Adaptation investments need to be front and centre at COP26 as climate change is already a killer - WaterAid

Posted by
Alice Barnard
8 November 2021

A failure by governments to prioritise vital climate change-adaptation measures such as clean water, good sanitation and hygiene would put millions of lives at risk, WaterAid warned today.

Pledges made today by governments during COP26’s ‘Adaptation, loss and damage’ agenda are welcome, but they are nowhere near enough to ensure millions of people across the globe have access to clean water whatever the climate crisis throws at them, the organisation said.

“Climate change is already happening, and it’s a killer. People on the frontline of the climate crisis can’t wait another decade for the effects of phasing out coal use or cutting methane emissions and deforestation to kick in. They need urgent support to survive today,” said Bernard Aryeetey, WaterAid’s Director of International Affairs.

Today, the UK Government announced a new £290m funding package to bolster climate resilience and adaptation measures in developing countries, as fresh climate pledges at COP26 give hope to the $100bn a year climate finance target being met earlier than 2023. 

However, WaterAid warned that increased flooding and more severe droughts are already a matter of life or death for many vulnerable people on the frontline of the climate crisis. Climate change is likely to exacerbate these impacts for millions of people already living without clean water, decent toilets or good sanitation, the organisation said.

With current annual adaptation costs for developing countries at an estimated $70bn per year and predicted to reach $140-300bn by 2030[1], more investment is needed to help vulnerable communities adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Bernard Aryeetey, WaterAid’s Director of International Affairs, added:

“People without basic services such as water are struggling to cope. A lack of clean water close to home will make it harder to stay healthy or even survive unless it is prioritised as a vital adaptation measure to face climate change.

“The climate crisis is a water crisis at its core; more intense and more frequent floods are polluting water sources and destroying crops or homes, while longer and more frequent droughts dry up the springs many people need to survive.

“The stress on these vulnerable communities has never been greater.  While progress has been made at COP26 with many countries making new adaptation commitments, we need to ensure that adaptation is front and centre of climate finance conversations for many years to come.” 

On Friday, WaterAid announced the wide support for an ambitious climate change fund - backed by HRH The Prince of Wales - vowing to harness public investment to trigger private funding to bring clean water to an additional 50 million people in Africa and Asia by 2030.

The Resilient Water Accelerator brings together governments, the private sector, industry experts and civil society to harness funds and water expertise. It aims to kick start further investment by other governments and the private sector, turning the initial $20 million into $600m within five years  to secure access to clean water for vulnerable communities across the globe. 

The UK, Dutch and Swedish governments as well as HRH the Prince of Wales’ Sustainable Markets Initiative, the African Development Bank and WaterAid were among those who pledged their support during the closed event at COP26.

For more information, please contact: Tim Thorowgood  [email protected] or call the after-hours press line +44 (0)7887 521 552 [email protected] 

Notes to Editors: 

1.UN, Adaptation Gap Report 2020. Accessed 8th November:


WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets, and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at

  • 771 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.1 
  • 1.7 billion people in the world – more than one in five – do not have a decent toilet of their own.2  
  • Around 290,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.3 
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.4 
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.5 

  [1] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines 
[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2017 update and SDG Baselines 
[3] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage