Topic outline

  • Low Carbon Development - from a Gender Perspective

    In recent years the term and concept Low Carbon Development (LCD) has entered the development lexicon. It is supposed to set countries on low carbon trajectory paths. Definitions of what constitutes LCD vary, yet what the various actors – NGOs, development agencies, business and governmental bodies – share is their complete lack of gender awareness. Hardly any publication or debate mentions gender.

    We would like to fill this void and initiate a discussion on what gender sensitive low carbon development would look like. Gotelind Alber has drafted a paper suggesting criteria for gender sensitive LCD. The paper is now open for discussion.

    Structure of this module

    Firstly we would like to discuss the criteria for gender sensitive Low Carbon Development. These will set out strategies for the kind of overall framework needed. Secondly we will discuss and develop criteria for projects, programmes and policies - what would gender sensitive Low Carbon Development look like when put into practice? Lastly, we will seek to write up a checklist for projects and measures so that they are gender sensitive in their low carbon development objective.

    For those unfamilar with Low Carbon Development, please read Gotelind Alber's full paper. At the end it includes a table indicating what mitigation and Low Carbon Development all entails. You can download the full paper below (PDF) or continue reading in this module, which is organized around Alber's suggested criteria for gender sensitive LCD.

  • Definition

  • Criterion One: Climate first versus Development first - what approach is needed?

    Carbon-intensive development is increasing complexities and can have a disempowering effect on people. LCD strategies need to take social and gender issues fully into consideration from the very start. Sometimes, a distinction is made between a traditional "climate-first" approach and a "development-first" approach, and it is claimed that the concept of LCD takes a "development-first" approach. But is development a purpose in itself or rather a means to achieve welfare for all, or maybe “buen vivir”?

    Development should not only take the material standard of living into account, but also empower people to make informed decisions about their lives. Given the various notions of development, the question is if what we need is a “liveability-first” approach, taking a social and gender perspective. 

    alternate textKiribati, Pacific, picture taken by SPC
  • Criterion Two: Multi-dimensional approach instead of mere co-benefits

    LCD requires a multi-dimensional approach, as opposed to the prevalent one-dimensional perspective focusing on carbon and considering other concerns only as “co-benefits”. Assessments of the effects of LCD policies and measures have to take environmental, social and gender equality benefits into account, such as clean air, biodiversity conservation, health, job creation for women and men, livelihoods and liveable cities for all. Also, potential adverse effects in all these respects have to be analysed.

  • Criterion Three: Growth and redistribution

    LCD has to respect the limits of growth, as we live on a finite planet with limited resources. Economic growth as such does not necessarily lead to improvements of the income and living conditions of the poor and disadvantaged. High-income and already some middle-income countries have exceeded the limits. Improved technologies can provide more room for manoeuvre, but they cannot completely remove these limits. Technologies, including renewable energy installations, are always impacting the environment and the climate.

    In the light of planetary boundaries and the limits of growth and the need to increasing welfare the distribution of resources should form part of a low carbon economy.


    alternate textmouseshadow, flickr
  • Criterion Four: Avoid purely techno-economic approaches

    LCD should not be a pure techno-economic concept; it rather requires holistic solutions, tackling the root causes of carbon economies. Therefore, LCD has to include societal change, such as institutional settings, power relations and social status, cultural values and mindsets. LCD strategies need to be pro-poor, and also address issues such as affluence and changes of life-styles and consumption habits.

    alternate textpicture taken by GenderCC
  • Criterion Five: Avoiding risk technologies

    LCD should avoid risk technologies such as nuclear power and carbon capture and storage. In general, women are more risk aware and risk averse and would therefore, if equally involved in decision-making, prefer low-risk technologies. Thus decisions on the kind of technologies used must take these facts into account and LCD strategies should rather rely on safe technologies that provide co-benefits and improve resilience.

  • Criterion Six: Care Economy

    LCD need to take into account everything that conventional, high carbon economies tend to ignore, including women's labour or a healthy environment. LCD strategies thus need to take account of the care economy, rather than only the conventional economy, paying attention to the link between care work and the environment. The needs and socio-economic situation of care-givers, for the most part women, have to be addressed. Access to clean energy and transport services or the dependence of care workers on natural resources should therefore be prioritised.


    alternate textChinac, picture taken by GenderCC
  • Criterion Seven: Decentralisation of renewable energy supply, bridging urban rural divide

    LCD strategies need to involve changes of physical structure towards urban forms and settlements that accommodate low-carbon energy, transport services and life-styles, as well as addresses questions of social justice and equity. LCD is not only about shutting down or refurbishing large power stations, but rather about decentralised renewable energy supply, energy services using efficient technologies, the interaction between supply and demand, and improved low carbon transport infrastructure.

    alternate textKevin Dooley, flickr
  • Criterion Eight: Multi-level approaches, involving government at different levels

    LCD strategies require multi-level approaches, i.e. they are not only about policies of national governments. The LCD strategies ought to involve regional and local governments as these are in charge of spatial planning, urban development and design, transport, energy, water and sanitation infrastructures, which are decisive for carbon intensity as well as resilience.

    Multi-level approaches and arrangements, providing guidance and incentives to local and regional authorities to contribute to low carbon development are therefore not an add-on, but an essential element of national and international climate policy. Moreover, in many countries, chances for gender balanced decision-making are somewhat better at lower levels than at the national levels, and thus chances to respond to the needs of citizens are higher.

  • Final Discussion