On May 20th, 2021, the webinar «Why does gender matter for EU environmental policies?» was held by the European Environmental Bureau (EEB) and the non-profit organization Women Engage for a Common Future (WECF). The webinar was conducted as part of the study on strengthening the gender and environment nexus in the European Green Deal and analyzing the impact of this relationship on EU’s external and partnership policies in the wider European region. Over 50 representatives of various organizations from the EU member states, as well as from neighboring countries attended this event. Lake Baikal Foundation was invited to participate in the study as an accredited observer to the United Nations Environment Assembly of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and is grateful for the opportunity to share its experience and knowledge on the research topic and learn more about the practices of other specialized organizations.
The main topic of the webinar was the significance of the nexus between gender equality on the one side and environment and climate action on the other side. It is known that women are often not sufficiently involved in the decision-making process related to environmental issues and, in particular, climate change, although they are in most cases more susceptible to negative consequences from natural disasters. Moreover, when making such decisions, politicians often fail to consider that climate change and other environmental problems affect men and women, their activities and health in different ways, which could make the policy formulated ineffective.
Although the existence and importance of the interrelation between gender equality and the environment are proven scientific facts, these topics are not often considered in conjunction on the international agenda. For example, in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the link between gender equality and environmental protection is not clearly traced: the SDG 5 Gender Equality targets do not mention the importance of women’s participation in solving environmental problems. The only SDGs that link women’s empowerment to environmental aspects are SDG 6 Clean Water and Sanitation, SDG 7 Affordable and Clean Energy, and SDG 13 Climate Action. However, the targets set for ensuring gender equality as part of SDGs 6, 7, 13 are not enough to confidently declare the existence of the gender-environment nexus, provided one relies solely on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In addition, the webinar presented the results of a survey conducted in April 2021 as part of the study on strengthening the relationship between gender equality and the environment in the European Green Deal. Lake Baikal Foundation participated in this survey and, along with other organizations, contributed to the study of this important topic.
The activities of most of the respondents are focused on climate and energy policies and, in particular, on promoting a gender agenda in these areas; water resources and biodiversity conservation problems did not appear as the main areas of activity of the survey participants. Nevertheless, in a generalized form, the results of the survey may be of interest to organizations of other environmental orientations, which strive to achieve gender equality as an important aspect of their environmental activities.
According to most civil society organizations, by strengthening and promoting the relationship between gender equality and the environment, it is possible, firstly, to advance gender equality and, secondly, to avoid unintended setbacks on gender equality. Notably, the benefits of achieving a gender-environment nexus, such as boosting environmental justice and raising positive environmental impact, were less obvious to respondents.
The survey also showed what policies and measures the organizations have in place. The most popular measures were the implementation of anti-discrimination policy, parental leave measures and anti-harassment and violence policies.
Finally, the respondents suggested many possible solutions for achieving gender equality and strengthening gender-environment nexus, including the creation of specialized coalitions and networks, the organization of mentoring and trainings, the conduct of issue-specific campaigns and policy reports.
The results of this survey will be used by the European Environmental Bureau and Women Engage for a Common Future to prepare a policy report. This report will map the gaps and opportunities of the European Green Deal in terms of gender equality and propose recommendations to move forward. The document will be available in the summer of 2021 on the official websites of the EEB and WECF.