January 2024

As the earth warms, all people will suffer the harms caused by climate change. But the impacts will not fall equally. Women are disproportionately suffering the burdens and impacts of climate change, according to the scientific consensus which has emerged in the last fifteen years. In recognition of this fact, in 2019 the parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) adopted a Gender Action Plan, enshrining the principles of gender equity and equality in global climate agreements.

Unfortunately, this key international equity-enhancing protocol has yet to reach California. While California has made substantial progress in integrating racial and economic equity in climate research and policy, an awareness of how women are differently and disproportionately affected by climate change and a commitment to gender-inclusive climate action—perspectives which are common in global climate governance and with most of our peer nations—are largely absent from state and national climate considerations. 

The Promise of Gender Inclusive Climate Actionis intended as an introduction to the current global research and frameworks on climate and gender. It features our original demographic analysis, showing how the geographic distribution of women across California’s climate regions could affect their exposure to climate change impacts. We review the extensive academic and institutional research on the gendered dimensions of climate change on women and provide examples of model policies and planning frameworks to integrate gender considerations within climate action. The report concludes with recommendations on ways to advance gender equity in climate action in the California context. While California is the focus herein, many of our methods, findings, and recommendations are applicable to climate research and policymaking elsewhere in the United States.

Climate change exacerbates all forms of inequality, and inequality between men and women remains one of the fundamental social divides globally, in the U.S., and in California. Two principal dynamics are at the root of women’s greater exposure, sensitivity, and vulnerability to climate change, no matter where they live: 1) economic inequality and 2) women’s disproportionate responsibility for caregiving and domestic labor.

One, on average, women earn lower wages, possess less wealth and savings, and are employed in lower-paying occupations than men. Women are more likely than men to be poor. They are underrepresented in high-paid management and leadership roles and have less access to capital for business formation. The jobs most likely to be created by public investment to advance the transition to clean energy and a green economy—such as in infrastructure, construction, energy and water systems, and public safety—are ones in which women are grossly underrepresented. For example, only 32% of renewable energy jobs in the U.S. are held by women.

Two, women do a disproportionate share of caregiving and domestic work in the home. And, as importantly, women make up the overwhelming majority of paid caregivers and domestic workers. The gender gap in care, also known as the care burden, often reinforces women’s economic disadvantages; taking care of children, older parents, or ill or disabled relatives leaves women with less time for paid work. The COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a plunge in women’s labor force participation, illustrated that when emergencies strike, women are the ones most likely to forego paid work to handle the increased burden of care.

In sum, gendered economic inequality and caregiving disparities amplify women’s sensitivity and vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and reduce their adaptive capacity. Racial and gender inequality intersect, resulting in greater vulnerability for women of color.

The research is clear, as we document in section 4. Women make up a sizable majority of the elderly, the population most sensitive to climate impacts. Women are more likely to struggle economically to pay energy bills and more likely to live in homes with poor energy efficiency. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to gender-based violence during climate-driven disasters like wildfires and floods. Numerous studies have documented worse maternal and neonatal health outcomes associated with climate-driven droughts, heat waves, floods, and vector-borne disease. As crucially, women are less likely to be included in the benefits of climate action, whether through investments or job creation.

California is a global leader on climate action and is uniquely poised to model innovations in the U.S. on climate and gender. Under the administration of Governor Gavin Newsom, California has already achieved success on one of the UNFCCC’s priority areas, the equal participation and leadership of women in climate decision-making. Applying a gender lens to climate change assessments and setting gender equity goals are well aligned with the state’s expressed principles of climate action and can be incorporated relatively seamlessly into many of California’s action plans and policies. In California, there is supermajority public support, particularly among women, for bold climate action.

How California innovates to tackle the climate crisis is widely influential in the U.S. and abroad. Making a commitment to advance gender equality while addressing climate change could unlock enormous untapped opportunities for the California economy and the well-being of Californians. Promoting gender equity within climate action and guaranteeing that women can participate fully in building a climate ready economy has the potential to be a force multiplier for meeting California’s ambitious climate goals.

January 2023

California’s ambitious climate goals, supported by state and federal investment, will create enormous economic opportunity over the coming decades. To meet the 2045 target of carbon neutrality, a 100% clean electric grid, and a 90% reduction in oil consumption and refinery production, the state will need to modernize its electrical grid and build storage capacity to meet increased demand for electricity. Carbon management techniques, plugging orphan wells, and the development of new energy sources such as geothermal will all come into play, providing economic opportunities to workers and businesses alike. Reducing use of polluting fossil fuels will likewise result in significant health benefits to Californians, especially to communities disproportionately burdened by polluting enterprises and proximity to freeways.

