COP26: WaterAid’s hopes and aspirations for the UN climate change conference

5 min read
Image: WaterAid/Ranita Roy

At COP26, WaterAid will call on governments to recognise the critical role clean water plays in helping communities cope with climate change. But that’s not all. Here, representatives from across WaterAid set out what they’d like to see at the talks in Glasgow next week.

‘World leaders must commit to building the resilience of vulnerable communities’

As governments meet in Glasgow, nearly 1.3 million people in the southern region of Madagascar are experiencing an unprecedented drought, which could spur the world’s first “climate change famine”. While hundreds of thousands of Malagasy people must walk for hours each day to find water, millions more must cope with the next cyclone season. All of this will only become more intense if the Paris Agreement’s goal to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C is not reached.

At COP26, WaterAid Madagascar will support calls from other least-developed countries for a 45% reduction in global carbon emissions compared to 2010. We also hope that rich countries will pledge to give more than US$100 billion each year to poorer countries in the form of grants, with at least 50% dedicated to adaptation to build communities’ resilience.

The longer it takes for governments to make decisions, the more expensive adaptation measures will be. COP26 is being hailed as "the world's best last chance" to get the climate emergency under control, and we are all part of the last generation who can make a difference. We must act now, and together.
Hanta Rabesandratana, Head of Programme – Governance and Policy, WaterAid Madagascar

‘We need new sources of financing for climate-resilient water programmes’

Can we be hopeful about another global climate conference? It’s easy to be sceptical about COP26 and whether it will deliver on the commitments made six years ago. The sense of urgency is real, especially for the women, girls and communities in low- and middle-income countries who are dealing with the effects of climate change right now. Like Hawa, who lives in Frat, northern Ethiopia.

“We have seen the weather change and become more unpredictable, so it has become harder to know when it is going to rain, affecting when we can plant crops,” she says. “And then, if we have unexpected rains, it destroys our crops and our fertiliser, so we lose food and productivity.” Hawa, like many, cannot keep waiting for world leaders to gather in annual negotiations only to reach political deadlock.

Yet, the optimist in me is hopeful. There are solutions, and with enough ambition backed up by funding, world leaders can make COP26 the most significant climate conference yet. One of these solutions is the Resilient Water Accelerator. The initiative will help design comprehensive climate-resilient water security programmes and unlock new sources of financing so that communities vulnerable to climate change can secure clean and reliable water resources and services. With its diverse partners, the Resilient Water Accelerator is the type of solution that makes me hopeful of what COP26 can achieve.
Caroline Maxwell, Advocacy Adviser – Water and Climate, WaterAid

‘Leaders must factor gender equality into climate adaptation strategies’

Women and girls in vulnerable communities are the most affected by climate change. At COP26, we hope that ministers and delegates from Sweden – in line with the country’s feminist foreign policy – will emphasise the importance of factoring gender equality into climate adaptation strategies. Leaders should also highlight that resilient water and sanitation programmes – that understand gender roles and inequalities – are key to achieving this.

Sweden, Denmark and Norway have called on other high-income countries to increase their contributions to global climate finance – and dedicate a growing share of it for adaptation. We hope that Nordic countries will stand up for this approach in Glasgow, and that many countries, as well as the European Union, will follow suit and increase their contributions.

The new Water and Climate Pavilion, the first such pavilion at a UN climate change conference, should encourage more conversations between those in the climate and water sectors, and will help support the work we need to do.
Jenny Fors, Senior Policy and Advocacy Manager – Climate Change, WaterAid Sweden


‘Rich countries must act on the pledges they’ve already made’

Bangladesh is already facing the brunt of the effects of climate change, especially when it comes to water security and access to water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). Disasters and hazards, such as floods and cyclones, happen more and more often, creating overwhelming pressure on the country and its people.

We applaud the expected focus on clean energies and reducing carbon emissions at COP26, but we must not forget the commitments made in 2009 around funding climate change adaptation. Rich countries may have agreed to give US$100 billion per year in climate funding to poorer countries, but the target has, so far, gone unmet – and has now been delayed until 2023.

At COP26, all countries must understand where we are now, what we have committed to and what we need to do in the future to avoid a greater climate catastrophe. WaterAid Bangladesh expects world leaders to act on the commitments they made for the least developed countries, especially on climate finance. We must find a way forward to achieve climate justice for the most vulnerable.
Adnan Qader, Advocacy Officer – Water and Climate, WaterAid Bangladesh

Further reading

Top image: Susmita Mandal Jana crosses an unstable bridge while carrying a large pot to collect water, in Madhab Nagar, West Bengal, India.