Environmental policies fail to consider gender
Protection of nature and biodiversity, efficient resource use, and management of materials and products to create a circular economy are key elements of environmental policy. Appropriate policies to adapt and mitigate climate change are reflected in policies at all levels in the EU. However, climate change and environment policies affect people differently, depending on various intersecting factors, including gender, age, income, education, ethnicity and religion. Those most vulnerable to the consequences of climate change often tend to be women. This is due partly to persistent societal inequalities, whereby women have fewer resources than men to protect against the impacts of climate change.
Despite gender differences in environmental behaviours and attitudes, and growing evidence of the gendered impacts of climate change, EU climate change policy has remained largely gender blind. Current EU policies on climate change are certainly relevant to gender, especially within the context of the global debate on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); climate action and gender equality are both key SDGs.
However, the current environment action programme, guiding EU environmental policy until 2020, does not incorporate a gender perspective, and neither does the EU energy policy. Likewise, the 2015 Energy Union strategy and the 2016 clean energy for all Europeans policy framework (which aim to facilitate the transition towards clean and efficient energy in Europe) do not incorporate a gender perspective. Positively, there have been stronger attempts by the EU to promote gender analysis within environmental research, as part of the Horizon 2020 programme.
Some progress has been registered in the use of gender impact assessments on environmental policies. For example, an impact assessment of the Environmental Goods Agreement — a key development in environmental policy, with the potential to create millions of jobs, particularly in the renewable energy sector — was carried out in 2016 to explore its potential effects on gender equality. Relatedly, a 2015 European Parliament resolution called for the Commission to collect sex-disaggregated data to conduct gender impact assessments in the areas of climate, environment and energy policy.
At national level, the draft national energy and climate plans (NECPs) submitted by the EU Member States to the European Commission rarely take a gendered perspective, with few positive examples. Finland has organised an open workshop on gender effects of the climate change plans. Spain acknowledges that a higher proportion of women in the renewable energy sector is necessary. The need for more sex-disaggregated data is reflected in the NECPs of Croatia, Latvia, Romania, Slovenia and Finland.
In addition to the fragmented mainstreaming of gender into environmental policies, women continue to be underrepresented in decision-making bodies that deal with such policies. That further hinders progress. In 2018, women accounted for only a fifth (21.6 %) of all government ministers dealing with environment, climate change, energy and transport in EU Member States, compared with 30.2 % of all ministers.
Source: EIGE / Beijing + 25: the fifth review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in the EU Member States | Area K — Women and the environment: climate change is gendered