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Why we can’t talk about climate change without talking about water

The Global Goals have only just been agreed, but climate change talks in Paris could be about to put them in jeopardy. Our Senior Policy Analyst for water security and climate change, Louise Whiting, explains why we need world leaders to act now – and why water needs to be at the top of their agenda.

2 Dec 2015

2015 has been an incredible year for water.

With your support, September saw us achieve something we’d never have dreamt of just a few years ago: a Global Goal dedicated to clean water and sanitation.

But there’s one more urgent issue we need to raise with world leaders before we welcome in 2016 – and the conversations are happening right now in Paris, at the COP21 (conference of the parties) climate conference.


Boy walks home with jug of water in Koyra, Bangladesh, 2011.
A boy walks home with jug of water in Koyra, Bangladesh, 2011.

Getting water on the world’s agenda

So what has climate change got to do with water? The short answer is: everything.

Right now, millions of people around the world are experiencing the effects of climate variability primarily through water, as droughts, floods, unpredictable rainfall and cyclones. 

Climate change will make these existing challenges much worse – as well as introducing rising sea levels, melting snow and ice and diseases appearing in places not seen before.  

It’s an issue WaterAid faces every day, not least because, in many of the countries where we work, the climate is extreme and variable, and accessing clean, safe water is already a huge challenge.

And now there’s another problem.

The national plans of more than 170 countries put forward in Paris are likely to result in a global temperature rise of more than 2°C – enough to reverse gains made in development and put the Global Goals, including Goal Six on water and sanitation, in jeopardy.

Not only that, but a rise of this level means poorer countries will need $70 to $100 billion every year until 2050 to help them adapt to rising sea levels, storms, droughts and the other effects of climate change.

Holding our leaders to account

We know that sustainable water and toilets make communities more resilient to climate change, enabling them to stay healthier and more productive in times of drought and reducing the spread of disease after flooding.  

That’s why we’re calling on world leaders to keep their promise when it comes to Goal Six, by pledging to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5°C, and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.

And that’s not all. Right now, only 16% of global funds are directed towards helping the poorest countries adapt to climate change.

We need policy makers to make sure that figure rises to at least 50%, to ensure the world’s most vulnerable communities don’t pay the price for the carbon emissions of the developed world.   

Help us tell world leaders why water has to be on the climate change agenda, before it’s too late.

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