Gendered Dimensions of Loss and Damage in Asia

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Countries in the Global North bear a high responsibility for the current climate disaster. This is underlined by the skewed responsibility for historical carbon emissions; estimates show that the Global North is responsible for 92% of excess global CO2 emissions since 1850.

In 2022, the global impact of climate change accelerated, with severe consequences manifesting in extreme weather events, ecological disruptions, and heightened socioeconomic challenges worldwide. The World Meteorological Organization reported a total of 81 natural hazard events in Asia, over 83% of which were floods and storms. India, China,
Pakistan and Bangladesh suffered a combined loss of approximately US$36bn and the displacement of about 50 million individuals. Unfortunately, despite these alarming events, the response from global leaders to address the climate crisis has been inadequate.

Countries in the Global North bear a high responsibility for the current climate disaster. This is underlined by the skewed responsibility for historical carbon emissions; estimates show that the Global North is responsible for 92% of excess global CO2 emissions since 1850.

This highlights how the effects of climate change are inherently linked to historic and continued processes of colonization that have exacerbated the vulnerability of particular groups in the Global South to the effects of climate change. At the same time, the broader colonial tendencies favoured ‘domination’ and control over the environment and Indigenous people, as well as promoting the monocropping of key resources for the economic benefit of the colonizing nations. These trends are also linked with the erasure of local and Indigenous knowledge systems around environmental care, sustainable food production, and ways to cope with seasonal climate events.

Extractive neocolonial relationships rooted in neoliberal capitalism perpetuate this dynamic, reinforcing the concentration of wealth and power in particular regions through the marginalization and exploitation of other areas and communities.6 In particular, groups that have historically faced the adverse impacts of colonization and resource extraction continue to experience compound loss and damage in the Global South, where marginalized populations are exploited for resources and labour, lack access to capital, endure severe climate consequences and often face further challenges when seeking refuge.

Meanwhile, richer countries in the Global North, who bear a greater responsibility for this crisis, are able to rely on accumulated capital and infrastructure to increase their own resilience to the impacts of climate disasters. Simultaneously, the need to service historical debt burdens create an additional barrier for governments in the Global South, limiting their capacity to invest in social infrastructure and effective adaptation in the face of climate crisis.

Within these geographical inequalities, climate change has different impacts on people based on gender, race, class, caste, ethnicity and (dis)ability, with particularly severe effects for economically vulnerable rural women in the Global South. Despite contributing the least to greenhouse gas emissions, these women endure the greatest burden of climate change. This is in part due to their reliance on natural resources, disproportionate care responsibilities, and societal inequalities that limit their access to resources and decision-making processes.

Based on the roles often ascribed to women by society, they play a central part in responding to the climate crisis. For example, based on duties of water collection and care responsibilities they are often the first to recognize and flag issues around changing patterns in access to resources or around the potential spread of illness. At the same time, gendered social roles can make women key agents in community mobilization in crisis response, but their contributions are often overlooked and excluded, as is the case with loss and damage assessments. For example, the increased unpaid care and domestic work carried out by women after disasters is typically omitted from discussions about loss and damage financing. Failing to acknowledge these contributions renders women’s experiences and their role in recovery efforts invisible.

Establishing a fund for loss and damage is one of the achievements of COP28, the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference. However, ambiguity remains regarding its functions and set-up. This briefing paper emphasizes the importance of understanding the gendered dimensions of both economic and non-economic losses and damages in Asia. It draws from case studies in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, the Philippines and Timor-Leste to advocate for an intersectional feminist approach that recognises the different ways people are affected by climate change based on their gender, race, ethnicity, class, religion, and (dis)ability. A recognition of these differences must be embedded in the establishment of the Loss and Damage Fund. Qualitative data was gathered from regions impacted by climate disasters during the period of September to November 2023. This information was acquired through a combination of semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. The synthesis of case studies derived from field data was complemented with corroborative secondary research findings, strengthening the rigour and depth of the insights presented. The target audience for this research is:

  • Global, regional and national decision-makers in Asian countries.
  • Governments engaged in decision-making and contributing towards the Loss and Damage Fund.
  • Civil society organisations (CSOs) and organisations working on climate change and disaster-risk management, humanitarian relief and development.
  • Regional and national media.
  • Informed public.

Source : Reliefweb