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Thematic reports

Special thematic report on climate change and the human rights to water and sanitation


28 January 2022


Water and sanitation


The world is facing a global water crisis, and climate change is exacerbating this crisis. It is widely understood and acknowledged that climate change arises as a consequence of the massive emission of greenhouse gases, and therefore no one doubts that mitigation strategies must be led by the energy transition. However, it is rarely explained that the main socio-economic impacts are generated around water: in fact, about 90 per cent of natural disasters are water-related. Therefore, adaptation strategies must be based on a hydrological transition that strengthens environmental and social resilience in the face of climate change. On the one hand, it is urgent to recover the health of wetlands and underground aquifers - true natural lungs of the water cycle - which can and should be strategic reserves for increasingly severe droughts. On the other hand, it is a matter of strengthening democratic governance of water and sanitation services as well as aquatic ecosystems in the face of these droughts, with adaptation plans that prioritize the human rights to drinking water and sanitation, particularly for those living in poverty and vulnerable situations and that have been adapted and implemented with the participation of the affected population.

The current report is part of three special thematic reports issued by the Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation. It serves as an intermittent report between the Special Rapporteur's report to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council in September 2021, focused on his plans and vision for the mandate (A/HRC/48/50) and his next report to the 51st session of the Human Rights Council in September 2022. The current report aims to outline how climate change will impact the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation, and to describe the main trends in those impacts by region. The second report explores the impacts of climate change on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation of specific groups, and the third outlines a human rights approach to climate adaptation, mitigation, financing and cooperation.