Keynote Speech: 6th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum Session on Gender-Responsive Approaches for Adaptation

October 18, 2018

Keynote Speech of Senator Loren Legarda
6th Asia Pacific Climate Change Adaptation Forum
Session on Gender-Responsive Approaches for Adaptation
18 October 2018 | Asian Development Bank, Mandaluyong City

Foremost, I wish to thank the Stockholm Environment Institute for leading this session, along with the Climate Change Commission and the Asian Development Bank, and for helping ensure that the rest of the sessions are infused with a gender perspective.

I just came from a successful gathering of global leaders pushing to accelerate adaptation. The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA), jointly led by former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Bill Gates, and World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva, was launched last October 16, several days after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C. The GCA acknowledges that adaptation is as crucial as mitigation especially for vulnerable and poor countries. Thus, our resolve is to push for bolder solutions to become more resilient to climate-related threats.

The GCA has identified seven action tracks to accelerate adaptation—first is achieving climate-resilient agriculture, food and rural livelihood security; second, financing adaptation; third, building climate resilience into global supply chains; fourth, investing in climate-resilient infrastructure; fifth, building urban resilience; sixth, investing in climate-resilient social protection; and finally, scaling up nature-based solutions for adaptation.

Faced with the reality that we are in a race against time to reach our goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C, the Commission realizes the urgency to deliver on the expectations of the vulnerable and the poor, not only to become resilient amid climate impacts but also to transition justly our brown economies to green economies and to make all realize the economic and social benefits the pursuit of low carbon development brings to our peoples.

The convergence of ideas, ongoing initiatives and best practices from Commission members and stakeholders will be translated into tangible, actionable targets that will be part of the GCA Report that we will submit at the UN Climate Summit in 2019. It is timely that we are having this forum now because as Asia-Pacific is a natural hazard-prone region, the outcomes of this conference could provide valuable inputs to the Report.

This session on gender-responsive adaptation approaches is particularly important because there needs to be a scaled up approach in addressing the vulnerability of women to climate change impacts.

Integrating gender equality across all aspects of climate action is fundamental not only because women and men are differently affected by the impacts of climate change, but also because of the role of women as holders of valuable knowledge and skills and as a powerful force driving climate action and ambition.

Climate impacts exacerbate already existing gender inequalities in relation to access to resources and opportunities, discrimination, threats to health, loss of livelihood, food insecurity, displacement, forced migration, poverty, human trafficking, gender-based violence and harassment.

In particular to this session, we look into the link between climate change and human mobility.

The Fifth Assessment Report of the IPCC confirms that climate change will increase displacement of people.

From 2008 to 2015, an average of 26.4 million people per year have been displaced from their homes by disasters brought by natural hazards – equivalent to one person being displaced every second[1].

Long-term environmental changes, such as increasing temperatures, sea-level rise, coastal erosion, desertification, and loss of agricultural productivity are projected to increase the number of displaced persons further and pose a significant impact on migration flows.

An estimated 13.6 million Filipinos living in coastal communities in the Philippines remain at risk of sea level rise, observed to be three times higher than the global average of 19 centimeters since 1901.

In the Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and the Caribbean, 2.2 million people will have to leave their homes due to sea level rise[2].

IPCC further reveals that without adaptation investments on all coasts, a sea-level rise of only 0.5 meters could cause the displacement of 72 million people. A sea level rise of two meters could cause 187 million, or 2.4% of the world’s population, mostly in Asia, to be displaced.

Populations that lack the resources for planned migration as well as social protection mechanisms face higher risks, particularly in low-income developing countries[3].

The Global Gender and Climate Alliance, in its 2016 report, examined how vulnerability to climate change and climate adaptation decisions vary by gender[4]. The report reveals the following:

  • “In Bangladesh, crop failure and flooding disproportionately increase the rate of migration by women.

  • “In Pakistan, extreme heat increases the likelihood of migrating for both men and women, but women are less likely than men to move long distances especially in view of cultural norms and biases that constrain women’s mobility.

  • “In Nepal, men’s likelihood of migrating is affected by firewood availability, and women’s likelihood of migrating is affected by the availability of fodder, suggesting that the impacts of climate shocks on specific gendered livelihood activities influences the propensity to migrate or stay behind.

  • “The migration of men may adversely impact the ability of women who stay behind to adapt to climate change. Women often face increased workloads at home to make up for the loss of labor provided by out-migrated male relatives. Moreover, the lack of capital, weak access to labor, and competition over resources like irrigation water,  presents even greater burden if land is degraded due to climate change-related impacts, making it challenging for women to earn income and benefit from their efforts at farming.”

We must also consider the fact that, in times of disaster and economic stress, women are the primary caregivers. They carry out much of the household workload after a disaster.

Women also have distinct nutritional and healthcare needs that make coping with disasters tougher and harsher. In the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013 in the Philippines, an estimated 250,000 pregnant women had no access to maternal health services[5].

