What would a feminist loss and damage fund look like?

Myrah Nerine Butt Climate Change, Gender, Research

Myrah Nerine and Alex Bush introduce a new paper that calls on decision makers at COP28 to pay attention to the gendered impacts of the climate emergency.

Graphic from the new paper, Gendered Dimensions of Loss and Damage in Asia (illustration: Alex Bush)

The global commitment to a loss and damage fund was a key success of last year’s COP.  This year, on day 1 of the current COP28 in Dubai, countries pledged a total of $420 million to resource the loss and damage fund. But questions remain over how inclusive the fund will be in its design, and whether it will offer proper redress to the communities who have paid the biggest price in our climate emergency. Against this backdrop, we launch a paper focused on Asia that highlights a huge challenge those shaping the fund at this year’s talks must tackle: the gendered impacts of climate change and, in particular, the heavy price paid by women.

The staggering losses from climate change in Asia

Asia saw 81 natural hazard events, predominantly floods and storms, in 2022, according to the World Meteorological Organization. Those disasters displaced 50 million people and cost India, China, Pakistan, and Bangladesh collectively a staggering loss of approximately US$36 bn.

Our new briefing paper ‘’Gendered Dimensions of Loss and Damage in Asia’’ emphasises the importance of understanding the gendered aspects of such climate-related events. It explores both economic and non-economic losses, drawing from case studies in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, the Philippines and Timor-Leste to illustrate the impact of the climate crisis on women in vulnerable communities.

The paper highlights how current adaptation, mitigation, development, and humanitarian measures are failing to address the needs and uphold the basic rights of women on the frontlines of the climate crisis.

While women play a key role in responding to the climate crisis, their contributions are often overshadowed and excluded from loss and damage assessments, exacerbating gender disparities, unequal gender norms and structural inequalities.

The climate crisis is having gendered impacts on food security, health and education and migration. Beyond economic loss and material damage, the paper sheds light on non-economic losses and damages experienced by women, such as the loss of family members and vital community support systems, compromised safety and security, and worsening health and well-being. Our paper also charts how climate change is adding to women’s unpaid care responsibilities, an issue with major economic impacts, and is leading to alarming spikes in gender-based violence.

Time to make the right decisions

The Global North is estimated to be accountable for a staggering 92% of historical global emissions. We have moved beyond the point of debating who is responsible and now need to move towards deeper conversations on how the countries most responsible can best pay for measures to address the harm they have caused and continue to deepen.

Our paper argues gender-transformative loss and damage policy, programming and financing must be central to those measures. Support through the Loss and Damage Fund needs to be established with an intersectional feminist lens to enable short- and long-term actions to address urgent needs and help communities rebuild stronger and restore sustainably.

Our call to action is directed both at the affected regions and governments and policymakers in the Global North, particularly those engaged in decision-making around the set-up of the fund.

Nine steps towards a feminist loss and damage fund

So how do we move towards a feminist loss and damage fund? We don’t yet have all the answers but here are nine things policy-makers and decision makers at COP28 should think about.

  1. Now that the fund is set up, the fund must be filled proportionate to the needs of countries in the Global South particularly vulnerable to climate induced Loss and Damage. The recent pledges made at COP28 are just a drop in the ocean of what is needed by communities confronting the climate crisis.
  2. An important first step will be Inclusive Governance of the Loss and Damage Fund. We particularly ask that the governing body should be gender-balanced and have designated seats for marginalized groups (see this related blog on inclusion of local voices and communities in loss and damage decisions).  
  3. Such inclusion will be a vital part of broader participatory approach in decision-making across climate response. Women and non-binary communities should be actively consulted, involved and meaningfully integrated into the development, assessment, formulation and implementation of policies and funding programmes.  
  4. We call for the recognition of unpaid care when addressing loss and damage: We advocate that classifications and definitions linked to loss and damage finance take into account the critical role unpaid care plays in the paid economy. In particular we want to see the impacts on care work included under economic loss and damage, despite care work itself often not being monetized.
  5. We also cannot address something we can’t see! So we are calling for comprehensive measurement and data collection for loss and damage: measurement of impacts by the fund and policy responses should include the social, emotional and psychological impacts of loss and damage on communities.
  6. We propose that a Gender-Intersectional Analysis of Loss and Damage Finance be embedded in the design of the fund.
  7. We push for the inclusion of feminist allies and civil society both in decision-making and access to funding. This means the fund must empower Women’s Rights Organizations (WROs) with flexible, multi-year funding that recognises and supports their vital work on the front lines of the climate crisis..
  8. We call for gender-transformative measures that support rights realisation, including sexual and reproductive health rights. This includes strengthening welfare structures for women; supporting rural women’s food security; non-discriminatory access to resources; and equitable involvement in decision-making . Simultaneously, we call for gender-sensitive strengthening of WASH infrastructure, which has been shown to be particularly vital for women’s access to water and sanitation.
  9. Finally, and most critically, we call for direct access to finance for marginalized groups.

In the absence of gender-sensitive approaches, we are likely to see widening gender inequities. We cannot leave women and non-binary people further behind, bearing an unjust share of the costs of the climate crisis. Climate and gender justice must go hand in hand – and a feminist loss and damage fund can help to deliver both.


Myrah Nerine Butt

Myrah Nerine Butt is Gender Justice Advocacy Manager Asia, Oxfam in Asia


Alex Bush

Alex Bush is a researcher on Valuing Women’s Work at Oxfam GB

The Gendered Dimensions of Loss and Damage in Asia paper is now available on Oxfam’s Policy & Practice knowledge hub. Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates —  and subscribe to our monthly newsletter round-up of Oxfam research and blogs.