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Climate Change

Water, sanitation and hygiene are critical for socio-economic development, food security, healthy environments and are vital for reducing the global burden of disease and improving the health, welfare and productivity of populations. However, the science is clear and climate change is reducing the predictability of water availability and demand, affecting water quality, exacerbating water scarcity, and threatening sustainable development worldwide. These changes have a direct impact on the sustainability of water and sanitation services and behaviors, which is an issue tackled by one of SWA guiding principles, and disproportionately affect poor and vulnerable communities.

The SWA global multi-stakeholder partnership exists to mobilize its partners to better work together to achieve the SDGs and can play a key role in supporting the bridging of SDGs 6 (on water and sanitation) and 13 (on climate action), while recognizing that the ability to meet these SDGs directly affects and is affected by almost all of the other SDGs, including poverty, food, gender and inequality, as examples. Furthermore, as the partnership is increasing its focus at country level, SWA can contribute to the success of the Paris Agreement by providing partners with a solid background for why and how countries could consider mitigation and adaptation interventions for the inclusion in their commitments, mitigation and adaptation plans, national communications to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, and in other planning processes related to climate and the water and sanitation sector.

A Briefing Note addressing the issue of climate change has been made available and constitutes a first contribution by the secretariat aimed at offering SWA partners information, as well as some concrete suggestions on how they can use the SWA Framework to take steps and embrace approaches in order to transform climate mitigation and adaptation into a more tangible reality in their activities.

Catarina de Albuquerque, SWA CEO and the former UN Rapporteur on the Human Rights to Water and Sanitation speaks about the impacts of climate change.

From 2005 to 2015 more than 90% of major disasters were caused by floods, storms, heatwaves, droughts and other weather-related events that areexpected to change in frequency and intensity as a consequence of climate change.

In 2017 more than 270 million children were livingin extremely high flood prone zones in countries where less than half of the population hadaccess to improved sanitation facilities.

An estimated 3.6 billion people worldwide now live in areas that are potentially water scarce at least one month per year. That will increase to 4.8–5.7 billion people by 2050, thus creating unprecedented competition among water users and across political boundaries.

Freshwater-related risks of climate change increase significantly with increasing greenhouse gas (GHG) concentrations. The latest modelling studies estimate that for each degree of global warming, approximately 7 per cent of the global population is projected to be exposed to a decrease of renewable water resources of at least 20 per cent.

Climate change is likely to increase the frequency of meteorological droughts (less rainfall) and agricultural droughts (less soil moisture) in many presently dry regions over the coming decades. This is likely to increase the frequency of short or “flash” hydrological droughts (less surface water and groundwater) in these regions.

In 2017 nearly 160 million children were livingin zones of either high or extremely high drought severity

By 2040, 1 in 4 children --600 million children --will live in areas of extremely high water stress.

Limiting global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, compared to 2°C, can have huge implications on water resources as it may reduce the proportion of the world’s population exposed to an increase in water stress induced by climate change by up to 50 per cent.

Since the mid-twentieth century, socioeconomic losses from flooding have increased mainly due to greater exposure and vulnerability. Projections imply increasing variability in the frequency of floods. Flood hazards are projected to increase in parts of: South Asia, South-East Asia, North-East Asia, tropical Africa and South America.


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Key documents Type
Briefing Paper: Climate Change
Antonio Guterres

Climate-resilient water supply and sanitation could save the lives of more than 360,000 infants every year.

Secretary-General of the United Nations
Antonio Guterres

Safe water and adequate sanitation underpin poverty reduction, economic growth and healthy ecosystems. They contribute to social well-being, inclusive growth and sustainable livelihoods. But, growing demands for water, coupled with poor water management, have increased water stress in many parts of the world. Climate change is adding to the pressure – and it is running faster than we are.

Secretary-General of the United Nations
Ban Ki-moon

Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth... these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women's empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.

Former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Jim Yong Kim

The water issue is critically related to climate change. People say that carbon is the currency of climate change. Water is the teeth.

Former President of the World Bank