Supported by state investment and federal funding through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, the actions necessary to tackle the challenges of climate change are projected to create 4 million new jobs in the state. California is investing in developing the clean energy workforce, with an equity commitment to recruit and train historically disadvantaged and underrepresented communities.

Decarbonizing the economy and accelerating the adoption of clean energy is necessary if we are to preserve a habitable planet. Progress to a carbon neutral future is already well underway in the state. Wind and solar power are less expensive than natural gas or coal powered electricity. A large majority of Californians are concerned about climate change and support action to address its impacts.

However, as with all economic change, some industries will grow and thrive, while others will shrink, leaving some of their workers behind. Labor unions and trades groups are rightly concerned that workers are not forced to abandon skills developed over their careers and thrown into an inhospitable labor market with no support.

Thus, a key challenge in meeting California’s climate action goals is to devise a fair, equitable, and empirically-based policy to provide support for workers at risk of unemployment and income loss as many factors combine to reduce demand in state for oil and gas products. The relevant questions to answer in the design of a worker support policy funded by state dollars are:

It is vital that policymakers have accurate and unbiased information to answer these questions. Oil and gas industry rhetoric and industry funded studies have produced misleading figures on both the total number of impacted workers, as well as their average salaries. For example, a study commissioned by the Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA) and conducted by the Los Angeles Economic Development Corporation (LAEDC) reported 152,000 jobs in oil and gas as of 2017. But this study included in the total labor force employees at gas stations who, according to the study, make up 40% of the oil and gas labor force. (Eight out of ten of these workers are employed in gas stations with convenience stores attached). The study then excluded these low-paid employees from its analysis of average employee income in oil and gas industries, resulting in both inflated job numbers and inflated incomes.

To assist in scoping the elements and cost of supporting impacted workers, the Gender Equity Policy Institute undertook an analysis of the California labor force in oil and gas industries and electric power to identify the number and type of workers that could be negatively affected by the shift to a clean energy economy.

Our analysis of the most recent public data finds that oil and gas industries in California employ 45,900 workers in a wide variety of occupations in production, office work, transportation, and sales. In addition, these industries employ 13,200 executives and professionals, in positions such as chief executive, financial and investment analyst, lawyer, and engineer. Including executives and professionals, the total labor force employed in oil and gas industries in California as of 2021 is approximately 59,200 people.

We conduct a novel occupational analysis of the labor force in order to identify job opportunities for oil and gas industry workers in industries active in California. In contrast to other studies examining the job impacts of decarbonization, we analyze potential employment opportunities for oil and gas workers in all growing occupations, not solely in clean energy or green jobs.

Two-thirds of the total oil and gas labor force have promising employment opportunities outside fossil fuel industries. Our findings show that a sizable majority (56%) of current oil and gas workers are highly likely to find jobs in California in another industry in their current occupation, given demand in the broader California economy for workers with their existing skills. All executives and professionals, likewise, will easily transition into new positions in their fields of expertise.

Still, among oil and gas workers, roughly a quarter (26%) are employed in office, sales, and production occupations that are projected by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) to decline nationally over the next decade. Another 18% work in core oil and gas production or extraction occupations. While these core jobs are projected to grow nationally over the next decade, California’s more rapid development of a carbon neutral economy makes it likely these jobs will contract more quickly in state.

Therefore, to be assured of finding gainful employment, many in these two groups will need to transition into another occupation. Our analysis focuses on identifying new employment opportunities in California that use at-risk workers’ existing skills and experience. For all declining occupations in oil and gas industries, there are available jobs in similar occupations in California that would allow workers to transition without the need for retraining. One in five at-risk oil and gas workers are projected to earn higher incomes in these new occupations. The remaining 80% are projected to earn lower incomes.

We estimate that there are 16,100 workers in the 2021 oil and gas labor force potentially at risk of displacement into lower-paying jobs over the remaining 22 years of the transition to a carbon neutral economy (2023 – 2045). The Findings section of the report presents a detailed explanation of our occupational and income analyses and findings.

