WaterAid calls on leaders to remember the world's poorest at climate talks in Paris

2 Nov 2015

As world leaders prepare to meet in Paris for landmark climate change talks, WaterAid is calling on them to remember the world’s poorest and most vulnerable with climate financing that helps safeguard access to water, sanitation and hygiene in disasters.

A new report from WaterAid shows that billions of dollars pledged to climate change financing have not been dispersed, and little of it is going to the world’s poorest countries who are most in need.

The study, “Climate finance and water security,” based on research by Oxford Policy Management, found that between 2003-2014, developed nations approved $21.1 billion in climate finance. However just 15% of that, or $3.1 billion, has been disbursed.   

It finds that countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, which contribute only 2% of the world’s carbon emissions, are receiving less than 2.5% of overall climate funding for adaptation activities, despite evidence to suggest that the region will be among the most vulnerable to drought, floods and heat waves, compromising the supply of both water and food.

More alarming is that despite overwhelming evidence linking climate change and threats to water security, only a fraction of climate finance is used to help ensure access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene – which ensures better health and reduces incidence of disease after extreme weather events. Just 16% of overall climate finance is being used for adaptation programmes; the vast majority of overall funding is being spent on carbon reduction activities in middle-income countries.

Calls led by the ‘V20’ – the 20 most vulnerable nations to climate change -- to include financing for adaptation to climate change, along with mitigation that slows the pace of climate change, have so far not been addressed.

More than 650 million people in the world are without access to clean water and 1.2 billion live in areas of physical water scarcity. All will be made increasingly vulnerable as their fragile water sources are further exposed to climate-related threats.


Louise Whiting, Senior Policy Analyst on Water Security and Climate Change, said:

 “First and foremost climate change is a water issue. In fact, we could even call it ‘water change’. Droughts, floods, cyclones and salty groundwater are all projected to get much worse in a changing climate. Poorer nations are most susceptible to this, yet are at present receiving the least funding to help them cope and adapt to these changes.

“The climate path we are on now means an end to development – an end to all progress on extreme poverty. For families living in extreme poverty, with fragile access to safe water, good sanitation and hygiene, these lengthening dry seasons and intensifying monsoons wipe out years of work and further entrench the cycle of poverty. Safeguarding basic services including clean water, sanitation and hygiene helps communities recover faster and become more resilient to climactic extremes.

“National governments in developing countries need more support in designing and implementing projects to help eradicate poverty while building communities’ resilience to climate change, as well as financing. Leaders at this month’s crucial talks in Paris must not forget the world’s poorest, and include a strong focus on helping them to adapt to this challenging new reality.”

The report cites the specific examples of Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Zambia as nations particularly vulnerable to climate change. Bangladesh will see its mean annual temperature rise 1.3 degrees Celsius, which could increase the size and frequency of floods, droughts and cyclones and put 38 million lives at risk by 2050. Ethiopia will see its mean annual temperature increase by as much as 3.1 degrees Celsius by the 2060s, potentially increasing severe droughts and flooding and resulting in an increase in malaria, desertification of the land, and stress to the water and food supply. And Zambia is expected to see its mean annual temperature increase by as much as 3.4 degrees Celsius by the 2060s, resulting in more extreme heat and drought, and a serious impact on agriculture.

WaterAid is calling on leaders to:

  • commit 50% of public funding for climate change to adaptation programmes, up from the current 16%, to reflect the great challenges of the world’s poorest nations face in extreme weather patterns due to climate change;
  • pursue an agreement that urgently and drastically reduces global carbon emissions, because   ‘business as usual’ will reverse decades of development and progress; and
  • make sure climate finance targets the needs of the world’s poorest.

In September, world leaders launched new UN Global Goals for Sustainable Development. Goal 6, to deliver universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene, is essential to the eradication of extreme poverty and creating a fairer, more sustainable world, particularly in light of the challenges posed by climate change.

This autumn WaterAid is leading an initiative to build international partnerships so that more climate finance is dedicated to helping communities with fragile access to water, sanitation and hygiene, to improve their water security and climate resilience.

For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Jo Lehmann, Media Officer on [email protected] or 0207 793 4995, or Carolynne Wheeler, news manager, on 0207 793 4485 or 07903 117715 or [email protected]. Or call our after-hours press line on 07887 521 552 or email [email protected] .


Notes to Editors:


WaterAid’s vision is of a world where everyone has access to safe water and sanitation.  The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Central America and the Pacific Region to transform lives by improving access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in some of the world’s poorest communities.  Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 23 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 21 million people with sanitation.  For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK on Twitter, or visit us on Facebook at

  • Around 1,400 children die every day from diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That’s one child every minute.
  • Over 650 million people (around one in ten) are without safe water
  • Over 2.3 billion people (around one in three) live without improved sanitation
  • For every £1 invested in water and sanitation, an average of £4 is returned in increased productivity.