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International climate justice, conflict and gender: scoping study

Scottish Government funded research report with ClimateXChange which concluded in 2022. It identifies areas of opportunity for policy makers to develop a gender responsive approach to international climate justice.


6 Opportunities to strengthen the Scottish Government's work at the nexus of climate change, gender and conflict

The Scottish Government has already established itself as a progressive actor in international climate policy, demonstrated inter alia by its commitment to fund loss and damage, and the establishment of a stand-alone Climate Justice Fund. The Scottish Government is likewise already supporting women's engagement in international climate decision-making, through its partnership with WEDO and the Glasgow Women's Leadership Statement on Gender Equality and Climate Change. Moreover, the Scottish Government's support to the new Beyond Borders "UNSCR1325 Climate Change Fellowship" shows it making the links in programming between climate, conflict and gender equality.

Building from this strong base, this scoping study identifies a range of priorities and entry points for the Scottish Government to ensure its development strategy more systematically and meaningfully engages with the relationships between climate change, conflict and gender inequality. It applies a "three-level" framework to assess climate policies and programmes, see figure 1.

Figure 1: Levels of action needed to achieve a feminist approach to international climate justice

The framework's emphasis on economic justice is grounded in a widely evidenced understanding that overcoming the interconnected challenges of climate change, conflict and insecurity, and gender inequality demands transforming the existing economic system away from extractivist models of economic growth and unbridled corporate power towards more just, inclusive and sustainable economies and a fairer global economic system. Engaging on climate justice and gender inequality in a manner that recognises their multiple connections with human security, human rights, economic justice and wellbeing could allow the Scottish Government to lead in shaping a feminist approach to international climate justice. The following five "opportunities" address different dimensions of a feminist approach to international climate justice. Table 1 maps them against the levels of analysis highlighted above.

Recognising that there is no climate justice, no peace, and no gender justice without economic justice, the first three opportunities suggest ways by which the Scottish Government might progress a transformation to more just, inclusive and sustainable economies. This dimension - neglected across much international engagement with climate change, conflict and gender - speaks to level three in our framework. The fourth opportunity speaks more to levels one and two: how to ensure all climate justice programming achieves gender justice and equality. The fifth opportunity focuses on how the Scottish Government can continue to learn, including through drawing on the expertise of researchers and practitioners from Scotland and the global south.

1. Centre economic justice in climate justice

Through its commitment to a wellbeing economy and as a founding member of the Wellbeing Economy Governments group[124], the Scottish Government is already showing global leadership on moving towards a human-centred and sustainable economy. Crucially, it recognises that this economic shift is necessary to create a sustainable future. Moreover, as the first global north nation to formally commit funds for loss and damage, it has also brought its commitment to a just economic order into the climate change sphere. This, as outlined above, means the Scottish Government is well-positioned, both in terms of its priorities and expertise, to promote economic justice as a crucial part of climate justice through advocacy and coalition-building both within the UK and in multilateral fora.

To realise the vision of its commitment to economic justice for climate justice internationally and at home, there are various routes through which the Scottish Government could take action.

The Scottish Government could call on the UK Government to take the following actions.

  • Internationally, use the UK's privileged position within the UN, in the G7, G20 and other multinational fora, to progress structural economic reforms at the global level that tackle the root causes of climate change, insecurity and gender inequality. Numerous feminist and environmental justice plans (e.g. Global Green New Deals, the Feminist Green New Deal, COVID-19 recovery plans[125]) advocate the following priorities:
    • an effective global finance mechanism for loss and damage, and more generally, urgent and significant scale-up of grant-based climate finance to support poor and vulnerable countries and communities to adapt to climate change, raised in just ways, consistent with Fair Shares analysis, through mechanisms such as frequent flyer levies, carbon taxes, and debt cancellation;
    • a multilateral legal framework for debt cancellation and workout mechanisms – particularly for those countries worst affected by the climate crisis and for countries that have experienced conflict; and
    • a more just and equitable global tax and investment architecture and trade regime.
  • Take further steps in UK law and policy to progress this structural economic reform agenda. This would include:
    • more robustly constraining corporate power, especially of the extractive and fossil fuel companies headquartered and/or operating in the UK (for example, enforcing a public duty on the extractive and fossil fuel sectors to contribute a "fair share" of the effort to prevent global warming above1.5°C; enforcing a legal duty on all companies to prevent human rights abuses – enforceable also against parent companies; and placing obligations on UK companies operating in the global south to drastically reduce emissions, stop land clearing, deforestation and environmental pollution);
    • committing the UK to increase grant-based climate finance to support poor and vulnerable countries and communities to adapt, informed by a Fair Shares analysis, as above; and
    • raising UK climate finance in just ways, such as by taxing high-emitters through carbon taxes and frequent flyer levies.
  • The Scottish Government could leverage its own influence in multilateral coalitions, such as the Under2 Coalition (of which Scotland is European co-chair) to:
  • champion the duty of high-emitting states to make "reparation" for their contribution to the climate crisis through a global finance mechanism on loss and damage;
  • promote knowledge sharing, policy action and collaborative initiatives on the economic justice dimensions of climate action, such as gender-just climate finance, wellbeing and sustainability; trade and investment; and
  • press other members of the Under2 Coalition to be bold in their actions at home to transition to more just, inclusive and sustainable economies.
  • The Scottish Government could also demonstrate leadership, even within the limits of devolved competencies, by taking action at home to:
    • continue to commit funds for adaptation and loss and damage;
    • use the tax-raising powers it has to support the just transition to more just, inclusive and sustainable economies, at home and globally;
    • ensure the proposed wellbeing and sustainable development bill,[126] has an international dimension, which considers how activities in Scotland impact people in the global south;
    • stop rewarding corporations that fuel the global climate, insecurity and inequalities crises with Scottish public money, through the cessation of business support funding and the development of strong ethical procurement and public pension investment standards; and
    • ensure its own credibility as a leader on climate justice internationally is not undermined by domestic policies that contribute to climate change.

2. Use the Climate Justice Fund and International Development Strategy to support just, inclusive and sustainable feminist economies

The Scottish Government is already strengthening how its feminist commitments are integrated through the CJF and International Development Strategy. However, structural economic dimensions are neglected across gender equality and women, peace and security programming globally. The Scottish Government's leadership in wellbeing economy and expertise in equality and human rights budgeting, combined with its commitment to a feminist approach to foreign policy and track record supporting women's organisations make it an ideal actor to bring feminist economics together with development programming. That is, to champion development programming that supports progress towards feminist, transformative economies.

For the CJF and International Development Fund, this ambition could be pursued by actively seeking such projects, learning from them and sharing this learning with other development actors. Others, such as the Catalan Agency of Development Cooperation, with a shared commitment to "ecofeminist" practices may wish to form a "community of practice". What might such projects look like? Feminist Green New Deal principles identify priorities that could provide objectives for development assistance that supports the social and economic transformation of root causes of climate change and social inequalities. The goal is to scale up and ensure women's participation and leadership in initiatives that model alternatives to extractivist, polluting development. These include:

  • regenerative and restorative land use;
  • community renewable energy projects;
  • socially just and environmentally sustainable food production distribution and consumption;
  • socially just and environmentally sustainable care work; and
  • developing circular economies, increasing recycling and reducing waste.

In parallel, the Scottish Government could support partner country governments to develop more just, inclusive and sustainable economies through the sharing of best practices, drawing on lessons from Scotland's Just Transition and wellbeing economy initiatives. This support would recognise that some of the elements of a wellbeing economy, such as the provision of generous, high-quality public services or the development of sustainable and secure food and energy systems, cannot be achieved through a project approach but require state action. Through such efforts, the CJF and International Development Strategy could become one more of the ways through which the Scottish Government actively shares Scottish approaches and expertise on wellbeing economy, just transition and other economic models for sustainability with partners in the global south.

