At COP 21 in Paris, the world will seek — once again — an agreement on the future of climate. Yet for a billion of the poorest people in the world, the language of that agreement will not do nearly enough to address the impacts of climate change they are already feeling today.
Water is how we experience the planet’s climate; droughts and floods will overwhelmingly define our experience of climate change. Meeting a growing need for water while the climate is changing will be even harder. Even the richest in the world are susceptible. The drought in the western United States has threatened California’s way of life, while the East Coast was recently hit by devastating floods that made places like South Carolina look like Bangladesh.
But it is our world’s most vulnerable — those living on less than U.S. $5 a day — that should come first in our concerns. The upcoming climate negotiations present us with an opportunity to not only address global emissions, but also test our ability to truly solve interconnected environmental issues like climate and water as a necessary means to avoid social instability worldwide. By scaling innovative financing options, expanding use of available technology and investing in nature-based solutions, we can make water available and affordable to the world’s poor, freeing-up household income that drives economies and improving health conditions around the world.