COP28: The Need for Gender Equality & Tourism on the Agenda


COP28 is fast approaching, a time to reflect on the progress made on the UNFCCC’s goal to limit climate change. This year’s cross-cutting themes are inclusivity, finance, and technology and innovation. 

Gender equality is bound to be on the agenda, but will tourism be considered? Here’s why creating a sustainable, equitable industry needs to be a part of the conversation at COP28 and beyond. 

Why COP28 Matters

This year, COP28 will take place in the United Arab Emirates from 30th November to 12th December. Leaders from governments, businesses, NGOs and civil society from all over the world will meet to track progress on the Paris Agreement, and discuss concrete solutions to the defining issue of our time.

Climate action can’t wait. Now more than ever, we need to find viable solutions to dramatically reduce emissions and protect lives and livelihoods. In the past, COP discussions have produced agreements, action plans and mandates, shaping global climate policy and accelerating action to tackle climate change. 

Image: COP28 UAE logo

At COP28, themes of finance, technology and innovation, and inclusion will cut across each of the debates and meetings, bringing more voices to the table. This is a unique opportunity for international cooperation in the fight against climate change.

Gender Inequality and Climate Change

Climate change is not gender neutral. Its effects spread through societies differently, exacerbating existing inequalities and worst affecting marginalised groups. Therefore, women and girls are especially vulnerable to climate-related insecurities, or are burdened with the strain of responding to the disaster and adapting to its impacts.

The climate crisis disproportionately affects women and girls through gendered responsibility, health outcomes and rights. For example, as ecosystems degrade, women and girls are increasingly burdened with household work and are forced to search for resources in unsecured areas. This puts them in a more vulnerable position as it limits their opportunities for education and generating income.

By placing gender equality at the front and centre in policies, practices and interventions, we can effectively adapt and empower women. Planners and decision makers need to understand the underlying drivers of inequality and how they make specific groups vulnerable to climate change. Given COP28’s focus on inclusivity, gender inequality and how to combat it in relation to climate change could be a significant theme on the agenda.

Where Does Tourism Fit into Gender and the Climate Crisis?

The tourism industry is vulnerable to climate change, but also contributes to environmental damage. While climate-related disasters destroy many tourist destinations, the industry is responsible for around 8% of the world’s carbon emissions. This also has profound effects on the local populations in tourist destinations, who are often excluded from the benefits of tourism while their livelihoods and environment are at risk. 

Of course, the climate crisis also affects many women working within the tourism industry. Take the Tanzanian farmers supported by our impact project, the Wamboma Co-operative Society. These women work in the tourism supply chain, providing fresh quality produce to local hotels and restaurants. 

The co-operative faced a major setback in 2019 due to the severe effects of climate change, namely flash floods and drought. Crops were washed away three times and soil was left degraded. While the project was able to help mitigate these impacts in this case, it highlights how vulnerable many women in tourism’s livelihoods are to our increasingly unpredictable climate. 

Tanzanian farmer Dativa tending to crops

Image: Wamboma Co-operative Member Dativa in Kilimanjaro

Sustainable Tourism for Gender Equality

Sustainable tourism aims to create meaningful and authentic experiences while fostering respect for the environment and promoting the well-being of residents and visitors. As we strive for a more sustainable and responsible tourism industry, the role of gender equality and equity cannot be understated. Taking a holistic approach to sustainable tourism encompasses environmental and economic considerations while also considering empowerment and inclusion of everyone. 

Without considering gender equality, the tourism industry cannot provide positive lasting impacts. It can only achieve a harmonious balance between environmental preservation, economic growth and social equity by realising the interconnected nature of these factors, and making decisions with this in mind.

Tourism’s Impact Can’t Be Ignored

In the lead up to COP28, it’s a great time to consider the industries that are contributing to the climate crisis. Tourism’s impact cannot be ignored, and a holistic approach is crucial to ensure that the industry can create positive change and lasting impact. This is a critical opportunity to recognise that by integrating gender equality into the tourism industry’s policy, practice and intervention, we can work towards a serious commitment to climate change. 

Share our passion for making the tourism industry more gender equal and sustainable? Find out about ways to partner with us.

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