3. Empower women peacebuilders and environmental defenders to advocate for economic transformation

As mentioned, the Scottish Government is already actively supporting women peacebuilders through Beyond Borders and women climate activists and environmental defenders through WEDO. The newly announcedBeyond Borders "UNSCR1325 Climate Change Fellowship" is a good example of programming that seeks to address the triple nexus of climate/conflict/gender. Steps could be taken to identify the impacts and lessons learned from these programmes and share knowledge around enabling women's leadership across the IDP and CJF. There would also appear to be scope to better connect these programmes with the Scottish Government's actions to implement a feminist approach to foreign policy and promote human rights internationally.

Then, the Scottish Government could build on its aforementioned expertise around the economic dimensions of climate justice to carve a niche in work to empower women peacebuilders and environmental defenders to be advocates also for economic transformation. This might involve:

  • supporting participatory research with communities on climate economics;
  • working with women to build capacities and confidence to engage with economic policymaking;
  • supporting women peacebuilders to take advantage of the "windows of opportunity" sometimes provided by peace processes to influence decisions over the critical areas that can address climate change and insecurity at roots, such as natural resource use and extraction, infrastructure, job creation, foreign investment, and military spending; and
  • advocating to bring local expertise on feminist economics into climate policymaking.

Shaping policy engagement around these intersections – economic systems, women's empowerment, climate change, and articulating a feminist approach to international climate justice could allow the Scottish Government to have a distinctive voice in its nascent feminist approach to foreign policy.

4. Advance gender equality through all Climate Justice Fund and International Development programming

Commitments have already been made in the Scottish Government's Refresh of its International Development Strategy and the Climate Justice Policy to, respectively, advance gender equality and recognise the gendered impacts of climate change on women in developing countries. An earmarked Equalities Funding Stream within the IDF is a strong step forward. The new Equality Principle set forward in the 2021 review of the IDS should mean that all Scottish development and climate justice programming seeks to contribute to gender equality. This policy commitment could be implemented through the following three strategies.

First, requiring all development and CJF partners to demonstrate gender mainstreaming, including the setting of objectives related to gender and monitoring of impacts. Gender mainstreaming is widely recognised as a critical component of effective and equitable development work – not only in programmes targeting women or gender. Key elements include:

  • Gender analysis: e.g., conducting assessments of norms and practices that inform women and girls' risks related to climate-induced disasters; and mapping particularly at-risk or 'invisible' groups of women to develop strategies to support their specific needs related to climate change. This is a critical step to achieve "level 1" of programming that recognises the gender impacts of climate change.
  • Participation: Programme design should be grounded in participatory approaches that can identify, document and understand differences in women's and men's knowledge, their respective vulnerabilities, and their existing capacities for adaptation. Women's meaningful participation and leadership should be promoted through all aspects of programming. Local women's groups and national gender institutions should be considered as participants or as sources of data, information and connection to stakeholders. There should be attention not only to women as beneficiaries but whether women are engaged in project governance and decision-making. This speaks to the "level 2" of programming.
  • Intersectionality: Applying an intersectional understanding of the relationships between gender and climate in both analysis and participation elements, which takes account of the different ways in which women and men from different communities and with different characteristics experience climate change, conflict and inequality. This should include active outreach to marginalised women and girls.
  • Gender expertise: Integrate gender specialists within the programme, including gender specialists from the local area who possess local knowledge. This could include local women activists and NGOs, local councillors and other leaders, educators and scientists.
  • Monitoring and evaluation: with specific attention to the gender and conflict dimensions of the programme, including through a regular review of risks and dedicated indicators. [127]

Second, the Scottish Government applying the OECD DAC Gender Equality Policy Marker[128] could build commitment and transparency around how Scotland's International Development and CJF programmes promote gender equality and women's rights.[129] The Gender Marker is widely used by other development actors, state as well as philanthropies and private sector organisations.

Third, further steps could be taken to support grassroots women's organisations to be able to access Scottish Government funding. The Scottish Government might consider contributing to existing pooled Women's Funds to enable funds to effectively reach grassroots organisations, in a manner supporting principles of feminist financing.

Where programming is in fragile or conflict-affected contexts, it should be designed to be conflict-sensitive as well as gender-responsive.

5. Leverage partnerships at home and abroad and continue to learn

Scotland already holds a dynamic community of researchers, practitioners and other experts working at the intersections of climate policy, Feminist Foreign Policy, peacebuilding and economic justice. Many comment informally that they do this work with no engagement with Scottish Government policymaking or programming. This suggests an untapped resource both to inform policymaking at home and connect with policy and programming abroad.

The Scottish Government might consider a new structured partnership with academics and practitioners working on inter alia Feminist Foreign Policy, women, peace and security, and international gender justice. Academic expertise could be accessed via Scotland's Feminist Politics and International Relations Network, PeaceRep: The Peace and Conflict Resolution Evidence Platform, and the newly emerging Scottish Council on Global Affairs. In parallel, the Scottish Government could support academic partnerships between Scottish researchers and researchers in the global south specifically on feminist climate justice. Regular discussions on policy questions, sessions to share research, and consultations could enrich Scottish Government processes, and build its networks.

Working through these existing communities of expertise and practice offers the Scottish Government opportunities to lead learning. Climate justice is a new field; feminist climate justice only just beginning to be imagined. If feedback loops could be built between programming, new research and Scottish Government policy implementation, across climate justice, Feminist Foreign Policy and economic justice, the Scottish Government would be helping to build a body of valuable knowledge to share with partners in a range of local and multilateral communities.

Table 1: Opportunities to strengthen work at the nexus of climate change, gender and conflict and their impacts
Opportunity Level 1: Addressing gendered impacts of climate change Level 2: Increasing women's participation and leadership Level 3: Transforming economic systems
1. Centre economic justice in climate justice Increased climate finance and a fairer global economic system is a prerequisite for poor countries and communities to be able to address the gendered impacts of climate change Climate finance should fund an increase in women's participation and leadership in climate decision making A fairer economic system can lead to and requires women's participation and leadership Increased climate finance, if raised through Fair Shares analysis, is part of a fairer economic system that sees historical emitters paying for climate change A fairer economic system tackles climate change, insecurity and gender inequalities at the root
2. Use the Climate Justice Fund and International Development Strategy to support just, inclusive and sustainable feminist economies Initiatives that model alternatives to extractivist, polluting development, such as regenerative land use, can help communities address the gendered impacts of climate change Initiatives that model alternatives to extractivist, polluting development can and should centre on the participation and leadership of women Initiatives that model alternatives to extractivist, polluting development are an essential part of demonstrating the potential of more just, inclusive and sustainable economies at scale. Work to share knowledge of just, inclusive and sustainable economies with partner governments, contributes to fairer, feminist economies globally.
3. Empower women peacebuilders and environmental defenders to advocate for economic transformation Building the capacity of women activists to advocate on economic justice and climate finance could enable root causes of the gendered impacts of climate change to be more effectively addressed Adding economic justice and climate finance dimensions to the training and support provided to women activists would further enhance their skills, knowledge and power to lead Adding economic justice and climate finance dimensions to the training and support provided to women activists would progress the overall goal of transforming economies to more just, inclusive and sustainable models - through the work of women peacebuilders/activists.
4. Advance gender equality through all Climate Justice Fund and International Development programming Using gender mainstreaming to ensure all CJF and IDF programming advances gender equality contributes to addressing the gendered impacts of climate change in a systematic way Gender mainstreaming by definition increases the participation and leadership of women, as one part of advancing gender equality This policy option contributes to a transformation of the economic system only in an indirect sense, in that empowered women may go on to call for these more transformative steps
5. Leverage partnerships at home and abroad and continue to learn Scottish Government and partners continuing to learn about the mutually reinforcing dynamics of climate change, conflict and gender will enable the gendered impacts to be addressed in more systematic and sustained ways Continuing to learn can contribute to increasing women's participation and empowerment, as women researchers, practitioners and policy-makers share best practices and implement feminist climate justice policies Continuing to learn about ways in which just, inclusive, sustainable, feminist economies address climate change at root, build peace and facilitate gender equality enables the Scottish Government to take an informed lead in progressing a global transition to a fairer economic system

Contact

Email: jessamyn.briers@gov.scot

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