Climate Change and the Right to WaterPublished on 13 November 2015 by Senator
Last week I wrote about how the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found multiple links between climate change and how its effects stand to violate human rights, particularly by those already living in poverty. One of those links is the threat climate change poses to the right to water.
1 in 10 people lack access to safe water, and 1 in 3 people lack access to a toilet. More people have mobile phones than a toilet. According to the World Economic Forum in January 2015, the water crisis is the #1 global risk based on impact to society.
Floods, droughts, changes in temperate and extreme fluctuations are already creating challenges for so many people in the world. This will result in increased water scarcity, contamination, and spread of diseases.
In many countries, women and girls carry the responsibility for collecting water for drinking, washing, cooking, cleaning, and living. In our world today, nearly one billion people already lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion lack access to adequate sanitation. Climate change is only going to make weather conditions more volatile, and threaten more people’s rights to water and sanitation.
The UN defines the right to water as “the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable, physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic use.” This also includes the right to sanitation: “In all spheres of life everyone has the right to physical and economic access to sanitation which is safe, hygienic, secure, socially and culturally acceptable, provides privacy and ensures dignity.”
Despite this reality and the certainty that the right to water for so many stands to be at threat under climate change, water has not been considered seriously enough in climate change negotiations.
A UN position paper argued for change at the 2009 Climate Change Conference: A set of recommendations were laid out, including the “recognition of the pivotal role of water, including its human rights dimensions, in adapting to climate change in order to increase resilience and achieve sustainable development.” It is time we adopt those recommendations and take a serious look at the humanitarian effects of climate change.
In order to properly brace for the effects climate change will have on humanity, we need a comprehensive picture of what that looks like. The right to water is the first of a series of six blogs I will share with you as the Paris conference quickly approaches. I will continue to look at how climate change is a threat to other human rights over the next few weeks, and welcome your feedback.