COP 27: Gender Day: Investing in GESI and GRID-Smart Infrastructure

Introduction:

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Following Gender Day at COP27 on Monday, the world waits to hear whether world leaders will endorse agreements for gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) sensitive climate action. One key theme to watch for will be investment in infrastructure for green, resilient, and inclusive development (GRID). The Sudridh-Nepal Urban Resilience Programme (NURP) operates with GRID principles guiding all of its activities in its focal municipalities: Pokhara Metropolitan City (PMC), Butwal Sub-Metropolitan City (BSMC) and Janakpurdham Sub-Metropolitan City (JSMC). GESI is always a key consideration when identifying opportunities for infrastructure development to ensure that the ‘I’ in GRID (inclusion) is never overlooked.

The problem: What does infrastructure investment need to combat?

The impacts of climate change are not equally felt by all. Rather, it is those who contribute least who are expected to suffer most, particularly women, children and marginalised communities. These groups – who face pre-existing discrimination and barriers to social, economic, and political inclusion – are least equipped to adapt to climate-induced disasters, loss of livelihoods, resource scarcity and other climate change impacts[1].For instance, the effects of climate change on women’s and girls’ health, education and employment opportunities are expected to delay the achievement of global gender equality by 20 years[2]. Nepal is no exception to these disparities.

Nepal is considered the thirteenth most climate-vulnerable country in the world because of risks such as rising temperatures, decreasing rainfall, floods, and landslides.[3]/[4] The country’s poor and isolated communities are expected to suffer heavily from loss of access to glacial melt waters[5], and rising agricultural challenges limit the abilities of women, children, and rural communities to access education and additional economic opportunities[6].

Investing in both mitigation (to prevent future negative climate impacts) and adaptation (to improve communities’ resilience in the face of these impacts) are both key components of climate action. However, there is an adaptation gap in climate financing. Most efforts currently focus on mitigation, leaving global adaptation financing flows five to ten times below the needs of developing countries[7].

In addition to insufficient funding being available for climate adaptation, women and marginalised groups often have less access to financing and employment opportunities. For example, women are underrepresented in the employment sectors – such as building and materials, energy and engineering – where both reskilling for green practices will take place and new green jobs will be added[8].Furthermore, start-ups with female founders are much less likely than their male-run counterparts to receive climate-related funding[9].

Sudridh-NURP has witnessed first-hand these barriers to accessing climate finance. NURP’s support to the Mithila Arts Association (MAA) and the development of Inclusive Local Economic Development Plans (ILED) for each municipality identified difficulties faced both by women and marginalised groups seeking financing, and local government accessing climate funds.

The Solution: Investing in GESI and GRID sensitive infrastructure

An important step in bridging the climate adaptation financing gap will be investment in infrastructure that follows the GRID principles. Green infrastructure helps to mitigate climate change through steps such as reducing emissions and preserving or restoring natural spaces.Green, climate resilient infrastructure also contributes to adaptation by being “planned, designed, built and operated in a way that anticipates, prepares for and adapts to changing climate conditions”[10].Investing in infrastructure that is both resilient in itself and incorporates resilient management practices is beneficial because its ability to withstand and recover from climate-related hazards helps to reduce negative, costly impacts.

                                                                                        Sudridh-NURP Spotlight: Green Finance Guidebook

NURP developed a Green Finance Guidebook to help municipalities understand and better access the array of green financing available from the Government of Nepal, commercial sources, and international institutions. The Guidebook summarises how municipalities can access green financing, meet accreditation requirements, and align municipal priorities with GRID considerations. A Green Finance Private Sector Consultation Event was also held to stimulate dialogue between the public and private sectors and alignment of investment with GRID priorities.

It is also essential to ensure that investment in infrastructure also take into account the impact on the wider community, and especially women and marginalised groups, particularly considering the compounded effect that climate change has on risks and inequalities. Embracing a GRID-sensitive approach when developing (and maintaining) infrastructure is the most effective and efficient solution to prevent any harm and negative impacts on both climate and communities.

Funding inclusive infrastructure can include investing in: 

  • Infrastructure initiatives which integrate socio-environmental metrics in their design and planning, prioritising low-carbon and GESI-inclusive investments.
  • Companies implementing green, resilient infrastructure solutions which are owned and led by women and members of marginalised groups;
  • Companies implementing green, resilient infrastructure solutions which promote equity in their hiring, employment, and project implementation practices;
  • Companies which use green, resilient infrastructure solutions to improve the lives of women and marginalised groups;
  • Infrastructure initiatives which empower women and vulnerable communities as decision-makers, as well as beneficiaries;
  • Capacity building and knowledge sharing initiatives to ensure women and vulnerable groups have the skills to seek out and obtain green infrastructure financing.

