Fund resilience: Create systemic change by working at the nexus of climate and gender

 

Prachi Seth

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COVID-19 has made very visible how climate change will affect us all on a global scale, which has stirred renewed energy to ‘build back better’ through climate resiliency. Some of us, however, will be harder hit by climate change than others.

Women in developing countries are particularly vulnerable to climate change due to their high dependency on natural resources for their livelihoods coupled with lesser economic, political, and legal clout. Despite these structural and socio-economic barriers, women often play a pivotal role in natural resource management and sustainable development as they navigate through the food, water, and energy requirements for both households and communities.

Solutions around climate action therefore must promote gender equality. Women must be placed at the forefront of climate change by engaging them in a participatory, multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral way that builds on their unique knowledge and perspectives.

Understanding this deep nexus between climate change and gender, AVPN launched its Gender Platform – the second thematic platform after the Climate Action Platform. The Network also dedicated one day each to Gender and Climate discussions at the 2020 AVPN virtual conference to support the growing interest of funders and resource providers in activities across these two themes.

Bridging the divide between climate and gender finance

While there is growing awareness around the synergies between gender and climate, challenges abound. Neither climate nor gender funders have sufficient knowledge and expertise of the other; there are too few financial vehicles designed at the intersection of these issues; women do not have the opportunity to build their capacity as partners across all stages of gender-just climate finance solutions.

This is why we need to bring both climate-first and gender-first funders into the same room to share each other’s’ approaches as well as mechanisms to overcome hurdles. The AVPN Conference did just that – it brought together a group of diversified investors and resource providers to explore how they can increase the capital available for women to drive impact at the scale required.

Facilitated by Jeannette Gurung, Executive Director of WOCAN, the session had representatives from practitioners leading gender-first approaches (Virginia Tan, Founding Partner of Teja Ventures), climate-first approaches (Joanna Messing, Executive Director of the Growald Family Fund), and gender-climate approaches (Katie Turner, Senior Director, Global Programs of MEDA).

Assumptions underlying their practices

Panel Discussion at the AVPN Virtual Conference 2020, led by WOCAN. Photo credit: AVPN.

Virginia brought great insights as a gender lens investor, honestly sharing that prior to being invited as a panelist, she had not considered climate as a sector of investment. She had thought of women’s empowerment as an end goal, but now sees that this can be a means to other outcomes, for climate-related changed behaviours, for example. She also became aware of the fact that many of her investment partners were funding climate-related businesses.

Joanna, on the other hand, shared that Growald Family Fund’s focus is first on climate, as climate binds all of their goals together. While Growald Family Fund is not a gender lens impact investor, it is a women-led organisation, so gender is a key focus. Women’s leadership is important to the organisation, as is its support for women-led groups from the South. Joanna spoke to the need for capacity development to build women’s confidence and skills, through a venture philanthropy approach.

Katie bridged the insights from Virginia and Joanna by introducing MEDA’s new Gender Lens Investing platform that has a strong focus on climate. MEDA has also made a number of investments to improve climate outcomes of businesses, like installing solar panels. It has recently launched its Emerging Markets Impact Investment Fund (EMIIF), which will be led by Sarona Asset Management (a long-time investment partner of MEDA) on the investment side, with Volta and MEDA providing gender focused technical assistance to the funds and underlying SMEs.  While there is a gender focus to EMIIF, it is likely that there will be some investments that have a climate angle (i.e. renewables, climate smart ag etc) in which case there will be a great opportunity to zero in on the climate/gender nexus.

Networks are important to start conversations at the gender/climate nexus

Current levels of funding at the nexus of climate and gender largely remain scant. Although difficult to track, funding streams for work being done at the intersection of climate change and women’s rights have been virtually non-existent with less than 0.01 per cent of global philanthropic grant money (2014) supporting projects that addressed both climate change and women’s rights. Nonetheless, funding gender and women-focused initiatives for climate action provide unique opportunities to achieve environmental, social and financial returns.

To increase the capital available for these activities, there is a need for networks where climate funders and gender funders can listen to each other’s approaches and find ways to incorporate lessons of each group. This way, investors can demonstrate how a gender lens can ultimately strengthen the impact and overall effectiveness of climate finance. Jeannette shared that there are two new networks: Funders Group for Gender and Climate Action and Gender & Climate Investment Working Group of the Gender Smart Summit.

Priorities to support gender/climate synergies

Moving forward, knowledge on the linkages between climate finance interventions and gender equality will be a crucial component to create effective outreach to reinforce engagement on gender, development and climate change issues. Yet, one of the key challenges of working in the nexus of gender and climate change is the abject lack of understanding of the opportunities in this space.

As such, the panelists identified three key areas to focus on – increase and expand climate projects that have a gender equity design element; invest in knowledge-sharing; and create indicators that measure both climate and gender progress.

WOCAN also took the Conference participants through a two-hour workshop to walk them through the three priority areas by utilising the “Gender-Responsive Climate Cost Benefit Analysis Tool”. The cost-benefit analysis (CBA) tool can become integral in any climate project approval process as the proposal will first need to be analysed from a cost and expenditure perspective. Developed in partnership with UNDP Asia Pacific, this tool enables CBA to be more gender-responsive.

During this participatory workshop, participants could explore how to use the tool by adapting it to projects in fields, forests and coasts. Most participants liked the simplicity of the tool as it breaks down data across non-financial and financial benefits, and non-financial costs and financial costs of a project intervention, in relation to the women’s and men’s practical needs and strategic interests, and wanted to learn how they can apply it to their projects and investment analyses. Learn more about the Tool here.

We are really excited about how we can collaborate better with traditionally siloed funders and resource providers to move more capital into the nexus of these two themes. Collaboration will be a big part of our climate and gender platform strategy,  and if we are to tackle the most pressing issue of climate change we will not only require to pool resources but also to integrate different perspectives to develop better insights.

This article was originally published on the AVPN blog.

Prachi Seth is a Climate Specialist and manager for AVPN’s Climate Action Platform.

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