NDCs and NAPs: our work to make WASH a cornerstone of climate change adaptation
Conversations around climate change are often awash with acronyms. In this blog, we explain two key acronyms – NDCs and NAPs – and discuss why water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) must be incorporated into these plans for communities to effectively adapt to climate change.
Later this month, hundreds of world leaders will meet in Dubai for the 28th UN Climate Change Conference – also known as COP28 – to move forward global and national plans to tackle the climate crisis. Many of their discussions will focus on mitigation; efforts to reduce the current concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by, for example, switching to renewable energy sources, curbing deforestation and encouraging people to drive less or eat less meat.
But already, millions of people around the world are living with the effects of climate change – be it through floods, droughts, extreme weather events – and they need effective and sustainable adaptation measures to cope. That's why countries made commitments to develop Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).
What are NDCs and NAPs, and what’s the difference between them?
NDCs and NAPs are two types of policies that countries use to respond to climate change and achieve the goals of the Paris Agreement – a legally binding international treaty to limit the increase in the global average temperature to below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.
- NDCs are the documents countries use to make plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, adapting to climate change, and recording the reduction in their emissions. Since 2020, countries have been responsible for submitting their NDCs to the United Nations every five years to communicate how they will contribute to achieving the Paris Agreement.
- NAPs enable countries to identify their medium- and long-term needs to adapt to climate change, and to build and implement programmes to address them.
At COP28, NDCs and NAPS will be considered as part of the first Global Stocktake, where UN members and other stakeholders will consider to what extent the global community is making progress towards the Paris Agreement, and what needs to be done to stay on track.
How are NDCs and NAPs linked to WASH?
Climate change is altering the water cycle through floods, droughts and rising sea levels, affecting water availability, quality and quantity.
Not only is water inextricably linked to how people experience climate change, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) services are essential tools for effective climate change adaptation; with the right technology and approaches, WASH facilities and services can help communities not only adapt to the changing climate, but build resilience and thrive.
If renewable energy is considered the cornerstone of mitigation efforts, water should be seen as the key component of adaptation efforts. Therefore, the inclusion of WASH in both NDCs and NAPs is a vital step to ensure that whatever climate change brings, everyone, everywhere will have access to these life-saving essentials.
What is WaterAid doing to ensure WASH is included in these essential plans?
Across several countries in which we work, teams are working to influence national climate change planning processes by encouraging governments to integrate WASH in NAPs and NDCs, and advocating specifically for WASH in NDCs to be an outcome of the first Global Stocktake at COP28.
Many communities in Bangladesh know too well the damage climate change can inflict, especially through water. And although Bangladesh has strived to ensure its population has basic water and sanitation services, 3.79 million people still don’t have access to clean water, and 75.4 million don’t have access to a decent toilet. Now, salinity intrusion and storm surges are contaminating fresh water sources and making them unuseable, particularly in low lying coastal areas. But across the country, more frequent and stronger storms and cyclones are damaging and destroying essential WASH infrastructure, pushing communities deeper into poverty, and further entrenching gender inequality.
Working with multiple government ministries, we have successfully advocated for the importance of WASH as a frontline intervention and adaptation solution for communities. On 2 November 2022, the government of Bangladesh publicised its long-awaited National Adaptation Plan (2023–2050), marking the first time that the importance of WASH has been thoroughly recognised through Bangladesh’s NAP revision process.
With our partners in the WASH sector, we have recommended that the government focuses on two specific areas:
- Investing approximately US$65 billion in innovative climate-resilient and gender-sensitive WASH technologies and facilities for the urban population;
- Investing at least US$6 billion in research and piloting of new climate-resilient technologies and infrastructure.
We will continue to work with others in the sector and the government to ensure the country's NAPs are continually revised, with the inclusion of WASH.
– Adnan Ibne Abdul Qader, Climate and Water Governance Specialist, WaterAid Bangladesh
We have been building the foundations with the government to integrate WASH into climate change considerations, which is a key step in including WASH in NDCs and NAPs.
As part of this, we have influenced the Ministry of WASH to set up the Technical Committee on Climate Change, which is mandated to coordinate, reflect, exchange and provide strategic and technical guidance on the links between WASH and climate change. We have also worked with partners to advocate for the improved and increased participation of the Malagasy government in UN climate summits and provided recommendations for ways the government can mainstream WASH in climate change plans, including NDC and NAPs. This year, Madagascar will host a national pavilion at COP28, marking a significant step in the country’s involvement in climate action, and a clear prioritisation of the issue by the government.
Going forward, we will continue to advocate for the establishment of an expanded WASH and climate change committee involving a wide range of stakeholders.
– Hantaniaina Rabesandratana, Head of Programme – Governance and Policy, WaterAid Madagascar
In Mozambique, we have supported the national government to join the NDC Partnership, a group of more than 200 members which supports governments to identify and implement their NDCs. We are also working with governments at local, regional and national levels to ensure WASH is not only included in NAPs and NDCs, but is properly financed and implemented to meet targets.
In 2022, we signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Land and Environment with the aim of strengthening relations and influencing the prioritisation of WASH and climate change in the government's plans and policies. This includes influencing Local Adaptation Plans (LAPs), which are part of NAPs.
Working with the National Platform of CSOs on Climate Change, we co-organised a pre-COP27 workshop on loss and damage, which included discussions on NDCs to help civil society organisations prepare their positions ahead of last year’s climate summit in Sharm El-Sheikh.
In the coming months, we hope to receive training from the Ministry of Land and Environment to develop a comprehensive understanding of matters related to NDCs and NAPs and help ensure they are implemented at district level.
– Helio Guiliche, Policy and Research Advisor, WaterAid Mozambique
From commitments to implementation
So how do we move from getting WASH included in NDCs and NAPs to seeing these policies being implemented? This is the million (or trillion)-dollar question, and there is no set process or method. And as each NDC and NAP is country-specific, and the journey to even get WASH or water included in them is lengthy, the process to shift to delivery will not happen overnight.
Watering the NDCs and NAPs at COP28
To make progress on this at the global level, we are co-leading ‘Watering the NDCs and NAPs’, a thematic day at the Water for Climate Pavilion at COP28, in partnership with WWF-USA and FAO. The day will bring together speakers and contributors from across the globe, with plenary sessions and panel discussions on the status of water in NDCs and NAPs, the obstacles to watering the NDCs and NAPs, and showcasing the benefits of prioritising and investing in water, especially in relation to the Global Stocktake.
Lucy Graham is Advocacy Communications Manager – Climate.
Top image: Lydia Byogero, 36, looks inside her rainwater harvesting tank which is under construction in Nakabale Village, Kategere Parish, Namutumba District, Uganda. April 2022.