Most impacts of climate change manifest themselves through water – be it floods, storms or droughts, sea level rises or ocean acidification that leads to coral bleaching. It is little wonder then that more than half the climate change adaptation plans submitted by countries under the Paris Climate Agreement prioritise action on water. Still, this crucial issue gets neither enough attention at global climate negotiations, nor enough funding.
All the projects on water supply, conservation and purification projects around the world are worth little below USD 100 billion a year. But, in an era of climate change, three times as much is needed, said water experts said on the sidelines of the UN climate summit in Bonn, Germany.
“[The] sustainable use of water for multiple purposes must remain a way of life and needs to be at the centre of building resilient cities and human settlements, and ensuring food security in a climate change context,” said Mariet Verhoef-Cohen, president of the Women for Water Partnership, and co-chair of the Water Scarcity in Agriculture Platform.
The international water community co-signed a “nature-based solution declaration” during the summit to encourage the use of natural systems in managing healthy water supplies.
One reason water does not get adequate attention or funding at international climate negotiations is that it is seen as a local issue. But at a time when water availability is becoming more and more uncertain, its unwise management has global impact.
Around 40% of the world’s population will face water shortages by 2050, accelerating migration and triggering conflict, while some regions could lose up to 6% of their economic output, unless it is better managed.
Ensuring the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is one of the UN’s sustainable development goals, but meeting it is hindered by funding shortages.
“Involving both women and men in decision-making and integrated water resources initiatives leads to better sustainability, governance and efficiency,” said Verhoef-Cohen, referring to the fact that women are far more impacted by water problems than men.
Since water impacts all aspects of life, several networks – including #ClimateIsWater, the Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA) and the Global Alliances for Water and Climate (GAfWaC) – came to COP23 to underline the need to develop closer cooperation between water and other communities. Water must emerge as a greater priority in national policies and be integrated within other major sectors such as energy, food security, health and education, they said.