Three women standing around a clay pot
Credit: USAID

Catalyzing Change: Empowering Women through Climate Finance

By Corinne Hart

USAID launched its 2022-2030 Climate Strategy, a whole-of-Agency approach to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, help partner countries build resilience to climate change, and improve operations, on Earth Day 2022. As part of the strategy design process, USAID held a series of stakeholder consultations with some of the most influential and experienced global gender equality and climate change experts from around the world. Ranging from civil society to the private sector, these stakeholders provided an array of perspectives on what external stakeholders would like the Agency to include in its Climate Strategy.

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Nine women standing next to one another in front of presentation screen
Cristina (CJ) Juhasz (Women’s World Banking Asset Management), Najada Kumbuli (Visa Foundation), Martha Phiri (African Development Bank), Lisa Thomas (ATG Samata), Lelemba Phiri (ATG Samata), Corinne Hart (USAID), Elisabeth Trawinski (Reckitt), Leigh Anne DeWine (Amazon), Tina Sciabica (Amazon).

The consultations surfaced broad consensus on the desire for the Agency to focus on climate finance, specifically directing funding to women-led businesses and organizations that are leading and scaling climate solutions. Many stakeholders urged the Agency to become actively involved in closing the gender gap in climate finance, especially as only two percent of public climate finance investments are made with gender considerations in mind. 

In response to this feedback, USAID launched the Climate Gender Equity Fund (CGEF) at COP27 to harness the power of public-private partnerships to close the gender-climate finance gap. During the ideation phase, USAID collaborated with Amazon’s social responsibility team to design an initiative that mobilized pooled funding to accelerate progress and scale impact. 

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Three women sitting on stools in front of presentation screen
Cristina (CJ) Juhasz (Women’s World Banking Asset Management), Lelemba Phiri (ATG Samata), Lisa Thomas (ATG Samata).

This year’s International Women’s Day marked several significant milestones for CGEF, which USAID announced during its event, “The Climate Gender Equity Fund: Increasing Climate Finance that Drives Gender Equality.”  The Agency, in partnership with Amazon, hosted this event alongside the United Nations’ 68th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Together with CGEF’s other founding members (Amazon, Reckitt, The UPS Foundation, and Visa Foundation), USAID celebrated CGEF’s progress to date and highlighted how USAID will continue to increase its impact, including: 

  1. Raising over $20 million in CGEF’s first year and welcoming founding partners Reckitt, The UPS Foundation, and the Visa Foundation alongside USAID and Amazon. 
  2. Selecting two new grantees: ATG Samata and wCap Limited, two Africa-based, women-led fund managers, who will use CGEF grants to strengthen their capacity to invest in businesses advancing climate solutions. They joined Clean Technology Hub, WomHub, and M-Kyala Ventures as CGEF’s first grantees. 
  3. Highlighting that USAID committed an additional $5 million for CGEF, which was announced at COP28.
  4. Sharing that CGEF’s second call for proposals will launch in April 2024 seeking women’s network, intermediaries, and investment funds supporting and investing in gender-responsive climate solutions, with a preference for organizations working at the intersection of climate, gender equality, and health. 

During the event, Rachel Vogelstein, Special Assistant to the President and White House Gender Policy Council Deputy Director, asked women leaders from three of CGEF’s founding member organizations–Amazon’s Leigh Anne DeWine, Visa Foundation’s Najada Kumbuli, and Reckitt’s Elisabeth Trawinski–about the challenges women face in rising to influential leadership positions and the strategies they’ve found most effective in making the business case to senior leadership for investing in the intersection of gender equality and climate finance. 

Climate is proving to be a threat multiplier, but women can be a solution multiplier. To help empower women, we need to be better about getting capital into the hands of women investors and women-led initiatives to advance their economic power and consequently scale innovative climate solutions.

Najada Kumbuli, Vice President, Head of Investments, Visa Foundation

Afterwards, ATG Samata co-founders Lelemba Phiri and Lisa Thomas took the stage for a fireside chat moderated by Cristina (CJ) Juhasz, Chief Investment Officer and Managing Partner of Women’s World Banking Asset Management. Lelemba and Lisa discussed the market gap at the gender and climate nexus, what they are hearing from the women entrepreneurs leading these solutions on the ground, and how support from CGEF is critical for scaling their impact. They also shared examples of the women-led climate solutions CGEF funding is enabling them to support, such as a logistics marketplace founded and led by women that is creating efficiencies to reduce carbon emissions in Mozambique. 

“Women are more likely to develop business-oriented climate solutions that are not just meeting their own needs, but also meeting the needs of their community. It is a missed opportunity if we are not investing where the innovation is happening. We are at a nexus to generate robust returns and create social impact by moving the needle on gender equality and advancing healthy solutions for our planet.”

Lelemba Phiri and Lisa G. Thomas, Co-Founders and Partners, ATG Samata

The women who spoke at the event come from different backgrounds and countries, but have coalesced around the same message: we cannot effectively address climate change at the pace that is desperately needed if we leave half the solutions off the table. The data is clear–we have to act now. Women need access to climate finance, and every person and organization has a role to play to close this gap. This is an urgent problem that we all need to work to solve.  

 If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to reach out to CGEF at cgefinfo@cfdaccelerator.com.

CGEF is an activity under USAID’s Climate Finance for Development Accelerator (CFDA) and a flagship initiative under the U.S. Government’s Women in the Sustainable Economy (WISE) Initiative.

Sectors
Climate Finance
Strategic Objective
Adaptation, Integration, Mitigation
Topics
Climate Finance, Climate Strategy, Climate Finance and Economic Growth, Inclusive Development, Economic Growth, Gender and Social Inclusion, Private Sector Engagement
Region
Global

Corinne Hart

Corinne Hart is a Senior Gender Advisor in the Gender Equality and Women's Empowerment Hub at USAID. She leads a team of gender experts that provide technical leadership and assistance on gender equality and women’s empowerment in a range of USAID’s priority sectors, including climate change.  She also leads several Agency initiatives, including the Climate Gender Equity Fund and the US Government Women in the Sustainable Economy initiative. She serves as an executive and leadership coach supporting gender equality advisors around the world, and represents the United States as the U.S. Government National Gender Focal Point in the UNFCCC.

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