At the end of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, described the climate change crisis as the “battle of our lives” that “we can and must win.” Guterres’ comment, devoid of hyperbole, spoke directly to the existential threat facing humanity, a threat that demands urgent actions to build a bold new, cleaner future with optimism, innovation, and justice as the foundation.
Indeed, justice and equity are the underlying themes of prominent climate crisis discussions of the past year such as the 2022 IPCC report and COP27. Outcomes from these discussions makes it apparent that our shared socioeconomic reality is built on historical and present injustices – particularly geographic and demographic inequities that predispose segments of the global population to the impacts of climate change.
Africa, for example, despite contributing the least to carbon emissions, is the worst hit by climate-related disasters, the most vulnerable to the impact of extreme climate events (including food insecurity, access to essential goods and services, economic wellbeing, and forced displacement), and receives the least investment for climate adaption.
Within geographies, climate change impacts men and women differently. Climate crisis, according to UN Women, “amplifies existing gender inequalities and poses unique threats to [women’s] livelihoods, health, and safety.” In other words, the climate crisis magnifies the inequities and gaps in the global economy. For as our co-founder and Principal Partner, Tokunboh Ishmael wrote in a recent essay:
“Women bear a disproportionate burden during climate-related crises due to their central role in household economics. Whether it's as the key decision maker for sustainable purchases in their business and home; dealing with the impacts of using dirty fuels; traveling longer distances to fetch water during droughts; or providing primary care during environmental disasters, a woman's resilience is tested in such circumstances, impacting their education and economic activities.”
Africa’s underinvestment in women and climate means that African women, as a demography, are disproportionately impacted by climate change – a condition that is exacerbated by the issues of inequity and inequality that affect women as entrepreneurs, producers, and consumers despite their criticality to economic growth and development in local communities and households.
The intersections of climate change and private capital investment issues that African women face supports our belief that climate investing must be gender conscious, that climate justice is gender equity, and that gender equality is critical to climate action. Considering these intersections of gender, climate and finance, we believe that climate finance alone is insufficient to address the planet’s problems: climate investing, if not fortified with gender lens perspectives, may inherit the biases present in our current carbon-powered economy.
Therefore, the dual-lens strategy of gender and climate finance is needed to address systemic gender biases and promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth for everyone by creating an equitable and inclusive system that recognises diversity of needs and responds with policies and solutions according to needs. And that this dual lens can be strengthened by adding digital transformation – i.e., GenderXClimateXDigital, as ‘Tokunboh Ishmael posits here.
Here, we must add that gender lens perspectives go beyond gender representation – i.e., women’s active involvement in leadership and decision-making process – to include the full integration of gender consideration at every stage of the project design, implementation, and evaluation. Embedding a gender lens with the goal of promoting gender equity, empowering women as economic stakeholders, and building a bold new future powered by clean energy, can be achieved by including structures and analytic frameworks that specifically investigate the impact of each decision or action on women thereby ensuring that gender equity, diversity and inclusion is inherent and a part and parcel of the system’s DNA.
Using a gender lens will ensure that mistakes and injustices of the past are avoided, and that Africa forges a new, climate-resilient path by mobilising its domestic resources and tapping all aspects of its significant human capital to deliver developmental and climate goals.
Additionally, understanding equity and justice through a gender lens shows that sectors dominated by African women – such as agriculture – are also the most affected by climate crisis and are underfunded despite their criticality to the economy. Thus, investing in sustainable agricultural initiatives can promote gender equity, equality, and inclusive economic growth since it directly targets a sector where most women can be found.
Consider, for example, an Alitheia IDF portfolio company, Psaltry International, a woman-owned and Nigeria-based agribusiness company. Psaltry redesigned its cassava production model to address issues of waste and carbon emission in its value chain. Through this redesign, Psaltry was able to improve the productivity and profitability of small-scale partner farmers (raw material suppliers) – many whom are women – while lowering its carbon footprint.
Psaltry and other businesses in the Alitheia IDF portfolio are proactively building a cleaner, better future across sectors from sustainable agribusiness to technology and textile with gender impact as priority. To drive gender equity and climate justice, women must be seen as part of the solution to the climate crisis on account of their proximity to the grassroot where they play a role in maintaining and rebuilding community services, and enabling access to essential goods and services through the informal market and a network for efficient and optimal resource distribution. And this can be achieved if a gender lens is embedded in decision making and action which, by default, forces gender consideration.
For the upcoming COP28, we urge policymakers andinvestors to embed gender consciousness in their decision making. By supporting and investing with a gender lens in local businesses that are solving for the
climate crisis, investors can help drive positive environmental and gender outcomes while also earning financial returns and building a more equitable and just future.