WaterAid is attending the UN's Climate Change conference, where we will call on governments to recognise the critical role clean water plays in helping communities to cope with climate change and recover from extreme weather events. 

In November 2021, the UK government will host the UN Climate Change Conference – also known as COP26 – in Glasgow. Hundreds of world leaders will come together to agree plans on how to tackle the climate crisis.

Why is COP26 important?

COP26 is the deadline for countries to present their initial plans on how they’ll achieve the climate goals agreed as part of the Paris Agreement at COP21 in 2015.

Together, these plans need to set the world on track to stop global temperatures rising by more than 1.5ºC by the end of the century. Despite being on the official agenda, these plans are very unlikely to be delivered. Wealthy nations also promised $100 billion a year to help the least developed countries reduce their emissions and protect themselves against the impacts of climate change.

In the six years since the Paris Agreement, there has been much talk about delivering climate finance among donor governments. COP26 is a chance to hold them to account and make sure that developing countries get a fair deal.

Around 74% of natural disasters between 2001 and 2018 were water related

By 2040, one in four children will live in an area of extremely high-water stress

Basic water, sanitation and hygiene programmes receive less than 1% of global climate finance

WaterAid at COP26

Climate change is making it even harder for the world’s poorest people to get clean water.

Already, 1 in 10 people worldwide don’t have a reliable source of clean water. And the more our climate changes, the more challenging this becomes. More frequent and extreme flooding is polluting water sources, while longer and more severe droughts mean that wells and springs are running dry.&

Kadija and her sister Ansha carry water from the River Lah in Ethiopia.
WaterAid/Joey Lawrence
Kadija and her sister Ansha carry water from the River Lah in Ethiopia.

The COP26 agenda is dominated by how countries plan to cut carbon emissions. But it’s vital that talks also address how we help those experiencing the impacts of climate change right now.

WaterAid is calling on governments to recognise the critical role that clean water has in helping communities to cope with climate change and recover from extreme weather events.

  • Alongside a focus on cutting carbon emissions, WaterAid is calling on governments to do more to help people who are experiencing the effects of climate change right now. This means increasing funding for clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

  • High-income countries should fulfil their responsibility to provide new and additional climate finance, and ensure that the international community is on track to deliver on the $100 billion global pledge agreed on at Paris six years ago.

  • Donors must prioritise spending to help people and communities adapt to climate change, ensuring it amounts to at least 50% of overall climate finance. As part of this, climate finance should be made specifically available for water, sanitation and hygiene services that underpin climate resilience.

  • Governments of low and middle-income countries - especially those already experiencing high levels of water stress combined with low access to water, sanitation, and hygiene services - must address current and future threats to water as part of their national climate action plans.

  • Climate finance must be made more accessible to the least developed countries, and the vulnerable communities within them. Donors and development agencies should engage with marginalised groups and local stakeholders who are facing water insecurity, to make sure their voices are included in decisions that directly impact their lives.

WaterAid and partner events at COP26



Time (UTC)


Making finance flow: turning on the taps for water and climate solutions

2 Nov

10.35 - 11.00

The Nature Conservancy, Overseas Development Institute, WaterAid, and Alliance for Global Water Adaptation.

The Resilient Water Accelerator: ensuring resilience and comprehensive water security for the most climate vulnerable

2 Nov

11.10 - 11.35

African Development Bank, Arup, Global Water Partnership, Government of the Netherlands, Sustainable Markets Initiative, UK Government, WaterAid, and World Resources Institute

Youth Empowerment

5 Nov

09.00 - 10.00


Adaption: building adaptive capacity through climate resilient water, sanitation and hygiene solutions

6 Nov

09.00 - 11.30

UNICEF, UN Habitat, International Water Management Institute, SNV Netherland Development Organisation and WaterAid Nepal

Policy, accountability and monitoring: needs and opportunities for water, sanitation and hygiene

6 Nov

11.40 - 13.10

SWA, UNICEF, SIWI, Bristol University, WaterAid

Business-led partnerships and finance for climate-resilient WASH solutions

6 Nov

13.20 - 15.20

WaterAid, Water.org, Toilet Board Coalition, CEO Water Mandate, UNICEF India, WaterAid Bangladesh

WASH in the climate mitigation debate

6 Nov

15.30 - 17.15


Adaptation and resilience in urban water: the role of cities and utilities in achieving the NDCs

11 Nov

14.00 - 15.30

Arup, WSUP, Sustainalytics, Arquitectura sin Fronteras, Slum Dwellers International, Tyndall Centre for Climate Change, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, Water Security Research Centre, University of East Anglia

Water resilience in cities and the built environment

11 Nov

17.15 - 18.45

Arup, The Resilience Shift, World Resources Institute, Resilient Cities Network, Wateraid, SIWI, International Water Association, Government of the Netherlands, Alliance for Global Water Adaptation

Top image: Leticia Jesayu, 55, walks across a dried landscape to collect water in Puloichon, La Sabana, Colombia. January 2021.