Without gender equality, the sustainable energy transition cannot be achieved

NEW YORK, 18 March, 2022 – In the framework of the sixty-sixth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), together with UN Women, Finland, ENERGIA International Network on Gender and Sustainable Energy, and the Global Women’s Network for the Energy Transition (GWNET), co-hosted a side event entitled “The Gender and Energy Compact: Catalyzing action for a just, inclusive and gender-responsive energy transition”.

This side-event was organized by the multi-stakeholder coalition that coordinates the Gender and Energy Compact, developed in the framework of the UN High Level Dialogue on Energy. This Compact places women and gender equality at the centre of the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 7: ensuring access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all.

Moderated by Silvia Sartori, Senior Project Manager at ENERGIA, panelists at the side-event discussed their strategies, commitments and lessons learned for gender-responsive sustainable energy and climate action.

The climate crisis has a disproportionate impact on women and girls. At the same time, women have less access to energy, suffer more from energy poverty and energy services than men, while the energy sector remains male-dominated. There is a clear need for a gender-responsive energy transition – a transition that must shift from economies that are dependent on fossil fuels to ones that are low-emission and climate-resilient, while putting women and girls at the centre of decision-taking and policymaking. If the world is to achieve SDG7 by 2030, women must be part of the energy transition at all levels.

“Not everything that is green is just,” said Milagros de Camps, Vice Minister for International Cooperation at the Dominican Republic’s Ministry for Environment and Natural Resources, stating that  women will not benefit from the creation of green jobs unless the current occupational segregation and gender norms are addressed. As UN Women Deputy Executive Director, Åsa Régner, pointed out, more than 80% of jobs being created by dismantling dependency on fossil fuels will be in sectors currently dominated by men.

But it is not only about jobs – “A just transition is ultimately about people and communities,” said Katri Viinika, Ambassador for Gender Equality at Finland‘s Ministry for Foreign Affairs, adding that efforts to achieve the sustainable energy transition must not leave behind last-mile users.

Everjoice Win, Director of the Shine Campaign, is working with development actors, private sector entities and faith-based organizations to provide blended financing towards energy access for communities in Africa and India. “We need to build unusual partnerships”, she said, arguing that energy financing should directly go to women’s groups, movements and funds working on the ground.

Ensuring that women define needs themselves, can contribute as entrepreneurs, and sit at the decision-making table is essential for achieving the sustainable energy transition. “It requires great persistence and strength,” said Hanan Jaradat, Founder of Ecobricks, supported by the UNIDO Global Cleantech Innovation Programme in Palestine. Ecobricks turns toxic waste from stone cutting factories into safe and energy-efficient construction bricks, thereby reducing local communities’ health risks and environmental footprint. “Without a doubt, women’s empowerment and access to clean energy necessarily go hand-in-hand. One variable simply can’t be achieved without the other”.

The speakers agreed that it is not too late to take action, and highlighted the need for the collection and analysis of data, gender policies and action plans in development and energy transition efforts, and multi-stakeholder cooperation. “We are at a critical juncture to secure a liveable future” said Hiroshi Kuniyoshi, Deputy to the Director General of UNIDO. “The Gender and Energy Compact is an important lever for UNIDO to strengthen efforts that address these issues.”

In closing, Minoru Takada, Team Leader for Sustainable Energy at UNDESA, highlighted the relevance of the Gender Energy Compact. He called on stakeholders to join the Compact to work together to provide practical solutions, overcome challenges and to “create the future that we need.”

The side-event was followed by an interactive peer-to-peer networking meeting between signatories and stakeholders to inspire development of individual actions, during which the Clean Cooking Alliance presented their concrete commitments as part of the Gender and Energy Compact.

The signatories of the Gender and Energy Compact are committed to supporting and accelerating action towards a just, inclusive and gender-equal energy transition. Among the Compact‘s undersigning parties are the governments of Canada, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Iceland, Kenya, Nepal and Sweden, as well as USAID/Power Africa and more than 50 public and private sector entities. The compact builds on the conviction that we need to come together as diverse actors to achieve meaningful change and overcome the greatest challenges of our time, including the climate crisis and gender inequalities.

The coalition aims to take action towards a just, fair and inclusive transition addressing the following areas: 

1. Elimination of energy and time poverty, as well as drudgery of women, and  increasing women’s access to and control over sustainable energy.

2. Adoption and reformulation of gender-responsive energy policies and strategies.

3. Increased access of women-owned and -led businesses to productive resources (e.g. finance,  entrepreneurship and business development services).

4. Career advancement, decent and productive employmentenabling workplaces and decision-making power for women in the energy field.

5. Generation and accessibility of high-quality knowledge, mechanisms, tools, and sex-disaggregated data.

 The recording of the event can be accessed here.