April 1, 2023

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UN: Climate change in Europe threatens access to water and sanitation

Adequate drinking water supply, pollution caused by sewage overflow and diseases caused by improper sewage treatment are expected to significantly increase the risks of climate change for water, sanitation and hygiene in the Pan-European region.

The warning was issued by the United Nations Economic Forum for Europe (UNECE) and the World Health Organization (WHO / Europe) during a discussion between governments in Geneva this week.

This comes at a crucial time as governments prepare for the UN Climate Conference COP 27 (November 2022) and the UN Water Conference in 2023.

Although adaptation efforts related to water management are prioritized in many nationally determined contributions (NDCs) and National Action Plans (NAPs) under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, there are no administrative mechanisms and methods to integrate water and climate, and in most cases the interface drinking water, sanitation and hygiene are not taken into account. .

In the face of growing threats, the 13th meeting of the Water and Health Working Group on Water and Health Protocol – led by an information document – specifically discussed how to strengthen countries’ concrete action within the legal framework of the protocol. Can increase flexibility.

Water, sanitation and sanitation in all countries of the region are under threat

Climate change is having a severe impact on countries in the European region, damaging water supply and sanitation infrastructure, degrading source water and quality, dumping human waste into the environment, depleting water reserves and polluting water supply. , To maintain hydration for consumption change.

It is estimated that 35% of the EU’s area will be under high water pressure by 2070, when the number of victims (compared to 2007) is expected to be 16 to 44 million. Globally, every 1 ° C temperature increase caused by global warming is expected to lead to a 20% reduction in renewable water resources and a further 7% of the population.

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Loss of services can lead to inability to use unhygienic water resources or maintain good hygiene practices. Damage to the cleaning systems can lead to increased exposure to pathogens.

These vulnerabilities are already being felt in the region. Hungary, for example, warned of significant additional operating costs for wastewater treatment due to disruption of power pumping and treatment plants. The Netherlands faced challenges in ensuring water supply, and Spain did what it could to maintain a minimum drinking water supply during periods of drought.

Climate impacts on water and sanitation services further increase the challenge of enforcing the right to drinking water and sanitation for all, which is far from practical in the European region today: more than 16 million people still lack basic amenities. Drinking water and more than 31 million people need basic sanitation.

The pan-European region covers a wide range of climates and environments, from the arid and semi-arid climates of Central Asia to subtropical Mediterranean and northern Europe with water resources. Climate change forecasts indicate a steady increase in temperature and different patterns of rainfall over the coming decades. A projected increase in rainfall is expected in northern Europe and a decrease in southern latitudes.

Water and sanitation protocol

In the absence of adequate administrative mechanisms and methods to meet the scale of the challenges posed by many countries, the strengthening of measures under the Universal Declaration of Water and Health, a unique multilateral agreement provided by UNECE and WHO / Europe, plays an important role.

The protocol supports the creation of a menu of options for the inclusion of water, sanitation and hygiene in NDCs and NAPs under the Paris Agreement. It will also help ensure that national and sub-national drinking water supply and sanitation strategies include clear climate logic and risk analysis.

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United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on all countries in the region to adopt the protocol and fully implement its rules.

The actions and plans of the countries under the protocol illustrate its effectiveness: 53% of wastewater in Israel is tertiary treatment (filtration and disinfection) and treated wastewater is reused, mainly in agriculture. Modernization and proper maintenance of sewage treatment facilities in the country are aimed at further reducing the pollution of wastewater discharged into the environment. In Luxembourg, rainwater catchments, storm beds and pumping stations will help manage the expected increase during the rainy season.

The protocol’s targeting mechanism provides an accountability framework at the national and international levels, which provides an effective tool for planning in line with climate change, establishing a cross – sectoral integration mechanism, broad participatory and gap analysis, contextualization and prioritization development choices.