

But there are other aspects that merit further research and more systematic data collection. This includes the differential impact of the environmental crisis on women and men, and women’s capacity to drive sustainable consumption and production practices – the gender-environment nexus.

Across the world, women are disproportionately affected by the environmental crisis. Women in developing countries spend hours collecting wood for cooking and heating, and suffer the most from indoor air pollution, which causes 4 million deaths a year. In OECD countries, women are more vulnerable to heat waves and urban pollution – especially old women and pregnant women – while transport design often overlooks the needs of women carrying the triple burden of childcare, breadwinning and elderly care.

Women have the potential to be powerful agents of change for the environment. Look at the efforts of female PMs in countries like Iceland, Finland and New Zealand, who are driving a push for environmental transformation and well-being centred policies. Look at Greta Thunberg!

This means we need to put the gender-environment nexus squarely on our radar if we are to have any hope of achieving sustainable, inclusive development and delivering on the 2030 Agenda.


The gender-environment nexus presents a huge measurement challenge

Are we doing it? As we say, you cannot manage what you cannot measure. The 2030 Agenda has 17 SDGs, 169 targets, and 246 indicators that comprise the UN Global Indicator Framework. The new OECD study, Applying a Gender Lens on the SDGs’ Targets, classifies 104 of these indicators as explicitly gender-related.

But, digging a little deeper, we see that there are very few gender-related indicators pertaining to the environment. What’s more, less than half of the respondents to a recent OECD Environment Policy Committee (EPOC) survey reported that they consider gender aspects in their environmental policymaking, and only a handful do so systematically. We must do better!


Mainstreaming gender into environmental policies requires a number of key actions 

It remains crucial to mainstream gender into our environmental policies. Let me outline three key actions.

  • First, we need to ensure that budgeting and fiscal policies are aligned with our efforts to achieve gender equality as well as climate and other environmental goals.

  • Second, the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity management across the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors – especially in developing countries – requires greater consideration of women’s issues.

  • Third, we should capitalise on women’s higher receptivity to the circular economy. Despite a large body of evidence on gender differences regarding consumer attitudes to ecolabels and purchase patterns (e.g. fashion, cosmetics), circular economy strategies rarely include a gender angle. Moreover, a better understanding and gender focused-policies to tackle the impact of hazardous chemicals and pollution on women should also be developed.


Before I conclude, let me stress that mainstreaming gender in environmental policies is only part of the policy response needed to achieve the SDGs. We also need to think about development co-operation, particularly ODA.

The most recently published analysis of ODA figures show an increase in bilateral aid focusing on gender equality and women’s empowerment – reaching 38% for 2016-2017, the highest figure yet. In addition, more than 60% of aid for some sectors such as agriculture and rural development are gender-conscious. While this is encouraging, aid to some key sectors such as energy and urban development remains gender-blind, with less than 20% of aid taking gender equality and women’s empowerment into consideration. We have more work to do!


Ladies and Gentlemen:

To tackle environmental risks and maximise women’s contributions to environmental sustainability, we need to enable women to participate fully and equally in society and the economy.

While some progress has been made, ten years away from 2030, women remain disproportionally affected by energy poverty, unsustainable production, inadequate access to water and sanitation and environmental degradation. Young women remain under-represented in STEM fields, reducing the value that women can bring to the green economy as inventors and workers. In addition, women are all ages remain much more likely than men to be victims of violence in their own home. Last month’s High Level Conference on Ending Violence Against Women shone the spotlight on intimate partner violence, one of the most persistent and devastating human rights violations in the world.

Over the last decade, the OECD has been stepping up its efforts to promote gender equality, notably through the OECD Recommendation on Gender Equality. Today is our opportunity to build on this foundation. As we roll up our sleeves to fight the global environmental crisis and protect out planet, let’s make sure women’s voices are heard by mainstreaming gender into environmental policies and empowering women to engage in environmental policymaking and management.

I wish you rich and productive discussions today. Thank you.


 See also:

OECD work on Environment


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