Topic outline

  • 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 ).

    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.

  • Gender Sensitive Adaptation: different levels of engagement

    Adaptation has become the buss word in climate change negotiations and is an ever more pressing need for countries around the world. The UNFCCC’s focus on system rather than people ignores gendered nature of climate change and the gendered effects of adaptation measures. When working different actors – government agencies or local communities – we encounter different levels of gender awareness, perceptions and experiences. This requires different approaches and tools. What works in one context may not be applicable or useful in another.

    You are working in adaptation and would like to raise awareness of the importance of gender in adaptation regarding:

    a)      local authorities/government

    b)      local NGOs

    c)      local communities?

  • Methods for gender-sensitive adaptation

    The call for “gender-sensitivity” in adaptation is widely recognised by donors and practitioners around the world, but what are the practical implications? What kind of approach is most suitable? Depending on the level of intervention - national adaptation policies, local government measures or community based projects – different methods will apply.

    For mainstreaming gender into National Adaptation Plans see for example the guidelines developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), available online:

    Our local partner in Bangladesh, Centre for Global Change, has in collaboration with Care International published a book on reducing vulnerability to climate change through community based adaptation, with a specific chapter on gender.

  • Policy Design

    Adaptation policies: through a gender lens

    Most developing countries have drawn up a set of policies to address climate change and adaptation needs and submitted National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) to the UNFCCC. They provide the backdrop in which adaptation practitioners operate and are an indication of the institutional support gender-sensitive adaptation projects can have. How gender-responsive are such policies?

    Nathalie Holvoet and Liesbeth Inberg, 2013 “How gender-sensitive are the National Adaptation Programmes of Action (NAPAs) of Sub- Saharan African countries? A gender-scan of 31 NAPAs” (

    Beyond NAPAs and NAPs countries have devised their own policies. Below are two examples; a review of “Bangladesh Climate Change Strategies and Action Plan” (2009) from a gender perspective and a gender review of South Africa’s “National Climate Change Response Policy”.

  • Project Design

    Communities around the world experience the different effects of climate change: flooding and changes in rainfall patterns affects agricultural production and changing temperatures can lead to the spread of diseases. People have always adapted to the changing natural conditions, but adaptation strategies are now concertedly developed, deliberately designed and actively implemented. These projects need to ensure consistency with national strategies. How can we make sure this occurs according to local needs, in a participatory manner and – most importantly - with gender equality at its heart?

    The case of Community Based Adaptation (CBA)

    CBA offers a bottom-up, participatory path to climate change adaptation with the aim of enabling local communities to build on and improve on their existing adaptive capacities. There are some toolkits available on CBA projects design, for example CARE International:  “Community-Based Adaptation Toolkit” (

    Currently our partners the Centre for Global Change and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community are developing toolkits for gender-sensitive adaptation projects, which will be available by the end of August.

    Our partner in Bangladesh has published a book on CBA with a specific chapter in gender issues: Sharmind Neelormi “Gender Issues in Adaptation”.

  • Project Implementation

    With the right kind of policy framework and project design the next crucial step is in the implementation phase. How can we make sure that the implementation of adaptation projects is done in a gender-sensitive manner? Even if we have paid adequate attention to the different needs of men and women, collected sex-aggregated data, made sure both men and women are able to participate the project, activities can encounter unexpected problems.

  • Monitoring (MRV)

    In order to access funds and demonstrate that adaptation efforts achieve socially and environmentally sound development needs, adaptation activities have be properly monitored and evaluated. There is no agreed upon formula, we can only try and see what will work.

  • Global Policy Process

    At the global level adaptation has been recognised as central to addressing climate change. With the Marrakech Accord in 2001 the need for adaptation was recognised, mandating the NAPAs as a mechanism for Least Developed Countries to identify and report on their most immediate and urgent adaptation needs to the UNFCCC. Since 2010 and the Cancun Adaptation Framework NAPs have replaced NAPAs; they are meant to formulate medium and long term adaptation needs and develop strategies to address these (see ). With the Gender Decision taken in Doha (see the space for pushing gender in other thematic arenas has opened. It is important to link our work done on the local and national ground to the global level.

    Who will pay the price?

    Adaptation requires considerable sums of money. UNDP estimates an annual sum of USD $86 billion, while others pledge for even higher numbers. Whatever the figure may be, climate finance finance has become of of the major issues in the international arena with the debate over the structure, design and monetary backbone of the Green Climate Fund. What is important to consider for practicioners working at the grassroots level regarding funding for adaptation projects?