Operationalising socially just climate finance: opportunities, challenges, and lessons for sustainable development in the Brazilian Amazon and beyond

This project collaborates with the German GIZ and the Brazilian BNDES/ Amazon Fund for Forest Conservation and Climate Protection to better understand sustainable development implications of cross-cutting social issues, including gender and human rights, in climate finance mechanisms.

Project details

Brazilian Amazon
Photo by Ivars Utināns on Unsplash

Focusing on vulnerable groups in the Legal Amazon, the project aims to collect and analyse primary and secondary data to develop evidence-based guidance for operationalising socially just climate finance.

This includes guidance and best practices on REDD+ Safeguards, incorporating intersectionality in Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), implementing Gender Action Plans, and operationalising an intersectional approach to climate finance.

In doing so, the project builds on and further elaborates one of the co-lead’s (Magdalena Rodekirchen) previous research on gender, international climate funds, and payments for ecosystem services, conducted for and with the GIZ and BNDES/Amazon Fund from September 2017 to November 2018.

The project draws on a mix of methods to collect primary and secondary data, including through fieldwork in the Legal Amazon. Through knowledge exchange roundtables with key informants and stakeholders, the project aims to provide opportunities to discuss initial research findings, and adjust its approach according to potential challenges and institutional needs.

Using a range of qualitative methods and participatory methods for development fieldwork, in addition to roundtables between the research team, the BNDES, and other relevant stakeholders, the project facilitates the consideration of needs and concerns across stakeholders and levels in articulating relevant guidance on cross-sectoral social issues, particularly gender and human rights.

Lessons learned through this process will inform both a set of internal support documents and publicly available documents, such as for the development of a socially just Gender Action Plan, policy briefs, and guidelines for best practice.

In so doing, the project will disseminate innovative, cutting-edge research in the area of socially just climate finance, and provide evidence-based guidance for policymakers, practitioners, and non-governmental organisations.


The Amazon Fund is a Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD+) mechanism. It was created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon. While REDD+ mechanisms have demonstrated the ability to overcome some major political obstacles to earlier efforts to promote sustainable forest management in the tropics, key questions regarding their effectiveness and impact on the ground remain.

Of relevance are social justice concerns, including gender equality and the rights of Indigenous peoples. As outlined in international frameworks, such as the REDD+ Safeguards and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), social dimensions are particularly pertinent regarding the unequal distribution of responsibilities in a gendered division of labour and the protection of human rights.

Responsibility for care work, including ecological sustainability, is often taken on by women, leading to what has been called the ‘feminisation of environmental labour’. This gendered division, along with the devaluation of care work, are the key drivers of gender inequality along different axes of inequalities. In short, ecological and social sustainability of climate finance mechanisms cannot be understood and addressed in isolation from each other.

Despite this growing recognition and the concomitant adoption of Gender Strategies and Gender Action Plans (GAP) by a range of national and international climate finance mechanisms, challenges remain in systematically and coherently integrating gender and related cross-cutting social categories throughout all operations. While some climate funds demonstrate willingness to formalize gender considerations at institutional levels, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of gender-responsive measures on the ground remains inconsistent.

This raises questions regarding the opportunities, challenges, and best practices of mainstreaming gender and other social categories of difference throughout a climate finance mechanism. This includes the relationship between gender considerations at level of the fund, the project carrier, and the beneficiary on the ground through an intersectional lens, and ways to coherently streamline gender-responsive measures in climate finance mechanisms.

Thus, programmes and projects aiming to promote sustainable forest management need to systematically consider gender and related cross-cutting social categories at all levels and throughout all stages of implementation to ensure they are ecologically sustainable and socially just.

Project Objectives

The overall aim of the project is to improve the understanding and integration of gender and related social categories throughout the Amazon Fund’s activities and facilitate the establishment of common guidelines on socially just climate finance in accordance with existing international standards. To meet this aim, the project will pursue the following objectives:

  1. Identify challenges and opportunities for socially just gender mainstreaming through rigorous, evidence-based research throughout the Amazon Fund’s activities in line with its primary objective of reducing deforestation.
  2. Develop evidence-based guidance documents for socially just international climate finance.

To achieve this, we propose the following activities:

  • Identification and analysis of existing international and national best practices and challenges in mainstreaming gender across different intersectional axes, including existing gender mainstreaming and human rights protection practices of the Amazon Fund;
  • Building on existing systematic, conceptual, and evidence-based research as well as the existing drafted Gender Strategy and Gender Action Plan of the Amazon Fund, to develop guidelines for socially just climate finance in REDD+ mechanisms, on implementing gender mainstreaming and related cross-cutting social categories at the level of the Amazon Fund;
  • Development of evidence-based guidelines for gender mainstreaming and human rights protection at the level of the project carrier, such as conceptual guidance on mainstreaming gender and related social categories throughout the project cycle and/or in ex-post impact evaluations of concluded projects;
  • Advance political and academic understanding of mainstreaming gender across different intersectional axes in climate mitigation measures through knowledge exchange and dissemination, such as:
    • an evidence-based synthesis report on best practices aimed at practitioners;
    • up to four policy briefs or short reports on relevant special themes, such as gender and environment, care work, intersectionality in climate finance, and developing a Gender Strategy and Gender Action Plan.
    • Meetings and/or conferences, for example:
      • open meetings to present results (stakeholders, policy makers, civil society organisations, private actors, interested public etc.),
      • closed meetings with BNDES/Amazon Fund to present and explain guidelines and help identify next steps,
      • participation in an international exchange event and/or academic conferences, if applicable.

The primary target groups are the BNDES/Amazon Fund, national and international climate finance institutions, in particular REDD+ mechanisms, public policy makers working in climate finance and mitigation as well as the environment, non-governmental and civil society organisations, research institutions and think tanks, as well as the interested public.

Project period and funding

01.12.2022 – 30.11.2023

The project is funded by the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) and co-financed by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).

Research team

  • Prof Sherilyn MacGregor (Principal Investigator/Co-lead), UoM Politics and SCI
  • Magdalena Rodekirchen (Co-Investigator/Co-lead, Research Associate), UoM Geography and SCI, and Politics for PhD
  • Dr Marcelle Trote Martins (Research Associate), Politics and SCI

Contact details

Prof Sherilyn MacGregor

*Photo by Ivars Utināns on Unsplash