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G20 and climate resilience: Time to act for a safer future

by Sven Harmeling and Camilla Schramek | CARE International
Wednesday, 5 July 2017 16:26 GMT

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

To ensure a climate resilient future, the G20 must commit to increasing the protection of women and girls

A new report by CARE International - G20 and Climate Change: time to lead for a safer future - shows that each of the G20 countries has significant work to do to effectively tackle climate change.

The G20 of course have a key role to play and need to do much more in shifting the world towards a cleaner, near-zero emission pathway as soon as possible. This is essential to bend the emissions curve before 2020 and to reduce emissions quickly enough to keep the world within the 1.5 degrees limit which is such an essential component of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Reducing the risk driver climate change is also an important component of a comprehensive resilience approach. Developed countries have a particular responsibility in that context.

G20, climate resilience and adaptation

However, it is also worth looking into the G20 countries’ approaches to tackling and preparing for climate change impacts.

For example, according to the ND GAIN index, which analyses countries’ readiness and vulnerability to climate change impacts, the five most vulnerable G20 countries are India, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and Argentina.

However, their level of readiness differs along the different categories applied, such as economic and social readiness and governance. Of course, there are many poorer countries ranked much more vulnerable and less ready.

Many G20 countries undertake significant investments in either building new or updating existing infrastructure. The steep increase in natural disasters in G20 countries in the last decades, and the scientific projections for the future (including slow-onset risks such as sea-level rise), make it evident that G20 countries must adapt to climate change and develop close to zero-carbon infrastructure.

Bringing investments in line with the need to build climate resilience (and radically reduce emissions) is reflected in the goals of the Paris Agreement. Many G20 countries have already developed comprehensive national climate change adaptation strategies.

Climate change is a major source of injustice as it disproportionately affects the people who are the least responsible for its causes and who have the least capacity to adapt. In CARE’s experience, climate resilience requires locally determined actions that consider the interests and different vulnerabilities of the community and have the flexibility to respond to the impacts of climate change as they change over time.

It is essential that G20 countries work to tailor climate information services and adaptation activities to the needs, schedules, cultural contexts and interests of vulnerable groups; these groups are often marginalized because they are less resourced and their voices unheard in major decision-making processes affecting their lives.

Climate change and gender equality: more work ahead

In many countries, there tends to be a disparity between sexes: women’s roles are often carers and providers of food and water, and they have a lack of access to resources and decision-making power, making them particularly at risk.

All G20 countries have committed to promote gender equality through adopting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Meaningful climate action needs to tackle gender inequality and contribute to promoting, respecting and fulfilling all human rights. Women must play a critical role in addressing climate change, and barriers to unequal engagement and opportunities be overcome, through collaborative efforts of men and women.

CARE’s report looks at two existing gender equality indices and how G20 perform there. In both the UNDP Gender Equality Index and the World Economic Forum Gender Gap Index, there are no G20 countries among the top five most gender equal. And for the WEF index, none of the G20 countries are in the top 10.

With regard to the countries’ Nationally Determined Contributions – which outline each country’s contribution to the Paris Agreement - only Mexico devotes a specific section on gender and climate change, with Brazil, India and Indonesia at least mentioning gender. The other G20 countries fail to address gender in their NDCs. Thus, there is definitely more work ahead.

Key actions G20 could take 

The G20 countries, at the upcoming summit on July 7 and 8, must send a strong signal that the leaders have understood the severity of the climate crisis and the opportunities of responding urgently and strongly.

To ensure a climate resilient future, the G20 must commit to increasing the protection of the poor and vulnerable, in particular women and girls, against climate risks, in their own borders and through cooperation.

This should include proactive adaptation, pro-poor insurance approaches and investing in social protection systems in vulnerable developing countries. In particular developed countries within the G20 need to significantly ramp up adaptation finance to poor countries by 2020, as well as providing additional finance to address loss and damage, when people experience climate impacts beyond what they can adapt to.

The cooperation with other countries, in particular with the V20/Climate Vulnerable Forum and Africa should advance climate resilience in all actions it takes, including infrastructure investments.

G20 countries should also commit to fully promoting gender equality and human rights in all climate action. G20 countries should promise to regularly exchange experience and report on progress achieved in this regard (including in relation to the NDCs). They should also promise to support the work on a strong gender action plan under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.

Sven Harmeling is advocacy coordinator and Camilla Schramek is communications officer for climate change at CARE International