Girls’ education in climate strategies: Opportunities for improved policy and enhanced action in Nationally Determined Contributions


Christina Kwauk, Jessica Cooke, Elisa Hara, Joni Pegram


Climate change is the most significant intergenerational equity issue of our time. Children and future generations are bearing, and will continue to bear, the brunt of its impact on a polluted, degraded planet. The social and regional impacts of climate change are not distributed equally or evenly, and this inequality increases vulnerability. This paper looks at how the intersecting vulnerabilities of age and gender shape the impact of climate change on girls and young women in particular and asks two questions:

  1. Do climate strategies include adequate attention to social protection, and the inclusion and empowerment of vulnerable groups?

  2. Do climate strategies include sufficient attention to girls’ education, specifically, and to inclusive, quality, gender transformative education, more broadly?

Based on an analysis of 160 Nationally Determined Contributions—country-level climate strategies to reduce emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change—and thirteen National Adaptation Plans, the answer is no. The findings suggest countries have a long way to go.

• Only one country’s NDC makes a reference to girls’ education and two additional countries refer to girls explicitly, a reflection of a larger omission of children/youth and education in climate strategies.

• Only 67 of 160 NDCs (approximately 42%) include a direct reference to children or youth and only eight to intergenerational injustice or future generations.

• Top 20 carbon emitting countries were least focused on education and children.

• Those countries that do attend to issues of intergenerational equity tend to be “young” countries—countries with a large under-15 population—and climatevulnerable countries.

Overall, findings from this study suggest that the spirit of the Paris Agreement for climate action to attend to issues of fairness, equity, and justice is not translating into country-level climate strategies.

The alarming speed at which the planet approaches climate catastrophe suggests countries do not have the luxury of time. National climate strategies must step up their ambition in terms of technical solutions and, crucially, pay more attention to the key sociological underpinnings driving climate change in order to uphold human rights, and especially the rights of children and future generation. One route is to incorporate greater attention to girls’ education— immediately.