Nationally determined contributions (NDCs) are a critically important tool for the advancement of the ultimate objective of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is to stabilise greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous climate change (UNFCCC, 1992). While the principal purpose of the NDCs is to encourage governments to increase the ambition of their commitments to mitigate GHG emissions, they have also served to clarify the overall scope of many national climate change plans and policies, including components such as adaptation and means of implementation.

The objective of this analysis is to evaluate the extent to which submitted NDCs address women’s human rights and the linkages between climate change and gender more broadly. The importance of explicitly addressing these linkages in national and international climate change policy-making is well-documented. In short, comprehensively addressing the intersection of gender and climate change is essential for both advancing the fulfilment of women’s human rights and gender equality, and effectively addressing the multiple challenges that climate change poses. The overall conclusion of this analysis is that the submitted NDCs fall far short of the necessary commitments.

The parameters of NDCs

As stated above, the principal purpose of NDCs is to encourage ambitious commitments in relation to climate change mitigation, or the reduction of GHG emissions. This is clear from the decision adopted by the Conference of Parties to the Convention in 2014 requesting governments to submit an NDC that represents a progression beyond their current undertakings (UNFCCC, 2015). Additionally, Parties are invited to include an adaptation component and additional information that ‘facilitates the clarity, transparency, and understanding’ of the NDC (UNFCCC, 2015). This information may include time frames and/or periods for implementation, scope and coverage, planning processes, assumptions and methodological approaches, and how the Party considers that its NDC is fair and ambitious, in light of its national circumstances (UNFCCC, 2015).

While the latter information is particularly helpful for undertaking a gender analysis of an NDC, it is important to note that governments are not mandated to provide that information. It is at the discretion of governments to provide as much or as little information about their existing and planned climate change policies in their NDCs. The conclusions drawn below about the nature of these policies should, therefore, be interpreted as relatively tentative and formed on the basis of the information that governments have chosen to share in their NDCs.

Further, this analysis is limited to the NDCs that governments have submitted as of October 2016 (190 countries in total) and does not include other potentially relevant policies and commitments, including Nationally Appropriate Mitigation Actions and National Adaptation Plans.

Moreover, a number of governments that submitted their NDCs before the Conference of Parties in December 2015 expressly reserve the right to revise their NDCs in view of the outcome of that Conference. Further, under the Paris Agreement, countries must formally submit their NDCs no later than when they formally sign and ratify the treaty. While it is expected that for many countries, their NDCs will remain the same as their NDCs, countries could also increase the transparency and ambition of their climate plans (WRI, 2016). This analysis will obviously have to be revised accordingly.


This analysis takes a multi-step approach to evaluating the extent to which a government has addressed the linkages between gender and climate change in its NDC. This involves noting:

  • The existence of any reference to gender or women in the policy;
  • The nature of the reference, which includes:
    • The context for the reference, e.g. commitments to mitigation (M), adaptation (A), capacity-building, implementation or whether the gender reference is cross-cutting. Where a government has committed to gender-mainstreaming or taking gender into account across one or more components of the NDC, this is noted as gender-sensitive (GS).
    • The ways in which women are positioned in the NDC. This includes positioning women as a group that is vulnerable to the impacts of climate change (WVG); as beneficiaries of projects or policies (B); as agents of change (AC); or as stakeholders i.e. as having a stake in climate change-related decision-making (S)  (CGIAR et al, 2016).
  • The existence of gender-responsive budgeting in the NDC;
  • The existence of a participatory planning process for the NDC; and
  • The existence of a mechanism or process for monitoring or implementing the NDC.

The latter two elements are considered important for several reasons. First, involving civil society, including women’s rights groups, in the process of devising the NDC is necessary to enable women to exercise their right to participate in environmental decision-making, which governments have committed to uphold (Rio Declaration,1992). The processes have been deemed participatory if the NDC mentions the involvement of civil society stakeholders other than technical experts.

Second, transparency around the process or mechanism for monitoring or implementing the NDC assists civil society, including women’s rights groups, to hold their government accountable for existing commitments or to engage with them to reform those commitments. However, given many of the commitments in the NDCs are conditional, it is unsurprising that mechanisms for monitoring or implementation are not yet fully developed.

The analysis also notes whether or not the commitments of countries are unconditional or conditional. Conditional commitments may be conditional on financing, technology transfer, and/or capacity building.

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