At the UN climate change conference in November 2022, WaterAid called on governments to prioritise investment in water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) to help the most vulnerable people cope with and survive the effects of climate change.

In November 2022, the government of Egypt hosted the 27th UN Climate Change Conference – also known as COP27 – in Sharm el-Sheikh. Hundreds of world leaders came together to agree plans for how to tackle the climate crisis.

They reviewed the commitments made in 2021 in the Glasgow Climate Pact and aimed to build on them. There were four main areas of focus: mitigation, adaptation, finance and collaboration

The main outcomes of COP27 were:

  • The creation of a new fund for “Loss and Damage”. The fund aims to provide financial assistance to nations most vulnerable and impacted by the effects of climate change.
  • A stronger focus on adaptation. Many wealthy countries made new commitments to increase funding for adaptation, including locally led adaptation, which is essential for individuals and communities already experiencing the impacts of climate change.
  • Calls for the reform of multilateral development banks, such as the World Bank, so that they can provide developing countries with the funding needed to cut greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of the climate crisis.
  • The beginning of the end of 1.5C. Since science has shown that a 2C global temperature rise is not safe, countries at COP26 agreed to focus on a 1.5C limit, and to strengthen commitments each year to cut greenhouse gas emissions to stay within it. But at COP27, some countries tried to renege on the 1.5C goal. They didn’t succeed, but a resolution for emissions to peak by 2025 was taken out of the final agreement.

90% of all natural disasters are water-related.

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

95% of climate finance – all of private finance and most of public funding – has been centred on mitigation. 

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 pollutes water sources, while longer and more severe droughts mean that wells and springs are running dry. This makes people more susceptible to disease and pushes them further into poverty. 

The most vulnerable communities deserve financial support to build resilience and have a chance to live dignified, healthy lives. 

That is why, before and during COP27, we called for: 

  • Wealthy country governments to honour the commitments made at COP26 to at least double their financial support to developing countries. 
  • World leaders to prioritise clean water for the world’s most climate-vulnerable groups – particularly women and girls. 
  • World leaders to address the structural inequalities – particularly for the most vulnerable groups such as women and girls – that are exacerbated by climate change. 

Water and the COP27 outcomes

For the first time at a climate COP, the final declaration mentioned water.  

The Sharm el-Sheikh Adaptation Agenda lists 30 adaptation targets for 2030, two of which are water and sanitation services. In particular, the text recognises:

The critical role of protecting, conserving and restoring water and water-related ecosystems in delivering climate adaptation benefits and co-benefits, while ensuring social and environmental safeguards.

But the mentions of water did not go far enough to address the water-related impacts of, or solutions to, climate change. Nor were the links between climate change and resilient WASH services prioritised – even though they are essential services and human rights required by everyone, everywhere to survive and thrive.  

On the plus side, USAID announced the launch of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Finance 2 - a fund which aims to mobilise $375M for climate-resilient water and sanitation services.     

As we move forward, we must continue to make the case that the climate narrative should include WASH as a vital part of climate change adaptation. 

Read more about what happened at CO27 and what it means for water, sanitation and hygiene. 

WaterAid at COP27

WaterAid delegation at COP27 water pavilion

Our international delegation attended COP27 to amplify the voices of those on the frontlines of the climate crisis, and to demonstrate water, sanitation and hygiene services as effective solutions to adapt to climate change.

Over the two-week summit, our in-person delegates from Australia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mozambique, Timor-Leste and the UK hosted, spoke at and contributed to more than 20 events across many pavilions. They also met with countless other delegates to highlight the importance of building climate resilience through WASH. Some highlights include:

  • In partnership with the Sustainable Markets Initiative, we hosted a high-level event ‘Water resilience for a healthy, sustainable and prosperous future’ as part of the Terra Carta Action Forum. With more than 100 guests, the event featured speeches from the Rt Hon James Cleverly MP, the UK Foreign Secretary; Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America; Lauren Sorkin, Executive Director of the Resilient Cities Network; and Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive of WaterAid UK.
  • Also in week one, Tim Wainwright and Kathryn Pharr, Senior Policy Advisor for International Climate Action, spoke on panels in the Water Pavilion and the Coalition of Rainforests Pavilion, addressing ways to finance climate-resilient WASH, and highlighting the work of the Resilient Water Accelerator.
  • Dedo Mate-Kodjo, Pan-Africa Programme Manager, took part in a discussion with Jane Karuku, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of East African Breweries Limited, on climate leadership.
  • Back in the Water Pavilion, of which we were a Core Partner, Thérèse Rudebeck of WaterAid Sweden launched a new report she co-authored – The essential drop to reach net-zero: unpacking freshwater's role in climate change mitigation – in collaboration with SIWI, SRC, UNDP, GIZ and PIK.
  • In the Bangladesh Pavilion, Hasin Jahan, Partha Shaikh and Adnan Qader spoke on a panel with the International Centre for Climate Change and Development, highlighting the loss of and damage to water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructures by climate hazards in Bangladesh.
  • In week two, delegates from WaterAid Bangladesh took part in the launch of a new book – Stories of resilience: lessons from local adaptation practice – in the Locally Led Adaptation Pavilion. The first and only chapter on WASH, ‘Golap Mohila Dal’s Moricchap Drinking Water Plant’, was co-authored by Partha, Adnan and Kathryn. Read more about the drinking water plant.
  • We also joined UNICEF, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the WHO and more in a collective call to action to encourage governments, donors, civil society and the private sector to ensure 3.6 billion people in developing countries can access safe, climate-resilient sanitation services by 2030.


Top image: Shefali Rani Sardar, a village committee worker and caretaker of her village's pond-sand filter, picks crops in her garden in Purbo Durgabati, Burigoalini, Bangladesh.