213003 Climate change and the right to water

Monday, November 9, 2009: 10:30 AM

Lindsay F. Wiley, JD, MPH , O'Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center, Washington, DC
In coming decades, climate change will pose an enormous challenge to access to safe and potable water for populations across the globe. Neither global environmental law, nor global health law is currently adequate to address water security in the face of climate change. The international response to climate change currently being negotiated under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change emphasizes both mitigation change through emissions reductions and the need to adapt to the impacts of climate change, including water scarcity. Current approaches under the UNFCCC do not, however, adequately address water security, especially at the individual level. At the same time, water scarcity will intensify exactly those health threats that have not been adequately addressed by current approaches to health law and international cooperation with respect to health. International health law focuses primarily on containment of threats that pose a risk of transboundary spread and has not emphasized the importance of upstream determinants of health like water security.

A new approach is required to rise to the challenges posed by climate change. Because it is grounded in the needs of those whose health is most immediately threatened, rather than in the security concerns of others, the human rights approach is well suited to this challenge. The right to water is particularly well positioned to move jurisprudence on the right to health towards a focus on upstream determinants of health, which will be crucial to an adequate adaptation response to climate change.

Learning Objectives:
By the end of the session, participants will be able to: 1. Identify the challenges that climate change poses to access to safe and potable water. 2. Identify existing and emerging areas of law that might be used to ensure water security in the face of global climate change. 3. Assess the potential of a human rights approach relying on the right to water as a normative basis for international cooperation to adapt to the impacts of climate change.

Keywords: Human Rights, International Public Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Expertise in health and human rights
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.