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“The first thematic target of the GGA framework is dedicated to water and sanitation”

  • “The first thematic target of the GGA framework is dedicated to water and sanitation”

Climate change impacts are increasingly clear, but action to build resilience to climate shocks and the finance necessary for it continue to lag. One of the key issues at COP28 was agreeing on a framework for the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) – an internationally agreed goal for the world to adapt to the impacts of climate change – including ambitious targets.

Water is essential for adaptation and should therefore be a strong component of the GGA framework. Jose Gesti, COP28 Water Envoy on the Global Goal on Adaptation, Sanitation and Water for All (SWA), has been intensely involved in the discussions to include water targets in the final framework. He has answered our questions about the outcome of the GGA negotiations and the role of water programmes in global climate finance.

Question: Can you tell us briefly about your career path and your current role at Sanitation and Water for All (SWA)?

Answer: After I finished my bachelor’s degree in water engineering, I worked in the private sector and then for the Ministry of the Environment in Spain. However, I always wanted to work for the European Commission or the United Nations. After a few years, I did what few people do and left my permanent position in the ministry to complete my Master’s degree in New York. I then went on to work for UNICEF, first as water and climate specialist in the headquarters office in New York, and then as the Head of UNICEF’s Water, Sanitation and Hygiene programme in Jordan. Later I served as a senior consultant on water and climate for different UNICEF offices, the Global Water Partnership, the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), and now for the Sanitation and Water for All (SWA) global partnership.

Q. You were the COP28 Water Pavilion Envoy on the Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA). Can you give us a bit of background on the negotiations around the GGA and what was delivered at COP28?

A. The Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) originates from Article 7 of the Paris Agreement, which calls for enhancing adaptive capacity, strengthening resilience and reducing vulnerability to climate change. Adaptation means that we recognize that climate change is having adverse effects on our planet, and will continue to do so. Therefore, we need to take action to prevent or minimize climate impacts.

For example, over the past few weeks, heavy rains and flash floods have devastated communities in East Africa, killing more than 350 people and displacing over 1 million across Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. Climate triggered events like these will continue to happen in the short and medium term even if we get greenhouse gas emissions under control. Therefore, we need to strongly focus on reducing vulnerability and increasing resiliency to the immediate and predicted impacts of climate change. Climate resilient water supply and sanitation services are key to adapting to climate change.

Having strong thematic adaptation water and sanitation targets in the GGA will help advance the sector in adaptation planning

At COP28, climate negotiators were tasked with delivering a GGA framework. Many of the delegations were pushing for a position that supports targets for priority themes such as water, health, and food security. Negotiations carried on until December 13th, one day after the conference was supposed to end. However, the negotiators have announced a consensus and adopted the draft text of the framework. The first thematic target is dedicated to water and sanitation, calling for significantly reducing climate-induced water scarcity and enhancing climate resilience to water-related hazards towards climate-resilient water supply, and climate-resilient sanitation services. The target also makes a strong call to complete the existing sustainable development goal on achieving universal access to drinking water. This is a major win for the water sector.

Having strong thematic adaptation water and sanitation targets in the GGA will help advance the sector in adaptation planning and will place us in a unique position to translate the GGA into national policies and strategies as well as action on the ground, importantly serving the most vulnerable and most impacted by climate change. The water target is well aligned with the Green Climate Fund Water Security Guidelines. Therefore, it provides parties to the Paris Agreement with guidance on how to contribute to global adaptation as well as a strong climate rationale to boost adaptation funding for water and sanitation.

Q: What specific water targets did the Water Pavilion want to see as part of the GGA framework?

A: Negotiators had a complex task of crafting a global goal. Challenges include the lack of universal, global metrics that could easily, meaningfully measure or capture “enhanced adaptation” across a vast range of contexts.

During the two-year work programme on the GGA, Water Pavilion partners have shared their views on potential water targets to be included in the final framework. For example, a submission by 13 SWA partners made emphasis on the needs to: Reduce vulnerability in areas with high climate risk exposure and insufficient water and sanitation services.

  • Ensure that progress towards the achievement of universal access to water, sanitation and hygiene contributes to climate adaptation.
  • Ensure that existing water, sanitation and hygiene systems in areas highly exposed to climate risks embrace risk-based management and are retrofitted and upgraded.
  • Foster water conservation, efficiency and reuse throughout existing water, sanitation and hygiene systems.

Another submission by The Nature Conservancy and Conservation international advocated for a significant focus of the GGA on ecosystem-based adaptation EbA, to build upon existing research, indigenous and traditional knowledge, and to develop guidelines on best practices to develop recommendations for the design, implementation and monitoring of EbA.

Q: What are the challenges around securing climate finance for adaptation and how will the GGA framework help address those?

A: At COP28, world leaders are again facing tough decisions over the financial responsibility for climate change. Officials have warned that resources needed for adaptation could be diverted instead to the new “loss and damage” fund. Wealthy countries have only offered about $160 million in contributions to the Adaptation Fund – about half of the $300 million goal.

Mitigation finance continues to dominate at over 90 per cent of total climate finance. Adaptation’s total share increased to 7 per cent, while projects with dual uses accounted for 2 per cent.

The UN’s Adaptation Gap report estimates funding needs now stand between $194 billion and $366 billion per year

The UN’s Adaptation Gap report estimates funding needs now stand between $194 billion and $366 billion per year. Yet finance flows to developing countries are 10-18 times below estimated needs and the gap is widening. The UNFCCC’s Adaptation Fund has only received $1.3 billion from 26 countries, according to the Climate Fund Pledge Tracker.

Traditionally, development banks, aid agencies, foundations and some commercial and private sector sources have provided the bulk of climate finance. In addition, multilateral institutions such as the Global Environment Facility, Green Climate Fund and the Adaptation Fund have been used to directly fund climate change activities. In recent years, the expanded use of verified green bonds such as Climate Water Bonds has signalled an increasing global appetite for municipal and private sector investment in debt capital markets for climate change.

The Global Goal on Adaptation needed to set clever targets and then call for countries to commit to replenishing these funds.

© UNICEF/UNI435917/Alturki. September 2023. The aftermath of a devastating flood in the city of Derna, in Libya.

Q: Water is an essential component of climate adaptation and mitigation action, but it receives less than 3% of all climate finance, most of it for adaptation. What changes are necessary to create an enabling environment for increased investment in climate finance for water-related issues?

A: While adaptation finance flows are nowhere near the levels we need to see, the critical role of water as a key component of climate resiliency is well recognized. The sector received a substantial share of committed public adaptation-related finance with funding standing at $11 billion USD in 2018 for water and wastewater management.

While this is relatively good news, we need to understand that water programmes still only receive less than 3 per cent of global climate finance.

There’s a lot of emphasis on the impact that climate change has on water as a resource. However, we aren’t paying as much attention to the impact it has on basic services, like water supply, sanitation and hygiene. The impacts of climate change on sanitation, in particular, are not obvious to those outside the sector.

Additionally, there is a lack of understanding of how the water and sanitation sector contributes to community resilience and the mitigation agenda. We can’t blame climate stakeholders for not including water and sanitation in national climate plans. Instead, the sector needs to support climate stakeholders to understand the problems and find the solutions.

Q: What would you like to highlight from COP28 so far?

A: I’m inspired by the significant turnout of nearly 100,000 participants at COP28, highlighting the global resonance of our climate crisis. Our commitment today, especially in ensuring climate resilient and smart access to water and sanitation services for those most exposed to climate change, can shape the climate legacy for generations to come.

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