WECF to COP28: an ecofeminist reflection

Photo credit cover photo: Annabelle Avril/WECF

From November 30th to December 13th, 2023, Dubai hosted the biggest international climate conference with around 190 countries participating, uniting to confront the pressing challenges posed by the climate crisis and propel international efforts toward sustainable solutions. At the forefront of these diplomatic processes, the dedicated WECF team not only actively advocated for ecofeminist solutions but also brings you their reflections and insights on the outcomes of COP28. 

In this article, we offer a feminist perspective, providing a unique lens through which to view the discussions that unfolded. WECF delved into five critical streams of negotiations, each pivotal to shaping the global response to climate change: 

  1. Gender: Engaging in discussions focused on integrating gender considerations into climate policies, particularly with the renewal of the Gender Action Plan (GAP) slated for 2024. 
  2. Global Stocktake: Participating in negotiations that assessed the implementation of the Paris Agreement and delved into the role of technology. 
  3. Just Transition Work Programme: Addressing the imperative for a just transition of workers and communities toward a low-carbon economy, a crucial aspect of creating a sustainable future. 
  4. Agriculture and Food Security: Advocating for gender perspectives to be seamlessly integrated into policies governing agriculture and food security, recognising the vital role of women and gender-diverse people in these domains. 
  5. Article 6 on Market and Non-Market Mechanisms: Contributing to negotiations that aim to promote non-market approaches for mitigation and adaptation, while also shaping a global carbon market to foster cost-effective emission reductions. 

Through this article, we aim to share not only the challenges faced but also the hopeful highlights that emerged during COP28. It was an inspiring experience to have many of the partners we work with at COP28, fostering a collaborative atmosphere that resonated with the spirit of our shared mission. Our engagement went beyond the core negotiations, as we actively participated in numerous side events and organised impactful sessions. Find an overview at the bottom of the article. For any questions, media enquiries, reach out to Gaia Zanaboni, gaia.zanaboni@wecf.org.


Rebecca Heuvelmans, WECF Advocacy and Campaigning Officer, followed the gender negotiations. “The negotiations on gender this year were supposed to be quite straightforward and merely ‘procedural’, since Parties only needed to decide on a timeline”. Previously, the text stated that both the review of the current and decision on a new Gender Action Plan (GAP) would take place at the same time during COP29. This would be an extremely tight timeline, and hence the decision was made this COP to move the submissions forward to March to space the process out a bit more. “However, pretty much everything else substantial was taken out of the text,” Rebecca shares. “For example, some parties opposed to noting the reports or key outcomes of the workshop on a gender just transition that took place during the conference, language on local communities and Indigenous women was also scratched from the text and yet again financing for implementation of the GAP was a stumbling block”.

“We are still aiming for an ambitious new GAP with the Women and Gender Constituency but must admit that the current state of the negotiations does not inspire much optimism in the process to come.” 

GST & Technology  

Anne Barre, WECF Gender and Climate Programmes Manager, followed the tough negotiations on the Global Stocktake, (GST) the first collective assessment process of the implementation of the Paris Agreement, meant to raise the ambition of climate action in a just manner. The discussions in the rooms between Parties were long and difficult, showing a strong divide on the level of efforts needed and the way forward.  

(Photo credit: Annabelle Avril / WECF)

The outcome is disappointing, even if – thanks to the powerful mobilisation of civil society present in Dubai – we were able to finally obtain a reference to transitioning out of fossil fuels in the COP decision text. This text, however, also opens the door to dangerous technological distractions such as carbon capture and storage, nuclear, and all colours of hydrogen, but also other false solutions framed as ‘transition fuels’ and net-zero approaches. We find the approach to Artificial Intelligence for climate action is often seen as a magic solution. However, the IPCC emphasises the need to prioritise renewable energy, energy efficiency, socially just transitions, and resilience measures for the most affected*, to stay on track for the 1.5°C goal.  This COP28 decision is not the full, fair, fast, fully funded, feminist fossil fuels phaseout we need for the very survival of people on this planet 

On a positive note, we can welcome the fact that the GST (Global Stocktake) decision does acknowledge the importance of gender-responsive approaches as the way for climate action going forward, but we regret that references to protect, respect and promote human rights are largely missing, so this will not help guiding mandates and commitments as a cross-cutting obligation in the future.  

