Introduction: adaptation to climate change - gender matters!
With the inevitable rise in global temperatures in the next few decades (see the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report) countries and communities around the world will have to adapt to climatic changes. Adaptation has been recognised as an inevitable and urgent need, especially for the Least Developed Countries, which are hit hardest by global warming. Adaptation is the “adjustments in ecological, social, or economic systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli and their effects or impacts. It refers to changes in processes, practices, and structures to moderate potential damages or to benefit from opportunities associated with climate change” (UNFCCC http://unfccc.int/focus/adaptation/items/6999.php ).
While adaptation is a necessity, for communities already living at the brink of human capacity adaptation may not be an option. For this reason, mitigation remains an essential component in responding to climate change.
Climate change affects men and women differently due to their different social roles within a society, the gendered division of labour and access to and participation in the political and economic sphere. These unequal relations between men and women, or gender inequalities, are also evident in adaptation as the capacity to adapt is heavily dependent on income and wealth, access to information and technology and power in decision making.
Addressing the persistent inequalities between men and women and responding effectively to the climate crisis requires taking gender equality at the heart of the design and implementation of climate policies and adaptation projects. Keeping in mind that women are not merely helpless victims, but can be powerful agents for change.
Successful adaptation will have to be context sensitive, participatory and gender-responsive.