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Understanding the link between climate change and sexual and reproductive health

Have you ever wondered how health priorities are reflected in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), the national climate plans of the countries that have ratified the Paris Agreement on climate change? Or have you ever been curious if the link between climate change action and sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR) is well understood and reflected in these plans? UNFPA, with funding support from IDRC, set out to find answers.
A midwife holds a newborn at General Reference Hospital in Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Midwife Lucie Banionia holding a newborn baby in the maternity ward at General Reference Hospital, Kinshasa, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. UNFPA supports the maternity ward, where Banionia has worked for the past 25 years.

IDRC supported UNFPA in a project titled Enhance the capacity for gender and SRHR responsive climate adaptation at COP27 and beyond. The project aims to support UNFPA in addressing the problem that insufficient understanding, awareness and integration of the interlinkages between climate change and gender equality, SRHR and youth inclusion hinder the development and implementation of gender-responsive climate policies. 

The project supported strategic activities to enhance the capacity of key actors for gender-responsive adaptation by creating awareness of pathways for inclusion of SRHR and gender issues in climate policies at the 27th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP27). It also seeks to inform the next cycle of NDCs to be submitted in 2025.

The project supported a global review of NDCs submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and is available on the UNFCCC’s NDC Registry. To represent a range of geographic, socio-economic and cultural factors, the review included countries in five regions of the Global South — East and Southern Africa, West and Central Africa, the Arab States, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean.

This is now available in the newly published global review titled “Taking Stock: Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights in Climate Commitments: A Global Review”. This work was jointly prepared in October 2023 by IDRC, UNFPA and Queen Mary University of London, United Kingdom. The report examines the climate plans of 119 countries and whether they integrate access to contraception, safe birthing and protection for women and girls from gender-based violence into their adaptation goals. 

The report shows that many countries have made commendable progress in highlighting SRHR in their plans, but a majority still falls short. With climate impacts increasing in scale and intensity, communities on the frontlines are becoming more vulnerable, especially women and girls. The report illustrates a global analysis to identify regional entry points to address the intersection of SRHR, gender and climate in national policy discourse. 

In addition, five regional reports have now been published. These regional reports examine the integration of SRHR and related themes — including health, gender, population dynamics, youth, human rights, vulnerable groups and participation — in the NDCs of countries from 2020 onwards. 

The regional reports offer recommendations on how the next submissions can more effectively address these intersections in terms of impact, commitments, budget and other critical actions. Their recommendations could not be more timely, as countries work on the third cycle of the NDCs on the road to the Climate Change Conference (COP29) agenda on the Gender Action Plan, which was adopted under the UNFCC to increase women’s participation and leadership in climate action and better integrate gender considerations in national climate plans and policies. 

The project employed an innovative approach to develop an online live tracking tool that showcases the results of the global NDCs review. The tracker will serve as a dynamic tool for in-depth analysis of the findings and provide a real-time, user-friendly platform to monitor and assess progress on the integration of SRHR and gender perspectives within climate commitments. The tracker will also contain a visual map and brief information on the commitments to gender, SRHR and youth in each of the NDCs. 

These regional reports are now available:

Arab States   

Asia and the Pacific   

East and Southern Africa   

Latin America and the Caribbean   

West and Central Africa