Opportunities for Sustainable Sanitation in Climate Action

May 2019

Sustainable sanitation is highly relevant for the achievement of three international frameworks: the Paris Agreement, the Sendai Framework and the 2030 Agenda. A sustainable future is impossible without universal access to safe, well-functioning and context-appropriate sanitation services. Until this is achieved, sanitation shortfalls will increase the risks human populations face from climate change and climate-related disasters.

Climate change also has a negative impact on water availability and quality as well as on sanitation infrastructure, making resilience of sanitation systems a top priority. A combination of technical measures such as resource-efficient systems and floodproof sanitation with improved planning, capacity building and increased awareness offers best possibilities of adapting to climate-related hazards.

Investments in sustainable sanitation can not only minimise these risks but also make substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions and provide additional co-benefits through water and energy efficiency measures, replacing synthetic fertilisers as well as avoiding methane emissions. The use of renewable energy from sustainable sanitation systems in the form of biogas, hydropower, heat recovery or directly from excreta offers additional mitigation potential.

Several tools are available to strengthen climate assessment and adaptation planning, and to identify mitigation measures. Despite this, sanitation has been largely overlooked in climate mitigation and adaptation strategies – and in the disbursement of finance for climate action and disaster risk reduction. That is why a joint effort is needed to draw the attention of decision makers to sustainable sanitation and its importance for climate mitigation and adaptation.

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