Mainstreaming gender and inclusion into climate action

7 June 2021

The Covid-19 pandemic one year on: why building back more sustainably is more important than ever1.

The Covid-19 pandemic has fuelled an unprecedented global crisis, deepening already existing inequalities – with women and the most vulnerable bearing the brunt of its effects. Covid has also had severe impacts on most Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), some of which it is still too early to measure and presents obstacles –

especially to the achievement of SDG5 on gender equality and SDG10 on reducing inequalities. The interdependent implications among the various goals of the 2030 agenda have become more evident than ever.

Yet – despite the challenges ahead – this also presents us with a unique opportunity to have a role in building more equal, inclusive, and sustainable economies that are more resilient. We can do this by refraining from focusing solely on short-term measures to address the symptoms created by the pandemic, but rather supporting lasting climate transitions combining a focus on gender equality and social inclusion.

From 2021-2025, the UK will aim to increase the proportion of climate finance that is gender responsive, shifting towards empowerment (strengthening knowledge and access to resources) and transformation (changing power relations and tackling discrimination). UK PACT will support this aim by encouraging a different “business as usual” through actions and projects across Latin America, Asia and Africa, whilst underpinning our approach and all interventions with an ambitious commitment to Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI).

Climate change isn’t GESI neutral – and neither are our actions

The link between gender and climate is not a new topic. It has been discussed for over a decade, since the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) first identified the ways climate change impacts women and men differently. Women and girls in developing countries are often more vulnerable than men and boys to the impacts of climate change and have less opportunity to effect change due to pre-existing gender inequalities regarding political leadership, access to information and resources, and mobility and voice.

The solutions to climate change therefore cannot be gender blind and must include deliberate action. The process of gender mainstreaming will see the systematic consideration of the differences between the conditions, situations, and needs of women and men, and the integration of gender equality concerns into programme design.

Similarly, the poorest and most vulnerable, who have contributed the least to the causes of the problem, are already the worst impacted by climate change and remain the most vulnerable to climate impacts. Research suggests that climate change causes disadvantaged groups to suffer disproportionately from its adverse effects, resulting in greater subsequent inequality.2

Addressing climate transitions is also an issue of justice. Much has been done to raise awareness around these topics, but gender and inclusion have mostly been addressed separately, and treated as being siloed.3 It is still rare to see an intersectional analysis being applied systematically, with most tools and research referring either 1) uniquely to gender impacts of climate change, mostly handled in a men-versus-women dichotomy and with little or no attention paid to power and social and political relations, or 2) social effects of climate change, drawing inferences regarding inequality but not quite focusing on it. 4

We need a coordinated and holistic approach if we are to have an impact. There is an urgent need to ensure that these considerations are meaningfully embedded into ways of working and into the ways climate adaptation and mitigation are understood and delivered. Equitable development can only be achieved if the inequalities leading to this disproportionate impact are identified, challenged, and overcome. This requires an approach that recognises that characteristics such as gender, race, class, and physical ability create overlapping and interdependent vulnerabilities in the face of climate change.


 “There are no magical dates for saving the world”

- Greta Thunberg

We must act now and ensure that the process of tackling climate change doesn’t leave anyone behind. Our climate transition interventions should be designed and implemented with these vulnerabilities – and the strength and value all people add – kept firmly in mind.

UK PACT’s GESI guidance is in line with our ambition to support all our grantees to consider GESI across all of their actions. It is also a useful resource for anyone working to accelerate climate transitions and to deliver interventions that integrate GESI principles.5

Applying GESI guidance into climate projects

  1. Adopt a GESI-responsive empowering approach to everything you do.

UK PACT’s ambition is to go beyond addressing basic needs and vulnerabilities, aiming to be empowering (building capabilities and opportunities for women and marginalised groups), and to support transformational change where possible.6

  1. Understand different needs and impacts in the specific context of your project(s).

Groups at a disadvantage in the context of a project should be given space and voice. Their insights and experiences are critical if we are to find the right solutions to the climate crisis, ensuring that we recognise their differential needs. When designing your approach and planning your actions, you should always include a GESI-sensitive assessment. Knowing your audience will allow you to design more effective and more sustainable outcomes, mirroring the diverse and inclusive needs with a targeted and inclusive approach and response.

  1. Identify specific entry points into each and every action.

No matter how “removed” or “technical” a project or an intervention can appear, there are always opportunities to ensure that differential needs and impacts are considered and to find an entry point that will allow you to mainstream GESI considerations. Knowing your audience and what matters to them will unlock the potential to broaden the scope of your message, amplifying the overall effect.

  1. Ensure meaningful participation and representation.

Do not underestimate the power of representation and visibility of marginalised groups. Support them and ensure their voices are heard. Create a platform to amplify their views, ensuring they have a seat at the table when decisions are made. Begin with concrete actions such as ensuring diversity and representation within your own teams, the speakers that are selected for an event, or the participants in training sessions.

  1. Bring GESI as a topic to every discussion.

Ensure GESI implications are consistently discussed and brought up as a standing point to all of your meetings, both internally and with stakeholders. This will ensure legitimacy and that GESI is not brought in as a tick box exercise, but as a key component to be analysed and discussed.

Act today

Support a paradigm shift that puts the agency of women and marginalised groups at the centre of climate transitions. Click here to discover the UK PACT GESI Ambition and click here to download GESI Guidance.


About the author: Valentina Girotto serves as the GESI Lead for the UK PACT Green Recovery Challenge Fund. Over the past ten years, she has delivered and designed complex ODA projects and embedded GESI considerations, including finding entry points and developing innovative approaches to include women and youth, adopting a human-centred design lens, and opening dialogue between stakeholders who normally operate within separate sectors.


The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own personal views, not an official position of UK PACT.