We know that people cannot adapt to climate change without access to sustainable water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services. In the wake of increasingly severe climate impacts – such as this year’s hurricanes and flooding in the Americas and South Asia – access to water and sanitation services is one of the first things people need. Reliable WASH services are a foundation for recovery after disasters and also help people deal with slower-onset changes in the environment. To be resilient to climate change, communities need WASH services that are well designed and maintained to last.
We also know that climate change threatens to reverse much of the progress made in getting WASH services to some of the poorest and most climate-vulnerable communities around the world. This is especially unfair given that these populations live without resources and services that are fundamental human rights, and are already being forced to confront the first and worst impacts of climate change, even though they’ve done the least to cause it.
Despite this, most countries are still yet to make WASH a prominent part of their adaptation plans, including many Least Developed Countries (LDCs), where access to WASH remains low. Analysis commissioned by WaterAid in Timor-Leste and Mozambique shows that decisions on WASH and climate change are usually made by different ministries and development partners, which often work in sectoral silos in isolation from one another. In addition, the role of WASH in adaptation tends to be under-developed in national policy documents, and very little climate finance has been allocated so far to support sustainable WASH as a fundamental adaptation measure.
Underlying each of these problems is the fact that many WASH practitioners – at national and sub-national levels – lack the technical capacity to proactively engage with climate change decision-making processes.
If countries are to develop adaptation plans that address people’s most urgent needs, this needs to change. We can’t afford for WASH to be ignored in the current climate process; countries need to prioritise it in the adaptation decisions they make now.
We are at an important moment in history, as countries are now establishing their detailed plans for meeting the goals set two years ago in the Paris Agreement. Many discussions at COP 23 will lay the groundwork for next year’s first major milestone under the agreement – the ‘facilitative dialogue’, when countries will take stock of their collective efforts. This stocktake will then inform the next set of pledges from 2020. So although the next two weeks may be largely concerned with technical deliberations rather than momentous announcements by leaders, governments are currently making critical domestic decisions on how they will act on climate change.
Over the next three years, countries will continue to develop and refine the long-term commitments in their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), as well as other policies such as National Adaptation Plans (NAPs). Volumes and vehicles for climate finance are also continuing to grow in the context of developed countries’ commitment to jointly mobilise at least US$100 billion a year in climate finance through 2025.
Good to read!