Climate finance is a women’s human rights issue

From deadly cyclones in Asia-Pacific, to droughts in Africa and more intense bushfires in Australia and the USA, climate change is already impacting communities across the globe. But it is low-income countries that are experiencing some of the most severe impacts of climate change, despite being least responsible for the crisis and fewer resources to adapt.  


Ambitious international climate finance pledges, alongside bold domestic emissions targets from wealthy nations – those most responsible for climate change – are critical for successful and just global climate solutions. Yet, wealthy countries have fallen short of the target of US$100 billion in climate finance by 2020 and will now not meet this target until 2023 – three years late. Even then, it falls woefully short of what is needed given the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.  

Global ambition and collective action are urgently needed to protect human rights, and support communities to respond to the climate crisis.  

Why climate finance is a women’s rights issue?  

Climate change is undermining the human rights of communities across the world with environmental degradation and extreme weather events threatening livelihoods, food and water security and undermining people’s safety and security.  

“Climate justice should be about putting people’s human rights at the forefront of the response to the climate crisis,” says Carolyn Kitione, Regional Young Women and Climate Change Focal Point, Shifting the Power Coalition. 

Women and girls in low-income countries are on the frontlines of the climate crisis and bear the brunt of its impacts. Droughts, floods and cyclones have increased in frequency and severity, which impacts women’s ability to access essential resources, such as food, water, and energy supplies, that they are often tasked with sourcing.  

Women are also more likely to die during, and after, a natural disaster than men due to their lower social, political, and economic status. Existing gender inequalities are exacerbated by climate change, which can further restrict women’s access to education, information, and resources.  

Discriminatory gender norms, gender-based violence and climate change intersect to hamper women’s ability to participate in community decision making on climate change. This impedes women’s participation in creating a resilient and safe future for themselves and their community – an essential component of building a just world.  

Climate finance should advance the rights and needs of women – financing must prioritise women’s rights by considering their specific needs and providing the resources they need to fight climate change. Women not only need to be given a space at the table, but they also need to be listened to, and their knowledge respected.  

“We need to shift the power…we need those who have caused the climate crisis to pay their fair share of climate finance. Young women need to be acknowledged as powerful climate leaders. We need to be at the main events. We need to be recognised as local experts,” Carolyn adds. 

What does Australia need to do?  

The Australian government recently announced an additional $500 million (AUD) in international climate finance to be directed to the Pacific and Southeast Asia. This falls woefully short given the scale and urgency of the climate crisis.  

“Morrison’s announcement brings Australia’s climate finance from $1.5 billion to $2 billion over 2020-2025, which is well below the amount developing countries, including our neighbours in the Pacific, need to respond to climate change,” says Michelle Higelin, Executive Director of ActionAid Australia.  

“It is shameful that wealthy countries like Australia are not paying their fair share of climate finance and instead pushing the costs of this crisis onto the world’s poorest communities. Women living in poverty are particularly bearing the brunt of the climate crisis without the resources to adapt.” 

In our recent report, Fairer Futures: Financing Global Climate Solutions, ActionAid Australia and partners are calling on the Australian government to start paying its fair share of climate finance. This includes:  

  • Immediately commit to doubling its climate finance commitment to $3 billion over the next five years. 
  • By 2023, shape regional and global climate responses by committing an additional $700 – $920 million to the Green Climate Fund. 
  • By 2030, scale up Australia’s climate finance to $12 billion annually, which will meet its fair share.  
  • Prioritise locally led, gender-responsive climate finance projects. 

As a leader in the Asia-Pacific, Australia has a unique role to play in mobilising climate finance to shape and strengthen the way our world responses to climate change. Sophie Hardefeldt, Policy and Research Manager at ActionAid Australia says that Australia “could afford to double its climate finance commitment tomorrow. We just need to choose to do it.” 

With COP26 happening now, fair, accessible, and reliable climate finance needs to be prioritised and wealthy countries must commit to paying their fair share. How we respond to climate change over the next decade will determine the fate of billions of people global – the time for action is now.  

Read the full report here.