Anne adds: “Personally, having participated in all 3 phases of the GST Technical Dialogue since SB56 in June 2022, I am angry that this decision text does not call on Parties to strengthen the collection and use of gender-disaggregated data in their next round of NDCs (Nationally-Determined Contributions), as we were carrying this demand repeatedly in all sessions.”

Just Transition Work Programme (JTWP) 

Just Transition was a central agenda item during this COP. Although it came with great expectations, the final text disappointed us because it is another talking shop, that talks about creating spaces to share experiences, but without concrete results. Civil society demonstrated that this is an issue that unites workers, peasants, indigenous peoples, women, and youth, and demanded that their right to participate be respected. However, most of the negotiations were behind closed doors. 

The final version left a bitter taste. On the one hand, it complies with the demands made by civil society to include international cooperation as a facilitator of the work program, recognising common but differentiated responsibilities. It is also welcome that it is mentioned that the just transition must be made with dialogue and social protection and recognising labor rights. However, there is no mention of the recognition of human rights and women’s rights, or the inclusion of unpaid, precarious, and informal work, especially care work. This is not in line with the feminist vision we have of the JTWP, one that protects women workers’ rights focused on the implementation and strengthening of the international labor standards, the human rights of women, children and young people, Indigenous Peoples, local communities, workers, disabled people/with disabilities, and people with racialised identities, amongst other marginalised groups.  

(Photo credit: Annabelle Avril / WECF)

Agriculture and food security

Annabel Kennedy, Project manager at WECF, joined a small group of Women and Gender Constituency colleagues following the agriculture and food security negotiations. During the preceding Bonn intersessional, there was deep frustration as some promising language on gender had been scrapped, and progress had stalled. Unfortunately, little had changed since June and they left COP with yet again no decision, let alone any commitment to integrating gender throughout the work programme. Discussions went round in circles about a roadmap for implementation, workshop topics, an online portal for submissions and others, but with very little reference to the vital role of women in all their diversity as food producers and (smallholder) farmers. During the second meeting, Annabel had the opportunity to give an intervention on behalf of the WGC.


We highlighted the importance of: 

  • incorporating the knowledge, needs and perspectives of (rural) women 
  • taking seriously women’s role as food security multipliers while equally considering the increased and gender risks, they face in situations of food insecurity 
  • implementing a holistic approach which considers ecosystems, biodiversity and soil health, and which is community-led and rights-based  
  • mainstreaming the Gender Action Plan in the agriculture work 
  • considering agroecological alternatives often implemented by women 
  • opposing dangerous distractions such as ‘climate smart agriculture’ and Artificial Intelligence

Despite days of meetings – including a significant number of so-called informal talks in which observers cannot participate, thereby reducing the transparency – Parties did not manage to agree on a text. We left with only an informal note, containing one paltry reference to rural women in the annex, which may be considered next June. Given conventional industrial agriculture’s severe impact on both climate and biodiversity, including being a serious driver of deforestation in many parts of the world and the harm to both planetary and human health resulting from the use of synthetic fertilisers and pesticides, it proves how much work is still to be done on moving towards real rights-based, community-led, small-scale agroecological alternatives.

