Sustainable sanitation and gaps in global climate policy and financing

News Aug 17, 2020

This article examines the interactions between sanitation and climate, and calls for planning frameworks to facilitate integration of climate change into sanitation policy and programming. It discusses how sanitation is being addressed in mitigation and adaptation, the impacts on global climate policy and financing, and implications of these gaps for different sanitation systems and geographic regions.

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It is widely recognized that sanitation is fundamental to human health and sustainable development, but the role of sanitation systems in climate mitigation and adaptation has been neglected.

Meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) target of universal access to “adequate and equitable” sanitation and elimination of open defecation requires expanding provision to the 2.3 billion people who lack basic sanitation services, and adapting many existing sanitation systems to new challenges posed by climate change, such as flooding and water scarcity.

Doing this has important, but often overlooked, implications for climate policy. The sanitation and wastewater sectors are significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions, particularly from the breakdown of organic matter and large energy sources demanded by many conventional treatment processes.

At the same time, a range of options is available to reduce negative climate impact from sanitation and make services more resilient. Sanitation services can also contribute to climate response, for example through recovery of resources such as water, plant nutrients and energy.

This perspective article discusses gaps in how sanitation is being addressed in climate mitigation and adaptation, why it is rarely included in climate policy and financing at the global level, and implications of these gaps for different sanitation systems and geographic regions.

It also describes the need for planning frameworks to facilitate integration of climate change into sanitation policy and programming. This is critical to increase understanding of sanitation and climate change linkages among stakeholders, and why sanitation should be included in climate action.

 

Dickin, S., Bayoumi, M., Giné, R. et al. Sustainable sanitation and gaps in global climate policy and financing. npj Clean Water 3, 24 (2020).

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41545-020-0072-8