COP26 update: gender, science and innovation

By Elise Belcher, Adessou Kossivi, Bijay Kumar & Becky Murphy
9 November 2021


Throughout COP26 we’re calling for international decision makers to give greater attention to loss and damage, gender equality and inclusion, and climate finance – read more.

Today’s focus was on Gender, and Science & Innovation:

Inclusion is key – how gender equality improves science, tech and innovation for climate action:
Hosted by UK pavilion, speakers emphasised that we make better decisions when we decide together and therefore we need all voices at the table. Whilst we are better together, we need to be equal. The voices of women need to be heard, trusted and respected. In knowing that women and girls are agents of change, we must include women at all levels and all stages. UK Government Minister Jo Churchill spoke of agricultural innovation and climate adaptation where women are the integrators – they bring a holistic view when making decisions, and they are looking after their family so they have a “whole household, whole community” approach.

Indigenous self-determination in research for better climate outcomes:
Inclusion of indigenous communities and meaningful participation was highlighted. Representatives of indigenous communities in Canada, Alaska and Sweden asked for respect and acceptance of their local knowledge (it does not need western science to confirm it); and fair and equitable research/data collection.  For example, allowing local methods, local study opportunities (not having to move away from communities to get an education), and the same processes for sponsorship as non-indigenous students. GNDR was able to ask how to best involve indigenous groups when donors have funding for them. They asked for trust and relationships to be built, involvement of indigenous populations before proposals are written, and equal partnership with their community groups as the external groups facilitating the funding.

Limiting the worst cascading impacts of risk pre-2030:
Prioritising support for climate change adaptations to the poorest countries is required to achieve global climate mitigation, was the conclusion of Chatham House research. Speaking with 200 researchers on various aspects of risk, they described cascading risk factors: for example, this year the Atlantic vortex weakened leading to a water shortage in North America. The consequence of this was energy shortage as much of the continent relies on hydro power. The consequence of this was factories shut down as there was not enough power supply. The consequence of this is car parts made in America could not be sent to global car companies and so gaps in vehicle trade occured – plus knock-on effects to the economy. They are hoping a global risk monitoring mechanism can be set up to better forecast risk events – and also to better plan for ongoing consequences if scenarios do occur. They want this to include data from a variety of sources and GNDR were able to ask them to consider how social data, for example perspectives from those most at risk, could be included in such a mechanism.

Women Count – achieving gender equality through improved monitoring and reporting:
Tracking progress on key gender inclusion indicators was explained. GNDR was able to ask how we can change the framework from monitoring and evaluation (a power imbalance of ‘us’ monitoring ‘them’) to more accountable ways of working (‘we’ are accountable to those most at risk and therefore they should hold us to account). Ideas were shared on how to do this, including women’s groups setting their own progress indicators and ways to measure them; participatory approaches; and allowing innovation to fail so that we all learn and eventually work out innovation together. There was a call for women to lead within local structures. A new report was launched to highlight specific challenges women face due to climate change.

USAID Strategy:
The USAID draft climate strategy has been launched. A round of listening sessions was held – just like the listening sessions GNDR members participated with in June. USAID listened to those present to hear feedback on their plans. GNDR was able to ask for women’s voices and tackling gender inequality to be more present in the documents – it is only mentioned briefly. They took this on board and also highlighted plans to support women-led organisations. GNDR also asked how USAID perceive the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in regards to their strategy. They confirmed that they see CSOs as central to deliver their plan: facilitating and amplifying perspectives of communities at risk. Overall, USAID have been positive and upbeat for the future and expressed an interest to further connect with us. The strategy is open for feedback until 24 November 2021 – please feel free to leave your comments, either as a GNDR member or as an individual. (Please note they have commented that the plan currently sets out the “what” but not necessarily the “how”, which will be launched in future versions).

We thought we’d highlight work of others at COP26 as part of our vision for everyone to work together to strengthen the resilience of people most at risk and stop hazards from becoming disasters. Today we met Andy Costa, a cyclist from Cote d’Ivoire who is campaigning for more cycling in the country and the continent. He supports girls to learn how to cycle for their safety (less time walking on their own); health (fitness); and empowerment (confidence building and skills in maintaining bikes). He sees it as a key step in the fight for climate adaptation as more cyclists means less cars on the road. He proudly wore his green cycling helmet, “my brand”, throughout the day!

Let us know (email: and we’ll add you to the GNDR COP26 WhatsApp group.

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