The final sections of this report provide cost estimates and scenarios for supporting oil and gas workers at risk of displacement. We calculate the cost of supporting at-risk workers in the oil and gas labor force as of 2021, assuming 50% of these workers in declining occupations could be displaced over the next ten years (2023 – 2032).

Based on the numbers, types, and incomes of workers at risk of displacement, GEPI estimates that providing one year of income support would cost, in total, $208.2 million over the 2023 – 2032 period. Providing up to three years of income support would cost, in total, $624.6 million. Relocation support for potentially geographically displaced workers would add another $64.6 million to the ten-year cost.

In summary, assuming 50% of current at-risk oil and gas workers could be displaced over the 10-year period from 2023 – 2032, the cost to the state of California to fund income subsidies and relocation support for these impacted workers is projected to be approximately $27.3 million – $68.9 million annually.


The federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), signed by President Biden in November 2021, will bring at least $45 billion to California for investments in transportation, communications, water, clean air, and other infrastructure projects. And with the Inflation Reduction Act on the verge of passage, California stands to benefit from an infusion of federal funds for climate action and drought relief.

States have wide discretion in choosing the types and locations of projects to be funded and hence will play a key role in determining how the $1.2 trillion in federal infrastructure funds will be spent. The Biden administration’s implementation guidance urges states to invest the funds “equitably”, following its Justice40 Initiative, which calls for delivering 40 percent of the benefits of federal investments to disadvantaged communities.

Assembly Bill (AB-2419), authored by Assembly member Isaac Bryan, would write that goal into state law by mandating that 40% of the IIJA funds directly benefit communities defined as environmentally and socially disadvantaged. The Act calls for an additional 10% of the federal funds to directly benefit communities defined as low-income. The remaining half of IIJA funds could be used for infrastructure projects without restriction.

The Act also would guarantee high labor standards and foster the creation of quality jobs for underrepresented groups. The Strategic Growth Council would be charged with implementing the law. AB 2419 also establishes the Justice40 Committee, comprised of representatives from environmental justice organizations, labor, and disproportionately impacted communities, to monitor implementation and issue recommendations for equitable and sustainable infrastructure investment.

The Gender Equity Policy Institute analyzed demographic data on the communities targeted for infrastructure investment under AB 2419 to assess the likely distribution of funds by race/ethnicity, gender, and region.

Our findings show clear benefits to communities that have been disproportionately harmed by decades of discriminatory practices in infrastructure siting and building. Roughly three-quarters of those living in communities targeted for investment are Black, Latino, Asian American, or Native American. Women of color particularly stand to benefit from the targeted infrastructure investment.

AB-2419 received a rating of 94% on GEPI’s intersectional gender equity scale, indicating that, if enacted, it would powerfully advance gender and racial equity in California. By targeting infrastructure investments to historically under-served and marginalized communities, AB-2419 provides a blueprint for an equitable and transformative approach to infrastructure investment.

June 2021

The final California state budget included $3.7 billion for climate resilience. Specifically how the dollars will be spent is still under negotiation. At this pivotal moment of unprecedented budget surplus, California could invest in equitable climate action or take a wrong turn.

In negotiations between the Governor’s office and the legislature, the legislature drew their climate priorities from bills considered this session: AB-1500 and SB-45. If these bills indeed become the blueprint for climate resilience, the prospect for an equitable climate policy for California is dim.

Failing the Climate Justice Test, a report by the Gender Equity Policy Institute, finds that the proposed investments would be distributed to Californians in a radically unbalanced, unfair, and unequal way.

The proposed climate resilience funding leaves women & communities of color in California’s urban areas behind, while benefiting disproportionately white, male, rural regions.

The whitest and most male regions of California are projected to receive a windfall of investment far out of proportion to their share of the state population. At the same time, the southern California counties in the Los Angeles region, home to half of all Black and Latino Californians and nearly half of all women in California, are projected to receive a stunningly small proportion of funding. 92% of the jobs potentially created by these bills’ investments will go to men.

By nearly any measure, the investments fail the climate justice test. They fail the regional equity test. They fail the racial justice test. And they receive a failing score of 37% on the Gender Equity Policy Institute’s gender equity scale.

California has been a pioneer in climate action, innovating equitable policies to tackle the wide-ranging climate crisis. But if current proposals become the blueprint for the state’s climate resilience policy, then the needs of the many millions of Californians who are most vulnerable to climate impacts will go unmet.