Climate Change – Policy Position

Women and Girls and Climate Change

(PDF version can be accessed here)


As part of the Scottish Government’s contribution to the NACWG, this paper describes some of the ways in which the Scottish Government is currently considering the intersection between gender inequality, discrimination and climate change actions. The paper recognises that this work is at an early stage and there is more to be achieved. As such it does not set out a policy position for the Scottish Government, but in describing actions and current directions of travel, aims to stimulate further work and discussion on this crucially important area.

Gender inequality and climate change

Gender inequality and climate change are interlinked with growing international awareness of the importance of gender responsive climate action that tackles embedded inequality. As the accompanying evidence paper shows, globally, women and girls are likely to face disproportionate impacts of climate change due to pre-existing gender inequality. However, more evidence is needed to assess the impacts of climate change on women in Scotland.[1]

The Scottish Government is clear that climate change is an urgent human rights issue creating a constant threat to the lives and livelihoods of individuals and communities across the world. Climate change impacts everyone, however it will impact the world’s poorest and marginalised groups the most. Women and girls are disproportionately affected and face disproportionate impacts including food insecurity, increased sexualised violence and displacement.


At, COP26, Parties continued work on the gender and climate change agenda item, with a focus on implementing the Gender Action Plan.[2] Gender equality was an important aspect of the events and negotiations, where discussions varied from increasing women’s participation in STEM occupations, to sexual health and reproductive rights. For Scotland, COP26 was an opportunity to build significant momentum, ownership and opportunity on gender equality and climate change. The Scottish Government funded Women’s Environment and Development Organisation (WEDO) to bring women negotiators to COP, announced our intention to make meaningful commitments under the UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum’s action coalition, Feminist Action for Climate Justice, and jointly with UN Women launched the Glasgow Women’s Leadership Statement.

Climate Change in Scotland

Scotland has taken a world-leading, distinctive and ambitious approach to tackling the global climate emergency. We have put in place legislation, targets and governance to reduce emissions, draw on the science, engage our citizens, and crucially, to do so in a just and fair way.

We published our Climate Change Plan update in December 2020, reflecting the increased ambition of the new targets set by the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019. This plan sets a pathway to meeting our ambitious emissions targets over the period to 2032, including a 75% reduction in emissions by 2030, and puts Scotland on a pathway to net zero emissions by 2045.

Just Transition

Just Transition is about how we get to a net zero and climate resilient society, in a way that delivers fairness and tackles inequality and injustice. This is at the centre of our approach to tackling climate change and will ensure we strive for lasting positive societal change and deliver social justice.

To support this, we have committed to working with partners to develop a series of Just Transition Plans. These Plans will be action-focused and, crucially, co-designed with those most likely to be impacted. This means that the voices and interests of those most affected will be at the centre of the plans. Communities, workers, businesses and third sector organisations, including gender equality organisations, will actively shape plans.

The scope of our proposed approach to Just Transition Planning is rightly ambitious, with an expectation that climate action contributes to achieving a set of National Just Transition Outcomes.[3] These include furthering equality and human rights across all protected characteristics and preventing new inequality from arising. For example, this means tackling the gender balance evidenced in employment as sectors change, emerge, and grow, particularly in energy and industry.  We have selected gender balance in the workforce as one of our monitoring indicators, demonstrating where Just Transition Plans will need to tackle gender inequality.

The refreshed Scottish Government Energy Strategy will be our first specific Just Transition Plan and a period of engagement and co-design will commence this year. The impact our changing energy system will have on gender equality will be a key consideration and a series of engagement activities will focus on this, including with the NACWG.

New Just Transition Commission

The Scottish Government has appointed a new Just Transition Commission who will provide independent advice and scrutiny to support the production and delivery of Just Transition Plans. The new Commission is gender balanced, with seven female and six male parliamentary-term Commissioners, including Satwat Rehman, who has sat on the NACWG, Katie Gallogly-Swan, Convenor of the Scottish Women’s Budget Group and Elaine Dougall who is on the STUC Women’s Committee. All Commissioners will work to ensure that equality and inclusion remain integral to the work of the Commission.

