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Big data analysis finds little mention of gender in climate speeches
Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade
Photo: UN Women/Joe Saade

Gender was absent in early COP agendas

The first Conference of Parties on climate change (COP1), in Berlin in 1995. Photo: Peer Grimm - Getty

When meetings of the Conference of Parties (COP) to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) began in 1995, gender was not a topic of discussion.


Photo: The first Conference of Parties on climate change (COP1), in Berlin in 1995. Credit: Peer Grimm - Getty

The gender timeline

Gender wasn’t reflected in any COP decisions until 2001. UNFCCC bodies started focusing on the gender agenda in 2012, with a “gender balance goal”. And the Lima Work Programme on Gender was adopted in 2014.

Young people led millions around the world in marches demanding action on climate change days before the UN Climate Action Summit (23 September). Photo: UN Women/Amanda Voisard

Filling the data gaps

Given the lack of traditional data on gender in climate-related decision-making, UN Women undertook a text-based big data analysis of COP speeches, to assess the extent to which countries have integrated a gender perspective.


Photo: Young people led millions around the world in marches demanding action on climate change days before the UN Climate Action Summit (23 September). Photo: UN Women/Amanda Voisard

More than 200 speeches were analysed

There were a total of 367 speeches, in multiple languages, made by countries, regional bodies and international organizations at the three most recent COPs (24-26). UN Women web-scraped and analysed the 201 digital speeches by countries and regional bodies that were available in English.


What's in a word?

For the analysis, a data set of 260 keywords related to gender was developed based on background research for the Action Coalition on climate justice and PARIS21’s paper Measuring references to statistics in national policy documents

Only 26 countries and regional bodies made gender references in the past three COPs

A total of 32 speeches (of the 201) made by an average of 16% of countries and regional bodies (15% for COP26; 17% for COP25; and 16% for COP24) mentioned keywords related to gender. Since some of them made repeated mentions across COPs, only 26 countries and regional bodies made gender-related speeches.

Who is most consistent?

Saint Lucia is the only country that consistently made gender and climate action references in its speeches across all three COPs. The ASEAN, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Ghana were relatively consistent with gender-related speeches in two of the three COPs. 

A total of 41 mentions were found in the 32 speeches identified, with most countries referencing gender-related terms only once. Countries making more than one mention in their speeches included: Uganda, Nepal and India at COP24; Sri Lanka, Saint Lucia, Nigeria, Nicaragua at COP25; and Iceland at COP26.

What are they talking about?

Topic modelling, a machine-learning model, computed the probability for words to cluster into topics, to identify some common themes. The most common topics repeated across all three COPs are in black and those common to two COPS are shown in blue.

More positive or negative messages?

How a message is framed affects how it is perceived. Negative connotations in gender-related mentions, such as 'vulnerable', 'critical', 'adverse' and 'degradation,' have decreased year-on-year from COP24 to CO26. Meanwhile, positive sentiments, in words like 'support', 'good' and 'sustainable,' increased from COP24 to COP25 but decreased from COP25 to COP26 (perhaps due in part to the pandemic).

Gender perspectives on climate change are getting onto the agenda

This big data analysis sheds light on how the dialogue on connections between gender and climate change is slowly gathering momentum, at a time when calls for change are mounting. This year’s 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) focused on the gender-environment nexus, providing an important opportunity to rally decision-makers for accelerated action.

Women and the environment: An Asia-Pacific Snapshot

What does it matter whether gender is mentioned?

According to UN Women’s new empirical analysis of geospatial and survey data, climate change and disasters are associated with higher likelihood of child marriage, adolescent births, violence against women, and increased unpaid work burdens for water and fuel collection. 

When women and girls’ needs in the context of climate change are ignored by the world’s top decision-makers, little progress can be made on these pressing gender and environment problems.

See the publication
Mindy Lubber, CEO and President of Ceres. Photo courtesy of Ceres.

Signs of change in the private sector?

Speaking to UN Women ahead of CSW 66, Ceres CEO and President Mindy Lubber said women seem to have gained traction at COP26: “Women are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis and hold the key to equitable and sustainable economies yet they’re still excluded from the highest levels of finance. Gender equity is important in addressing climate change. I’m seeing more activity, more engagement, and acknowledgment of the unique and special role of gender in finance, equity and sustainability.”


UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous addresses the opening of the 66th Session on the Commission on the Status of Women on 14 March in New York. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

“Women and girls are the solution multipliers”

“The interlocking crises we face today continue to compound each other’s impacts as threat multipliers,” said UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous at the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2022, which focused on women and girls’ meaningful inclusion in climate solutions. “But women are the solution multipliers. … Women in all their diversity must be part of decision-making spaces, meaningfully and without barriers. This inclusion, including through temporary special measures, is one concrete accelerated action you can take to advance gender equality and identify solutions to the global climate crisis.”


Feminist Plan

We can plan for gender-responsive environmental sustainability

UN Women’s report A Feminist Plan for Sustainability and Social Justice provides a concrete roadmap on jobs, care and climate.

In the context of escalating environmental crises, the Feminist Plan aims to guide policymakers on how to ensure that women’s rights are advanced, not set back, by creating new green jobs, supporting agroecology and ensuring climate finance is gender-responsive.

See the Feminist Plan
Written By:
Ramya Emandi
Ramya Emandi

Ramya is a statistics consultant with the Women Count programme at UN Women. She is an applied econometrics policy researcher in a constant pursuit of interdisciplinary and pluralistic approaches to policy frameworks, exploring non-traditional data sources and methods. Over the past 10 years she has worked on a variety of macro-development areas within various international organizations, the Indian public sector and the UN.

Jessa Encarnacion
Jessamyn Encarnacion

Jessamyn Encarnacion is the Inter-Regional Advisor on Gender Statistics of UN Women’s global gender data programme, Women Count. She manages global projects on disaggregated gender statistics, including the rapid gender assessments on the socioeconomic impact of and violence against women during COVID-19. Prior to joining UN Women, she worked for 18 plus years with the Philippines National Statistical Coordination Board leading social statistics.

Papa Seck
Papa Seck

Papa Seck is the Chief of UN Women's Research and Data section, where he has been leading statistics since 2009. He spearheaded the development of Women Count, UN Women's global gender data programme in 2016, to improve the production and use of gender data and to help countries monitor the Sustainable Development Goals from a gender perspective. 

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Explore the Data

Learn more about our data resources, why data is missing, and explore our multiple data dashboards to learn more about gender statistics.