The theme for the United Nation’s International Women’s Day 2024 (IWD 2024) is “Invest in Women: Accelerate Progress”; however, any promotion of gender equality in the green economy should be done in the global context of climate justice and recognize the intersectionality of women.

Climate justice is the topic of recent UN reports that also centre on the intersectionality of Indigenous women in addressing economic vulnerability. For example, the 2022 policy brief “Climate Justice for Indigenous Women: Urgency and Way Forward” notes how “[i]ntersectionality and climate change cumulatively escalate Indigenous Women’s vulnerability,” such that the “[d]emystification of intersectionality of Indigenous Women should be the starting point for integrating reform at all levels.”

In addition, the 2023 report, Feminist Climate Justice: A Framework for Action, emphasizes how “gender inequalities intensify vulnerability to climate change impacts, which in turn jeopardize hard-won gains on women’s rights.” Although the framework centres intersectionality, it emphasizes women’s rights and gender roles rather than the full spectrum of gender expression. Examples of Indigenous Women’s leadership in their communities are also provided throughout the report.

Indigenous Women continue to lead efforts in addressing climate change, and their entrepreneurship is also driving initiatives to bring economic prosperity to regions that are hardest hit by climate change. However, investing in women and accelerating economic progress – the theme of IWD 2024 – must be done in the current context of climate justice while recognizing the intersectionality of women around the world.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image Credit: Ashkan Forouzani, Unsplash)

The term “climate justice” emphasizes how climate change is a social justice issue and a collective concern. Seeking climate justice involves recognizing the inequities in “social, economic, public health and other adverse impacts” of climate change, experienced by diverse communities and across differences in gender, age, ability, income, and other experiences. According to a World Bank Report (2020), by 2030, between 32 and 132 million additional people will experience extreme poverty due to climate change.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres has stated that: “Climate change is happening now and to all of us. No country or community is immune. And, as is always the case, the poor and vulnerable are the first to suffer and the worst hit.” Climate change can also worsen existing inequities, and some communities have fewer resources to address climate impacts (e.g., heat waves; air pollution; food insecurity, associated health implications; etc) than others. Consequently, climate change is a “threat multiplier and further threatens peace across geographic regions and between people, also provoking global human migration and displacement. Applying climate solutions that involve a commitment to climate justice include “governments paying for their fair share to the people who have suffered,” such as loss and damages caused by climate change events.

Indigenous-led climate justice initiatives place a priority on climate solutions founded on Indigenous rights and self-determination. In turn, climate solutions should also work to “dismantle” barriers and mitigate the impact of historic injustices that oppress communities further marginalized by climate crises.


By Leela Viswanathan

(Photo credit: Beth MacDonald, Unsplash)

The United Nations Paris Agreement states that signatories (also referred to as “Parties” to the agreement) should “respect, promote and consider their respective obligations on human rights” and to integrate these into their climate actions. The agreement “sets long-term goals to guide all nations to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions to limit the global temperature increase in this century.”  Since 2020, Parties must outline their long-term goals and climate actions through “Nationally Determined Contributions” or NDCs.

In November 2022, the Centre for International Environmental Law and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights released a toolkit to guide Parties on how to integrate human rights in NDCs. The toolkit, “Integrating Human Rights in Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs)”, centers public participation and domestic planning processes in formulating NDCs and integrating human rights obligations of Parties into “the implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of the NDC.” The toolkit consists of seven sections. Section 5 of the toolkit (pp. 23-27) sets out three recommendations that address integrating the rights and traditional knowledge of Indigenous peoples in NDCs:

  • Recommendation 5.1 Integrate obligations articulated by UNDRIP in the preparation and implementation of the NDC.
  • Recommendation 5.2 Respect the free, prior, and informed consent of Indigenous Peoples.
  • Recommendation 5.3 Integrate and respect traditional knowledge in the preparation and implementation of the NDC.

The section also provides reflection questions for Parties to consider throughout the process of including Indigenous peoples in the further development of climate adaptation and mitigation policies.


By Leela Viswanathan


(Image credit: Dan Meyers, Unsplash)

How close is the world to meeting the challenge of the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 on climate action? According to the UN report 2020 on SDGs “the world is way off track to meet the Paris Agreement target, signalling cataclysmic changes ahead.”

SDG 13 aims to “take urgent action to combat climate change and its impact” through the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC), while focusing on each member nation’s efforts to integrate the SDG 13 targets into their policies on climate change. The Paris Agreement builds upon the UNFCC, seeking “to limit global warming to 1.5C,” such that greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions start to fall by 7.6% each year starting in 2020. SDG 13 is also considered alongside efforts to build more climate-resilient economies and societies as noted in the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015–2030.

GHG emissions declined worldwide at the onset of COVID-19; however, these emissions are expected to rise, as governments lift pandemic-related restrictions on people. In July 2020, the International Energy Agency (IEA) reported that the world had no more than 6 months left to avert a climate crisis and to prevent a surge of GHG emissions. Without full commitment from governments worldwide, there is little hope to reverse the climate crisis. It will also be worth considering how SDG 13 and other SDGs are implicated in sustainable development efforts among Indigenous communities in Canada.

By Leela Viswanathan


(Photo Credit: Denys Nevozhai)

Indigenous Local Knowledge (ILK) is a combined term that reflects Indigenous knowledge, based on cultural practices, and local knowledge, rooted in local contexts and experiences. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a body of the United Nations responsible for evaluating the “science of climate change,” has noted that ILK is crucial to enabling communities to adapt to climate change, and that ILK is also under threat worldwide.

As a vital resource for responding to climate change, ILK is threatened by:

  1. the speed of climate change impacts outpacing the incremental application of ILK.
  2. a combination of processes, including rapid urbanization, the expansion of formalized education, economic diversification, and the adoption of new technologies which shift the focus away from agriculture, and may ‘disrupt’ how ILK is traditionally passed from one generation to the next.
  3. how the acquisition of land at a large scale, to promote mass food production, can minimize local and small scale economies in favour of the global economy.

Embedding ILK practices into local institutions can help policy decision makers to understand climate change effects on Indigenous communities in diverse locations across the world, especially where there is no formal scientific data being collected. According to the IPCC Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5C (SR15), climate change experts have found that ILK can provide accurate baselines for environmental processes, such as global warming, changes to weather, water quality, and landscape degradation.

By Leela Viswanathan