Prioritising solutions which are inclusive, in addition to green and resilient, is the right thing to do to benefit the communities most heavily impacted by climate change, ensure fair representation, and empower women and marginalised groups to have their voices heard and take on leadership roles. Inclusivity that goes beyond simple symbolisms helps improve the resilience of all, and ensures innovative, adaptable, and cross-sectoral solutions for sustainable growth.Climate and economic resilience are linked to one another – it is now more obvious than ever how economic stability is threatened by the financial costs of climate-related disasters. . Lessening the impacts of climate change by investing in green, resilient, and inclusive infrastructure will protect economies by preventing societies’ most vulnerable groups from losing their livelihoods[11].Infrastructure investments that reduce barriers for women and marginalised groups to enter the green economy also have great benefits. First, equal participation in the green labour market would add 28 trillion USD to the annual global GDP, easily covering the current gap in finance needed to combat climate change[12]. Second, an influx of STEM professionals currently barred from developing their skills or from joining the sector altogether could reduce global CO2 emissions by 0.5 gigatons annually[13].

               Sudridh-NURP Spotlight: Inclusive Business Promotion

NURP’s business and entrepreneurship promotion activities always prioritise empowering and providing opportunities for women and marginalised communities. Examples include:

  • Supporting women from marginalised communities in Janakpurdham to form the Mithila Arts Association, a network for woman artists to support one another’s business opportunities, following a Business Promotion Training provided by NURP. NURP went on to help the MAA formalise their organisation, develop inclusive bylaws and strategy documents, and participate in the 6th International Women’s Trade Expo 2022, in Nepal. At the Trade Expo, the artists were able to network with other businesswomen and develop valuable entrepreneurship skills.
  • Supporting the Butwal Chambre of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) to make their Business Incubation Programme (BIP) master class more inclusive. Women entrepreneurs were encouraged to apply and participate, resulting in a new opportunity to gain skills for upscaling women-run businesses.

 

GESI
Fig1:NURP Team Members and MAA Interaction Programme on Mithila Art Promotion.

Adaptation efforts are most inclusive and effective when they are locally led. The eight principles for locally-led adaptation call for climate adaptation, including investment into GRID-responsive infrastructure, to be owned by local governments and communities. This approach empowers communities who have historically had development solutions imposed upon them. Investing in locally based and community run initiatives also benefits from the local knowledge needed to implement the most effective measures. NURP has strived to work closely with local administrations in Pokhara Metropolitan City (PMC), Butwal Sub-Metropolitan City (BSMC) and Janakpurdham Sub-Metropolitan City (JSMC), including at municipal and ward levels. Wherever possible, NURP also collaborates directly with communities to enhance their ownership of green and resilient infrastructure projects.

Sudridh-NURP Spotlight: Community-Owned Rooftop Farming

To support sustainable recovery from the economic crisis following the first wave of the Covid pandemic, NURP supported BSMC in identifying nature-based solutions that could support the circular economy. A particularly successful activity was the development of community-owned rooftop farming. NURP started by provided a 5-day Rooftop Training of Trainers (ToT), which taught organic methods of farming with lessons on vermicomposting to 29 participants from Tole Development Organizations in Wards 1 through 13. This training allowed participants the freedom to grow and eat their own produce as well as sell at the local market. Building off this event, participants were inspired to take the initiative to formally start a rooftop farming group. With the support of the Agricultural Division of BSMC, participants and other interested community members formally registered the Rooftop Farming Promotion Committee. The committee then began drafting a business plan to submit to BSMC for financial and technical support to promote the rooftop farming learnings in respective wards and function as a local resource to the community.

Making Infrastructure Investment practical: Partnering with the private sector

Investing in GRID-sensitive infrastructure can be challenging for local governments within the limits of their budget. We know that for Nepal to achieve its growth aspirations, it must close its infrastructure gap, and the Investment needs are quoted at 10-15 percent of GDP annually in the next decade[14].Public private partnership (PPP) is an invaluable way to make these investments possible. Collaborating with the private sector provides access to resources that governments often can’t obtain alone, such as additional financing, capacity, and human resources. PPPs for GESI-focused investment into green, resilient infrastructure are also opportunities to introduce GESI and GRID principles to the private sector. Encouraging private financing bodies and companies in the infrastructure sector to prioritise GRID considerations will provide employment, training and reskilling opportunities for women and marginalised communities. Finally, these types of PPPs have direct benefits for the private enterprises participating, in addition to the broad economic benefits discussed above. Companies adopting GESI-sensitive employment and operating practices can enjoy improvements in brand loyalty, workplace culture, sales or numbers of customers, and attracting investors[15].

