Gender Module 3 - 3

Parliamentary Action Points

Parliamentary Questions

Parliamentarians can draw on the following examples to examine to what extent policy-making processes have been gender-responsive. Question time becomes a gender-sensitive tool when questions:

  • are being asked by both men and women MPs,
  • inquire about the impacts of energy policies on the economic and social situation of women and girls,
    • Do existing policies on climate change and energy address the needs of women and girls? If so, what gender provisions are in place?
    • How are existing adaptation projects catering for women and girls? Are gender-specific initiatives being carried out?
    • What budget(s) have been set aside for gender-responsive action?
  • refer to the process by which energy policies are developed.
    • Are women’s patterns of energy service use reflected in data used by the government as a basis for policy making?
  • seek to determine whether the data on which the energy policy is based is sex-disaggregated.
    • Do energy ministries systematically collect sex-disaggregated statistical data?
    • What research has been done on the linkages between climate change and gender?
  • and seek to establish whether there was sufficient consultation of women in the design of the energy policy.
    • Were women and groups with interest in gender equality issues engaged in formal communication channels and consultation processes?
Political party manifestos

Get ahead of the curve by building support for energy strategies with strong gender components within your political party. Explore the option of including such strategies in your political party’s manifesto heading into the next election. Commitments to improved energy access and security - whether through large-scale national grid expansions or mini-grids - can secure considerable electoral support.

Germany: Energy transition shaped by political parties

Germany’s energy transition (Energiewende) has drawn international attention with its long-term targets of switching to a renewable energy economy and leaving nuclear and fossil energy behind. Political parties have been a driving force behind the transition. The Energiewende’s overall framework and its key part – the Renewable Energy Sources Act (EEG) of 2014 – originated from a 10-point energy agenda developed jointly by the Socialist Party (SPD) and the Green Party / Alliance 90 at the beginning of the parliamentary term.

In the recent manifestos ahead of the 2017 election, the same parties have developed ideas for a better management of the transition. If elected, the manifesto pledges will likely result in changes to the EEG law.

Women MPs, Ingrid Arndt-Bauer and Ulla Schulte, have been campaigning for a better integration of the gender perspective in Energiewende, Germany’s climate policy and women’s representation in managerial positions in citizens’ associations operating renewable electricity installations. Despite the expectation of a gender-balanced ownership rate in solar power, women’s ownership rate in citizen participation schemes in RES-E is in general lower than that of men. According to the Federal Ministries for Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMUB), 17% of women participating in the sector have faced a number of limitations (BMUB 2008).

Cross-party groups

Cross-party groups and networks – both within parliaments and internationally – are invaluable in lending the necessary weight and legitimacy to any parliamentary initiatives on clean energy. Alliances gathering MPs from all sides of the political spectrum and representing the broadest possible background in terms of class, sex, age, race, ethnic or religious background, are pivotal in securing forward-looking, long-term climate commitments. The cross-party composition of such groups makes it possible for MPs to build consensus and identify opportunities for collaborative parliamentary action, and the non-partisan nature of the group helps to protect the causes from party politicisation.

Climate Parliament network in India

Climate Parliament is a global network of legislators working together to promote renewable energy. The organisation helps build the capacity and motivation of MPs to secure stronger policies on renewable energy. Together with UNDP, as part of the Parliamentary Action on Renewable Energy (PARE) project, Climate Parliament has supported MPs in a number of countries through awareness raising, building national and international networks and providing dedicated staff assistance. The initiative showcases the power of the “network effect”: when MPs see they are part of a larger network – national and global – that can really make a difference, they then devote more time and energy to these issues.

In India, a group of nearly 30 Indian MPs as well as legislators in the state assemblies of Karnataka, Maharashtra and Odisha have played the lead role in more than doubling the country’s 2020 renewable energy target from 6% to 15% of electricity, 2 and more than doubling the national renewable energy budget from 0.3% to 0.7% of the national budget in the new Five Year Plan. They also provided leadership in the parliament in persuading the Government to reintroduce a generation-based incentive for wind power with funding of US$130 million, and in launching $157 million in tax-free bonds for renewable energy.

Supporting petitions

Petitions launched by CSOs or individuals are a great way for the civil society to extend a supporter base on a given cause and engage people from outside their immediate network, including MPs. In most democracies, everyone has the right to submit petitions, proposals and complaints in the public interest to organs of public authority. Those gathering thousands of signatures are a good indication of the extent of support for the cause. Joining forces with civil society organisations on public campaigns and petitions benefits all sides. The official support of MPs adds credibility to and raises the profile of an initiative. MPs can facilitate a dialogue between the petitioners and the executive. Conversely, being a face of a popular campaign gives visibility to the parliamentarians’ agendas.

United Kingdom: Energy Bill Revolution Campaign

The Energy Bill Revolution was a three-year campaign from 2012 to 2015. The aim was to raise public awareness about the UK’s cold home crisis and to develop support for our solution to make home energy efficiency an infrastructure investment priority. The objective was to accelerate investment into home energy efficiency to end fuel poverty, reduce carbon emissions at the scale and speed needed to combat climate change, and to create green jobs. All of these would also benefit women, in particular those heading households (and thus bearing the brunt of energy bills) or those who performing unpaid household work (and are, therefore, more dependent than men on heating and indoor air quality).