Climate Justice and International Action

The findings of the recent evaluation of the Scottish Government’s Climate Justice Fund[4] and its Theory of Change (ToC)[5] demonstrated that achieving climate justice relies on addressing distributive, procedural and transformative justice pillars. A programme that clearly address all three pillars of climate justice and takes a participatory approach tends to be more effective, have greater impact and more sustainable results. The inclusion and participation of people at most risk to climate change impacts (including women, the young and older people) is central. Our projects will seek to increase women’s participation in climate-related planning and policy making; alleviate climate change impacts on women and girls; and support women to advocate for their own rights.

We are currently creating a gender responsive approach to our international action and Climate Justice Fund which identifies these impacts and works to mitigate them. We are funding research on international climate justice, conflict and gender. This project is a scoping study for a potential future component of the Climate Justice Fund to investigate how conflict and gender influence the experience of climate change impacts in the communities worst impacted globally.

During COP26, the Scottish Government and UN Women published a joint statement which called for the role of women and girls to be advanced in addressing climate change. International Leaders, including the Prime Minister of New Zealand and the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, and leading campaigners, such as Catherine McKenna (Former Minister of Environment and Climate Change Canada) signed the Glasgow Women’s Leadership Statement. The statement acknowledges the disproportionate impacts of climate change on women and girls. It also recognises the role of women leaders at all levels in addressing the climate crisis, and commits signatories to increased support for women and girls’ climate action. The Glasgow Women’s Leadership initiative will continue to be a key plank of our climate change and international engagement activity, ensuring that women’s voices are centred in international and domestic policy making on climate and environment issues.      

For the last four years the Scottish government has supported WEDO to address gender equality in climate action in the global south and directly support women climate gender equality action at COPs. Recognising the disproportionate impacts of COVID, this funding was increased ahead of COP26 to ensure that female negotiators could attend the Summit and represent their own respective interests.

It was also announced at the UN Climate Summit that the Scottish Government will be committing to the UN Women’s Generation Equality Forum’s action coalition, Feminist Action for Climate Justice. The Scottish Government commitment will cover a number of areas including:

  • Enabling women and girls to lead a just transition to a green economy.
  • An increase in direct access to financing for gender-just climate solutions, in particular for women and girls in grass roots levels.
  • Building the resilience of women and girls to climate impacts, disaster risks, loss and damage.

Project examples

At COP26, the Scottish Government signed the Cleaner Cooking Pledge and confirmed funding of £50,000 towards the Cleaner Cooking Coalition. It is estimated that 2 billion people worldwide rely on open fire for their cooking which is environmentally damaging, but also has a detrimental impact on people’s health and wellbeing.[6] It is particularly harmful for women and girls as they are, in most communities, responsible for gathering the fuel and cooking the food. The funding will help to raise awareness of the importance of cleaner cooking, fund important research into key issues of cleaner cooking, and vitally it will help communities and organisations in Malawi to make even better progress with the initiative, all of which will have a disproportionate positive impact on women and girls.

The Climate Challenge Programme Malawi (CCPM) was a 4-year, £4.7 million programme that worked with communities to co-design interventions to tackle the unique climate challenges they face. A key community ask was to centre the voices of vulnerable rural dwellers, especially women and those not normally in leadership positions. CCPM took steps to provide information to women specifically about their rights and how to advocate and secure leadership positions. As of 2021, when the CCPM concluded it had helped 505 women into leadership positions as local structure leaders, lead farmers, para-vets and cookstove change agents. A five month consolidation extension to CCPM announced at COP26 will support the scaling up of a number of elements of the programme through the lens of distributive, procedural and transformative justice from the Climate Justice Fund’s ToC, with women and girls a key focus.


[1] Climate Change – What we already know – One Scotland

[2] UNFCCC, Gender and Climate Change Agenda

[3] Just Transition – A Fairer, Greener Scotland: Scottish Government response – (

[4] Evaluation of the Climate Justice Fund: Final Evaluation Report (

[5] A Theory of Change shows how and why a desired change is expected to happen.

[6] The Challenge | Sustainable Cleaner (