“No more empty speeches – now is the time for action”

8 November 2021

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We're calling on world leaders and the UK Government to include women and girls in the conversation at COP26 on Gender Day.

  • 81% of people surveyed in the Global South said the COP26 talks need to clearly address how women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis[i]
  • ActionAid UK projects that if global temperatures rise by 2°C rather than being limited to 1.5°C, at least 15 million more women and girls will be exposed to flooding by 2050[ii]
  • ActionAid is hosting a briefing in Press Conference Room ‘Durdle Door’ in the Green Zone (Area D, Ground Floor) at 8:45 – 9:15am on Tuesday 9 November (Gender Day at COP26)

Tuesday 9 November - Today, on ‘Gender Day’ at COP26, ActionAid UK calls on world leaders, including the UK Government, to stop overlooking the women and girls on the frontlines of the climate crisis and to meaningfully include them in negotiations, financial commitments and climate solutions.

In a recent survey commissioned by ActionAid, 81% of people in the Global South said the COP26 talks need to clearly address how women and girls are disproportionately impacted by the climate crisis and 87% think more must be done to give women from the Global South a voice at COP[i]. However, women and girls have been greatly neglected by financial commitments so far, with Boris Johnson failing to mention how his $1billion climate pledge will support the needs of women and girls. This $1 billion is conditional on the UK economy growing and is not new money – it is taken from existing development budget which has already been hugely cut this year, including women’s rights programmes.

While climate change affects everyone, the impacts are being felt more by women and girls in the Global South. Although women are often the driving force for change within their communities, they are also more likely to live in poverty than men and have less access to basic human rights like the ability to move freely and acquire land. Following a flood, one of the first coping strategies of families is to take girls out of school to save costs and allow the girls to help at home or work. Women and girls also face systematic violence that escalates following disasters.

Research and evidence show that heat waves, droughts, rising sea levels, and extreme storms disproportionately affect women around the world. According to ActionAid UK projections, if global heating rises to 2°C rather than being limited to 1.5°C, at least 15 million more women and girls will be exposed to flooding by 2050 and nearly 40 million will be exposed to droughts[ii]. Women and girls already make up 80% of people displaced by climate change[iii], and this humanitarian crisis and women’s rights issue is only going to get worse.

Sophie Rigg, Senior Resilience and Climate Adviser at ActionAid UK says:

“It is all well and good hosting a dedicated ‘Gender Day’, but there can be no more empty speeches – now is the time for action. World leaders – and the UK Government as host nation – must ensure climate finance delivers for women and girls on the frontlines of the crisis. Specifically, the UK Government must commit to making sure that all UK financing on climate also tackles gender inequality.

“Boris Johnson’s $1billion climate pledge once again lacks any detail and we are yet to hear how it will deliver for women and girls. Much like the majority of climate finance, it is failing to meaningfully include the needs and capabilities of women. 

“Furthermore, our work shows that women in the Global South are best placed to address the specific challenges they face but have been shamefully underrepresented at every level, including at COP26. Women must also be included in designing and implementing climate action. This is a matter of climate justice, and there will be no climate justice without simultaneously achieving justice for women and girls.”

Diaka Salena Koroma, an ActionAid climate activist from Sierra Leone was meant to attend COP26 but her visa did not arrive in time. Diaka witnessed the devastating mudslides which hit Freetown in 2017. She says:

“If women and young people who are most affected by climate impacts are not represented at platforms like COP26, leaders will not feel the pressure to commit to climate targets. Excluding the very people who are already coming up with solutions does not make sense. We must have a seat at the table.

ActionAid UK works directly with women’s rights organisations and local communities to analyse their climate vulnerability and adopt approaches that prevent women and girls bearing the brunt of climate change. ActionAid UK also creates spaces for women and girls from the Global South to share how climate change has impacted their lives and communities, the solutions they are using to mitigate it, and to be involved in the decision-making that will determine our collective future.


[i]Research was conducted by Opinium Research on behalf of ActionAid UK. It polled 1,001 adults across Vietnam, Brazil, South Africa and India. Fieldwork took place 21st - 26th October 2021.

[ii]The projections included in this press release are taken from academic research referenced in the IPCC report Global Warming of 1.5°C an IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty. The report compares the number of people who will be exposed to various natural disasters in a scenario of 1.5 °C of global heating with the number of people exposed at 2 °C of global heating. We have assumed that these natural disasters affect  women and men equally (so that half the victims of floods and droughts are women and girls).