Only a tiny proportion of climate finance is reaching the most vulnerable countries or being spent addressing the most urgent impacts, according to new analysis released by WaterAid this month.
In its new report, ‘Short-changed on climate change’, WaterAid analysed publicly available data on climate finance, state of water access and climate vulnerability.
It found that half of all countries receive less than $8 per head, per year in climate finance for both climate mitigation and adaptation. Some of the most vulnerable countries receive significantly less than this. Low levels of climate finance that is also not targeted at the countries most in need is failing to effectively help them deal with the impacts of climate change and is placing billions of lives at risk.
Sudan, which is the country ranked the seventh most vulnerable to the impact of climate change according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, receives only around $1.90 per head, per year in total climate finance for both mitigation and adaptation. On average each person in Sudan is responsible for the emission of 0.3 metric tonnes CO2 emissions – nearly 50 times less than the Australian average Uganda, ranked 15th most vulnerable, receives just over $8 per head, per year.
WaterAid’s analysis found that half of countries where more than 10% of people do not have water close to home get less than $1.50 per head, per year in climate finance for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) service adaptation.The ten countries with the lowest number of people with access to water close to home get on average $1.25 per person, per year in climate finance for water service adaptation – and Madagascar, where nearly half the population do not have water close to home, gets just 25c per person, per year. It costs around this to drive an average family car for 2km in Australia.
WaterAid is calling for a rapid ten-fold increase in the amount of climate finance spent on getting clean water to those currently forced to live without, increasing their ability to cope with climate impacts.
For the poorest people, the most immediate and widespread impacts of climate change are felt through water – extreme droughts, sea level rises, vast floods and powerful storms. Access to clean water is uniquely vulnerable as climate change piles more pressure on already overstretched water-sources. It is those who have done least to contribute to global warming that are carrying the greatest burden of climate change – most often through droughts and flooding.
Access to clean water is a first line defence against climate change, but the most climate-vulnerable countries have some of the lowest levels of clean water access in the world. Around 800 million people still live without even a village water-pump or covered-well close to home. Two billion people live without a water service that is reliable and safe from contamination, putting them at risk of water-borne disease and death.
Although improving access to water is typically seen as a development issue and funded via Official Development Assistance, changing climate will push the cost of delivering interventions that can withstand the impacts higher.
This week, His Royal Highness, The Prince of Wales, will attend the WaterAid Water and Climate Summit. It will bring together leaders from government, business and multilateral institutions to debate and drive action on the urgent and overlooked issue of how the climate crisis is affecting the water that people need to survive in a warming world.
Rosie Wheen, WaterAid Australia’s Chief Executive, said: “Billions of people around the world are already living with the impact of the climate crisis, whether through bushfires in Australia or sea level rises in coastal areas. The pacific region where WaterAid Australia works have had some of the worst impacts globally caused by the effects of climate change.
However, most of this suffering does not make the headlines. It is poor and vulnerable communities, who have done virtually nothing to create this situation, finding it harder and harder each year to find enough clean water to live.
Our report found that half of the 20 most vulnerable countries get less than $13 per person every year in climate finance to help them cope with climate change. The figure is even lower for the amount spent on water.
No-one can survive without clean water and no-one can unlock their potential if they have to struggle to find it. Making sure that everyone, everywhere, is able to rely on a safe supply of water no matter what the weather brings is one of the best investments you can make to help people cope with climate change.
Having had droughts, floods and bushfires throughout the summer in Australia, we can expect more extreme weather events globally, more uncertainty and likely more people forced to live without safe water. We cannot just allow lives and livelihoods to be lost through inaction.”