Article 6 on market and non-market mechanisms 

Article 6 of the Paris Agreement is negotiated in three separate tracks: 6.2 and 6.4 on market mechanisms, and 6.8 on non-market approaches. Regarding market mechanisms, there was no agreement on either 6.2 or 6.4, and this is one of the few areas where lack of progress represented a win because dangerous distractions cannot be prioritised at the expense of urgent emissions reductions. As a wealth of evidence shows, carbon markets and offsetting initiatives – including for example monoculture tree plantations – are not only often ‘junk’  but they are frequently linked to serious human rights violations, including land grabbing which disproportionately impacts women and Indigenous Peoples. Regarding long discussions on carbon ‘removals’, it is crystal clear that some governments and businesses are determined to do everything they can to continue business as usual by promoting problematic, unproven, and risky technofixes instead of taking (historical) responsibility by committing to an equitable and urgent fossil fuel phase-out. This was underscored during an excellent side event about the implications of article 6 for frontline communities. In various iterations of draft texts, it was unacceptable that work was being pushed through while safeguards were not met, no agreement was made on a grievance mechanism and there was no language on human rights. Although a text was finally agreed for 6.8, during the negotiations certain Parties expressed their deep disappointment with the unbalanced nature of the article 6 discussions, with 6.8 on non-market approaches (NMAs) receiving little attention or priority. When it did receive attention there were some worrying proposals – such as carbon pricing – which were not in line with the spirit of non-market principles. Carbon markets and offsets are not a solution to the climate crisis; worse, they represent a continuation of the same extractive capitalist and colonial systems which are the root of the problem. It is clear that we still need to push for holistic ecosystem-based approaches which respect human rights and are gender-just, rights-based and community-led.

WECF team’s Highlights 

Good Practices of Gender-Responsive Climate Action Side Event

Rebecca particularly enjoyed our event in the Capacity-building hub, as it granted space for an open dialogue on important topics such as women’s rights and access to: land, decision-making, finance and technology. Agnes Mirembe, Trupti Jain and Ernestine Leikeki set the stage by sharing success stories of gender just climate actions and structural barriers they face. After their pitches, they joined in leading interactive discussions together with Dorothee Lisenga, Valeria Pelaez Cardona and Melano Tskhvaradze.

(Photo credit: Annabelle Avril / WECF)

Bridging Gender Gaps in NDC Implementation 

The event where we explored feminist approaches to transform Nationally determined contributions (NDCs). We facilitated a dynamic dialogue among governments, UNFCCC bodies, and grassroots organisations, showcasing community-led climate technology initiatives that bridge gender gaps in climate action. Our objectives included supporting NDC implementation through just transitions, gender equality, and human rights principles, emphasising the need to consider experiences and knowledge of local, indigenous, and feminist organisations in shaping climate technologies and policies. 

You can watch the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gvJ3hAcfR8 

Gender Just Climate Solutions Awards

Anne’s highlight was the celebration of the Gender Just Climate Solutions Awards on December 5th and the enriching exchanges with the group of former Awardees we were able to invite this year. Seeing how they are courageously shaping the real solutions we need to tackle the climate crisis on all continents, and how they have been able to scale up their action thanks to the strong solidarity and mutual understanding we have built together is an immense source of hope and gratitude, which remains with us to find the strength to continue our feminist mobilisation for climate actions on the ground.  

“It is like a community” says Gaia Zanaboni, Gender and Climate Policy Assistant, and continues: “I have been working in the Gender Just Climate Solutions programme for 6 months and this was my first COP. Being in the COP space, which felt so overwhelming and hopeless, was tough. However, it was truly amazing to be able to be there with numerous previous Awardees and to meet the new ones. It gave me the strength I needed to face the conference. That is really what I take from this COP: the power of collective action. Despite all the numerous attempts to shut civil society down, we were there, strong in solidarity and loud. And we stay and we fight for an ecofeminist common future.

We made a video about this year’s Gender Just Climate Solutions! Watch it here.

Besides these side events, WECF co-organised several other side events as well. Click here for more.

(Photo credit: Annabelle Avril / WECF)

Useful resources: 

Click here for the WGC press release

Click here for a Guardian article, titled ‘Rich countries are desperate to convince us their hollow COP28 deal is a triumph. They’re lying.’

Click here for a press release on the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty

Click here to read our NEW Gender Just Climate Solutions Awards publication