In response to the urgent call for action on climate change, more than 110 countries have pledged carbon neutrality by 2050 and many more are working on improving their national climate targets ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 next year. And yet, climate change does not only compel us to jointly and urgently act, it also requires us to carefully consider how water can contribute to addressing the dual crises of climate and nature, and meet the Sustainable Development Goals.
Around the world, we observe how climate change affects water resources, threatening basic needs and human rights to water and sanitation. Four billion people face severe water scarcity for at least one month per year.
When disaster strikes, it often strikes through water. Floods, landslides, storms and droughts are becoming more frequent and more intense, threatening not only human lives, but also vital ecosystems and our progress on economic and social development. In the last two weeks, we have seen two hurricanes – Eta and Iota – devastate parts of Central America, exacerbating the pre-existing humanitarian crisis and vulnerability of indigenous people lacking access to water and sanitation. Globally, climate change has inflicted some US$ 650 billion in economic losses over the last three years alone, according to Morgan Stanley, a financial services company.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed the deep inequalities and fragilities of societies, poignantly illustrated through access to water. While hand-washing remains one of the most critical lines of defense against the spread of the disease, three billion people do not have a handwashing facility at home. And one in four health care facilities lack basic water services.