Sudridh-NURP Spotlight: Facilitating PPP

NURP has worked with PMC, JSMC and BSMC to hold numerous public-private dialogues (PPD) and initiate PPPs:

  • NURP worked with JSMC to hold a Green Finance Private Sector Consultation, where representatives from the private sector, the public sector, development partners, banking and financial institutions identified local green projects for collaboration. A PPD was then held where representatives from the public and private sectors signed a Memorandum of Understanding and developed a task force to recommend GRID-aligned projects.
  • NURP worked with BSMC to adopt a PPP model on a number of initiatives. The most successful have been the development of a multi-purpose bus terminal and to operate a slaughterhouse. The multi-purpose bus terminal has already been selected by the Nepal Infrastructure Bank (NIFRA) for private debt financing. The slaughterhouse is a component of critical infrastructure in the municipality, which will generate revenue for the public and private sectors, aid local socioeconomic development and support livelihoods.
  •  NURP co-organised a Learning Alliance event on PPP in collaboration with the FCDO-funded Economic Policy Incubator (EPI) project bringing together 16 local governments: 15 municipalities part of the Siddhartha Economic Corridor (SEC) and JSMC. Local governments realised and agreed on the importance of supporting PPP for sustainable growth, and signed the Siddhartha Economic Corridor Declaration, committing to establishing policy guidance and relevant institutional arrangements for the effective identification and collaborative implementation of GRID-aligned PPP projects.
MOU Signing Between NURP and NIFRA

In conclusion, investing in GESI and GRID sensitive infrastructure is essential to adapt to the coming impacts of climate change in a way that leaves no one behind. Women and marginalised groups in Nepal are already strongly affected and particularly likely to face ever bigger climate-related challenges, making these investments all the more important.

NURP’s work to promote GESI, GRID, and PPPs provides foundations for PMC, BSMC, JSMC as well as other municipalities across the country to demonstrate that they are key actors to drive forward investment in green, resilient, and inclusive infrastructure, and hence support green and inclusive growth for Nepal.

[1] Clara Chiu, Jessica M. Smith, and Lauren Olosky, Inclusive Adaptation: A Benefit Multiplier for Climate Action and Women, Pease and Security (Peace and Security Georgetown Institute for Women, 2022), https://giwps.georgetown.edu/wpcontent/uploads/2022/08/Inclusive-Adaptation.pdf.

[2] Zineb Sqalli et al., Why Climate Action Needs a Gender Focus (Boston Consulting Group, 2021), https://www.bcg.com/publications/2021/climate-action-impact-on-gender-equality.

[3] ADB, Country Environment Note: Nepal (ADB, 2013), https://www.adb.org/sites/default/files/linked-documents/cps-nep-2013-2017-sd-01.pdf.

[4] USAID, Nepal climate vulnerability profile (2013), https://www.climatelinks.org/sites/default/files/asset/document/nepal_climate_vulnerability_profile_jan2013.pdf.

[5] ADB, Country Environment Note: Nepal.

[6] USAID, Nepal climate vulnerability profile.

[7] Chiu, Smith, and Olosky, Inclusive Adaptation: A Benefit Multiplier for Climate Action and Women, Pease and Security.

[8] Sqalli et al., Why Climate Action Needs a Gender Focus.

[9] Sqalli et al., Why Climate Action Needs a Gender Focus.

[10] OECD, Climate-resilient Infrastructure (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2018), 4, https://www.oecd.org/environment/cc/policy-perspectives-climate-resilient-infrastructure.pdf.

[11] Suzanne Biegel, “When it comes to climate resilience, gender matters,” GenderSmart (21 June 2022). https://www.greenbiz.com/article/when-it-comes-climate-resilience-gender-matters.

[12] Vaishali Sinha, “We can solve climate change – if we involve women,” Sustainable Development Impact Summit (2019). https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/09/why-women-cannot-be-spectators-in-the-climate-change-battle/.

[13] Sqalli et al., Why Climate Action Needs a Gender Focus.

[14] Nepal Infrastructure Sector Assessment, WBG, 2019.

[15] G-SEARch, Business and Social Outcomes of Gender-Smart Technical Assistance Activities in Small and Medium Enterprises: Building the Evidence Base for Gender Lens Investing (Gender-Smart Enterprise Assistance Research Coalition, 2022).

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