What will it take for policymakers to act on climate change?

by Rachel Harris,WEDO
Monday, 13 May 2013 10:58 GMT

Saunders Island and Wolstenholme Fjord with Kap Atholl in the background is shown in this picture taken during an Operation IceBridge survey flight in April 2013. REUTERS/Michael Studinger/NASA/Handout

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* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

2012's severe weather has left the world wondering how extreme climate change impacts will have to be in order for policy and decision makers to act

A year filled with superstorms, devastating floods and extreme droughts, 2012 left many people around the world wondering how extreme climate change impacts will have to be in order for policy and decision makers to make firm commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and finance measures to increase resilience to climate change. This year brings with it uncertainty of what climatic phenomena is to come but also opportunity to aggressively address climate change mitigation and adaptation policies, programs and practices.

In the international policy world, the bodies of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) have experienced many changes [see WEDO’s report from COP18 for more information]. Ad-hoc working groups on the Kyoto Protocol (KP) and Long-term Cooperative Action (LCA) have closed, yielding a second—albeit poorly attended—commitment period of the KP as well as efforts to implement the mechanisms (technology and finance), frameworks (adaptation), work programmes (loss and damage, finance, adaptation, education) and forums (capacity building, response measures) decided by parties in the LCA. Parties of the UNFCCC are now negotiating a new agreement on climate change under the Ad-hoc Working Group of the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP); this agreement is to be decided in 2015 and put into force by 2020. However, at WEDO, we continue to question how these, largely political, changes will impact the lives of women, men and children around the world.

Last week marked the start of the climate negotiations in 2013, and the second session of the ADP. Currently, the approach of the ADP is to understand the views of Parties and Observers on a new climate agreement across two workstreams, one focused on the vision shared among Parties for a new agreement on climate change and the second on enhancing ambition in climate change, especially for mitigation, but also for adaptation, technology, finance and capacity building.

During this meeting, the Women and Gender Constituency, of which WEDO is a founding member, stated that despite women’s participation and gender equality being addressed in several thematic areas of the climate change negotiations, it has been done in an ad hoc manner…therefore hindering the translation of gender sensitive language into actual implementation (paraphrased). The 18th Conference of Parties adopted a decision on gender balance, enhancing a previous decision, by making it a goal toward achieving gender-sensitive climate policy. The ADP presents an opportunity to go beyond gender balance in the climate change negotiations by taking a systematic approach to addressing gender and social equality as central to the 2015 agreement. Such centrality should inspire innovation, which so far has not been sparked in the international climate change negotiations.

Therefore, in 2013, WEDO is not only monitoring the implementation of the various mechanisms, frameworks, work programmes and forums but also putting a high emphasis and focus on the ADP negotiations in an effort to promote a transformative agreement that inspires a gender-sensitive and socially central paradigm shift in our collective approach to the ever-dynamic climate change phenomenon.

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