A new Water and Climate Coalition has been launched to achieve more effective integrated policy-making in an era when climate change, environmental degradation and population growth has exacerbated water-related hazards and scarcity.
The coalition was announced at a high-level General Assembly event on 18 March to speed up lagging progress towards the water-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in particular SDG6 on clean water and sanitation for all. The value of water is about much more than its price – water has enormous and complex value for our households, food, culture, health, education, economics and the integrity of our natural environment.
"Our discussion today isn't just about liquid in a bottle. It’s presence or absence means so, so much more. It's about dignity. It's about opportunity. It's about our health & our ability to survive," said General Assembly President Volkan Bozkir.
In her opening remarks, UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammad called on Governments to raise ambition on climate action as a key priority for achieving the water related goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda.
“I call on Governments to raise ambition on climate action. Increased flooding threatens to destroy water points and sanitation facilities and contaminate our water sources. I reiterate the call of the Secretary-General to allocate 50 per cent of climate finance to adaptation,” she said.
Munir Akram, President of the UN Economic and Social Council stressed that climate change and associated changes in the hydrological cycle will lead to biodiversity loss.
By 2050, more than 50 percent of the population is expected to face water stress. Climate change is altering rainfall patterns and affecting water availability and worsening the damages floods and drought cause worldwide.
“We are seeing a growing amount of disasters. And many of those disasters are related to water… The biggest impacts of climate change have to do with water,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof Petteri Taalas in a video message. “We have to adapt to climate change. And one of the powerful ways to adapt to climate change is to invest in early warning services and meteorological and hydrological services.”
The melting of ice cover and glaciers – known as the water towers of the world - is leading to more hazards in the short-term whilst threatening water security of hundreds of millions of people in the long-term.
In Tajikistan, there were more than 14.500 glaciers last century, covering 8 percent of the country’s total territory. Today, more than 1,000 glaciers of Tajikistan have completely melted and they have decreased by almost one third in volume, Emomaliji Rahmon, President of Tajikistan, told the General Assembly as he announced the launch of the new Water and Climate Coalition.
“This trend can obviously have very dramatic consequences in the medium to long term. At the same time, climate change has intensified the frequency of such natural hydro and meteorological phenomena as mudflows, floods, droughts, landslides and avalanches. Natural disasters inflict huge damage to Tajikistan's economy and environment every year, undermining our efforts to achieve sustainable development. I would like to note that such challenges are typical for other countries of Central Asia as well,” he said.
Hungarian President János Áder stressed the need to break down silos in water and climate for integrated decision-making.
Presidents Áder and Rahmon are on the 15-member Water and Climate Leaders panel, which is fronting the international coalition spearheaded by WMO and 10 UN agencies. The coalition aims to achieve an integrated global Water and Climate Agenda to support more effective adaptation and resilience and speeding up progress towards SDGs 6 and 13 (climate).
The world is seriously off track to meet both targets.
“We must accelerate and do it fast – in some areas up to four times faster – if we want to meet our SDG6 commitments,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of UN Water and the International Fund for Agricultural Development and one of the Water and Climate Leaders panel.
The Water and Climate Leaders group includes current and former government, business and civil society leaders as well as 2 youth representatives from all regions of the world. The Water and Climate Leaders will provide practical guidance on proper integration, information, cooperation and investment.
"We cannot discuss the climate crisis without speaking about water security," said Ernest Gibson, Member of the UN Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change and the Water and Climate Leaders.
Close the information gap
WMO spearheads the new coalition because a major obstacle to provide efficient and sustainable water solutions is the lack of information about the currently available water resources, future availability and demand for food and energy supply. Decision makers are faced with the same dilemma when it comes to flood and drought risks.
Today, 60 % of WMO Member States report declining capabilities in hydrological monitoring and thus in the provision of decision support in the water, food and energy nexus. More than 50 % of countries worldwide have no quality management system for their water related data in place. Only about 40% of countries worldwide have good flood and drought early warning systems operational. Political decision makers around the world lack a trustworthy information base in order to take decisions that have legal consequences on river basin scales.
This situation seriously threatens the sustainable development agenda.
The Water and Climate Coalition is a voluntary effort to close the information gap in the water, food and energy nexus and tackle the growing water and climate-related impacts. Fit for purpose National Meteorological and Hydrological Services, embedded in regional and global information streams are a prerequisite for success.
The Water and Climate coalition supports the implementation of the UN Water Action Decade through the UN-Water Global Accelerator Framework for SDG 6 with a concrete action mechanism.
It has the following ambitions:
- Galvanise the principles of integrated water and climate action into new global climate and water policy and break traditional water, disaster and climate siloes to form integrated understanding and approaches
- Rally a global coalition to implement and share the benefits of regional/multilateral adaptation and resilience action. This includes through universal and free access to information and services relevant for life and livelihood; ability and capacity to act upon this information for all stakeholders, and investment in the most effective solutions
It embraces the following fundamental messages:
- Sustainable development requires integrated water, weather and climate solutions
- Water information for saving lives is a global public good and must be freely accessible
- International and intersectoral cooperation creates co-benefits for more resilience
- Investing in effective long-term water solutions helps preparing our planet for the future