Signatories to the campaign petition, launched by a think-tank sE3G, originally included hundreds of thousands citizens, companies and CSOs. With time, the campaign received support of hundreds of MPs from across the UK Parliament, two Parliamentary Select Committees and a number of political parties including Green and Labour Party. It has also been adopted by the Scottish Government.

Political party engagement helped the campaign achieve high levels of media coverage, helping to keep fuel poverty in the public eye. The campaign attracted the eye of many women organisations seeing as women are much more likely than men to be affected by fuel poverty in the UK.

Memoranda to Cabinet

A memorandum to a minister or the head of the cabinet is a formal vehicle for proposing a legislative measure, communicating recommendations, and for obtaining the executive’s approval. It forms a basis for discussions and decisions at the highest level. In its standard format, a memorandum consists of the following elements: explanation of the issue, identification of the decisions before the addressee of the memorandum, presentation of arguments and policy options, and a recommendation.

Bangladesh: memorandums to ministries to step up renewable energy policies and instruments

In 2013, a cross-party group of six MPs from Bangladesh supported by the Climate Parliament and UNDP submitted their joint memorandums to the Ministers of Finance and Power, Energy and Mineral Resources on 11 November, asking for the speedy implementation of the SREDA Act (Sustainable and Renewable Energy Development Authority), and for timely and adequate financial support to the renewable energy sector in the country.

The SREDA Act was passed by the Bangladesh National Parliament in 2012, to establish an organization that acts as a focal point for the promotion and development of sustainable energy, comprising of renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation. However, even after almost a year of the passage of the Act, SREDA was yet to be established as an organization, due to delays in several approvals and clearances from different Ministries, including the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources and Ministry of Finance.

The memorandum submitted to the Minister of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources Mr. Muhammad Enamul Huq demanded adequate budget allocation, administrative, infrastructural and logistical support to SREDA. It also recommended for a review of the Renewable Energy Policy 2008 and formulation of a roadmap, estimation and ground validation of renewable energy potential of the country, strengthening of local manufacturing capability and the establishment of a ‘one stop window clearance’ for renewable energy projects.

The MPs have also demanded that the Ministry of Finance should urgently allocate sufficient budget to SREDA. In 2014, the MPs’ hard work paid off when the new Finance Minister announced that, as a result of their interventions, a new 4 billion Taka ($50 million USD) Clean Energy Fund was being launched, and new budget provisions were being made to support SREDA, which made it fully operational.

Seeking constituents’ input

Seek the input of constituents on an ongoing basis at both the local and national levels, to gain insight from their experiences and to ensure that the laws passed and the monitoring conducted by parliament are reflecting such interests and concerns. The challenge for many MPs is to develop and maintain a dialogue with citizens that is policy-oriented. There are different means by which a parliamentarian and a parliament can build such a dialogue:

  • Public Consultations: Parliamentary committees should be engaging civil society and the general public as they consider draft laws and conduct inquiries. Such consultations can range from the informal (i.e. public forums; reporting sessions) to the more formal (i.e. public hearings); and from the technical (i.e. surveys) to the simple (i.e. request for submissions via SMS). It can also include virtual engagement, including online feedback, surveys and social media; and
  • Party Consultations: Most members are also a part of a political party for which they are a representative in the parliament. Many of these parties will have local branches to which a member is aligned. Through such branches or through party organized consultations, a parliamentarian can gain insight into the perspectives of their supporters.
  • Civil Society Partnerships: Depending on the subject or issue that is before the parliament for decision, there is likely a local or national civil society organisation (CSO) that is advocating or working in the field. By partnering with one or more CSOs, the parliament (or individual parliamentarians) can expand their reach and ensure that voices that might not otherwise be heard are given the chance to provide input to their work.
  • Social Media & New Technology: Access to mobile telephones and the internet by citizens has opened opportunities for parliaments and parliamentarians to engage them in a dialogue on the work of parliament and to seek their feedback and ideas on an ongoing basis. (See box above for an example from Ghana on how a parliamentary committee has used technology in an innovative manner.)
  • Surveys: With advances in technology, the cost of conducting a survey has been drastically reduced. Parliaments and parliamentarians are using online tools to gather feedback from citizens prior to deliberations on a draft law or as part of an oversight inquiry.
  • Surgery: Traditionally the purview of individual parliamentarians, a surgery1 is where a parliamentarian meets with citizens who have concerns or issues that they wish to raise on a one-on-one basis. In most cases, the parliamentarian is designating a location other than the parliamentarian’s office and is temporarily setting up to meet citizens in a community hall, temple or other local venue. In recent years a similar approach has been employed by some parliamentary committees, where the committee will invite citizens to make presentations on a topic that is being considered by the committee.

For more examples of constituency, stakeholder and civil society engagement, including the use of Constituency Development Funds and creating citizen-parliament feedback loops see the ‘Representation’ module of the Toolkit for Parliamentarians on Sustainable Development Goals.

1 “Surgery” is a term coined in the United Kingdom.