We need to address underlying inequalities and give women a strong voice in the design and implementation of climate actions to help build community resilience and lead to sustainable outcomes. However, this is not to say that we should leave men off the hook. It is important that both women and men equally build the resilience of their communities and households.

We must recognize what women are doing to build the resilience of their communities, support and learn from them.

We can take inspiration from the work of Swayam Shikshan Prayog (SSP) in India. For over 20 years, it has been empowering women at the grassroots in their new roles as farmers, entrepreneurs, community leaders, and change-makers. Women are taught crops and livelihoods diversification, water harvesting, and afforestation. To date, 120,000 empowered women have been given access to skills training, financial and digital literacy, technology and marketing platforms, affecting the lives of 5 million people in low-income and underserved communities.

The Philippines is proud of similar initiatives at the grassroots level. A group of women farmers in Montalban, Rizal have been practicing agroforestry to adapt to the prolonged wet season[6]. A group of women fisherfolk in Hinatuan, Surigao del Sur reforested over a hundred hectares of mangrove areas to protect their settlements from storm surges and secure an additional source of food for their families[7].

I am certain that behind the success of model local governments that have shared their experiences yesterday such as Del Carmen in Surigao, Sorsogon City, and Dumangas in Iloilo,  are thousands of women actively involved in community leadership and decision-making.

The Alliance of Women Environmentalists of Sitio Seguim, a group of women who are mostly farmers’ wives in the Province of Nueva Ecija, Philippines, has been tapped by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for its Forestland Management Project, which aims to strengthen forestland management in the identified critical river basins in the Philippines.[8]

Through the FMP, the members of the Alliance have been engaged with capacity building activities on plantation and nursery establishment, organizational and conflict management, and simple bookkeeping. The partnership has not only allowed them to better manage forest resources at the Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed Forest Reserve but also increased their power and access to information and strengthened their decision-making process in their respective families.

In view of all these heroic adaptation efforts by women where their time and labor are being harnessed, let us be watchful and vigilant that men and other community members should equally get involved in household care work, as this too takes a lot of the women’s time and physical energy. This will ensure that women’s adaptation efforts do not add to their already long list of caring roles and cause them more unequal burdens. We are conscious that adaptation efforts are taking place in unequal power contexts, and we should ensure that climate change adaptation does not exacerbate already existing gender inequalities but instead find the best win-win opportunities to transform them.

In order to advance gender mainstreaming in adaptation, and prevent and mitigate displacement in the context of climate change, we must:

  • First, ensure that policies are in place. The Philippine Climate Change Act of 2009, which I principally authored and sponsored, mandates the identification of differential impacts of climate change on men, women and children and provision of educational and training programs especially for women in rural areas. In every municipality and province in the Philippines, we have an Employment and Services Unit. These Units should be harnessed and capacitated to respond to displacements especially in climate change and disaster contexts.

  • Second, address the data and analysis gaps on gender and climate change in national and local contexts to inform governments’ planning and budgeting decisions, and effectively assess the impact of interventions.

  • Third, allocate financial resources for gender-responsive adaptation programs, as well as strengthen gender-responsive social protection measures as short term responses to improve conditions of displaced people. We must move from a project-based effort towards a holistic programmatic approach to sustain initiatives for more long-term gender-equal sustainable livelihoods.

  • Fourth, have a knowledge-sharing platform so countries will continue to learn from each other, even after this Forum.

We need to act with extreme urgency to address climate impacts to our communities.

We must implement gender-responsive adaptation strategies that support families to remain where they live. If this is not viable due to increased risks, then we should find socially protective ways to ensure that their mobility and eventual resettlement leads to gender-equal sustainable livelihoods and futures.

Finally, we must acknowledge the capacity of women to get involved, decide, take action, and lead. To harness the strength of women in reducing social vulnerability and increasing local capacity is to ensure the sustainability, inclusivity and resilience of local and national development pursuits.

In closing, allow me to share the words of the female co-chair of the Global Commission on Adaptation, Kristalina Georgieva, who said that, “Adaptation is about fairness to poor countries, communities and people who have done very little or none to cause climate change but are the victims of its consequences.”

In the same context, when we address gender inequalities and empower women to ensure that they are able to adapt to climate impacts, we do not only prevent them from becoming victims of disasters, but we also allow them to be champions of resilience from the grassroots to the global stage.

Thank you.

[1] Global Estimates 2015: People displaced by disasters. Internal Displacement Monitoring Office.

[2] How does climate change affect human mobility? GIZ Info Sheet. 2017.

[3] IPCC Fifth Assessment Report 2014. Summary for Policymakers (page 16)

[4] Gender and Climate Change. Global Gender and Climate Alliance. 2016. (page 22)

[5] UN FPA 2013 Annual Report.

[6] Case Study: Gender and Climate Finance (Amihan)

[7] Fisherfolk’s Ways of Claiming Food Sovereignty Through Access and Control of Coastal Resources.

[8] How Empowering Women Cultivates Holistic, Stronger Forestland Management