Climate change is exacerbating both water scarcity and water-related hazards, as rising temperatures disrupt precipitation patterns and the entire water cycle. Currently, 3.6 billion people face inadequate access to water at least a month per year and this is expected to increase to more than 5 billion by 2050.
Only 0.5% of water on Earth is useable and available as freshwater. But in the past 20 years, terrestrial water storage – all water on the land surface and in the subsurface, including soil moisture, snow and ice – has dropped at a rate of 1cm per year. This has huge ramifications for future water security, given population increase and environmental degradation.
Water and Climate Coalition leaders at the United Nations Climate Change conference, COP26, have therefore issued an urgent and united call for integrated water and climate action to replace the existing fragmented and crisis-driven approach.
At a high-level event in Glasgow, Water and Climate coalition leaders stressed the need for Integrated water-climate management, based on increased sharing of data and information. Without this, it will be increasingly difficult to answer the questions of when, where and how much water of which quality can be supplied now and in the future for people and a healthy planetary ecosystem.
"Without good data, climate and water policies are only empty words. Effective action requires knowledge, knowledge requires information, information requires data," said H.E. Mr. János Áder, President of Hungary, whose economy is heavily dependent on the mighty Danube and other rivers.
At a high-level event in Glasgow, Water and Climate coalition leaders stressed the need for Integrated water-climate management, based on increased sharing of data and information
“Our glaciers are melting rapidly and to date more than 1,000 of Tajikistan’s 14,000 glaciers have completely melted. Over the past few decades, the total volume of glaciers in our country, which make up more than 60 percent of the water resources in the Central Asian region, has decreased by almost a third,” said H.E. Mr. Emomali Rahmon, President of Tajikistan.
For high-mountain regions like central Asia, the Himalayas and the Andes, glacier melt increases the risk of water-related hazards such as landslides and avalanches. In the longer-term it means a water security crisis for many millions of people and vast ecosystems.
Given the serious consequences, Tajikistan has proposed proclaiming 2025 as the International Year for Glacier Preservation and creating an associated fund.
Sustainable Development Goals
Presidents Áder and Rahmon are on the 18-member Water and Climate Leaders panel, which is fronting the international coalition spearheaded by WMO and 10 UN agencies. The Water and Climate Leaders group includes also Past President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, Past Prime Ministers of the Republic of Togo and of the Republic of Korea, as well as high-level representatives of UN entities, civil society, the private sector, and two youth envoys..
The coalition aims to achieve an integrated global Water and Climate Agenda to support more effective adaptation and resilience and speeding up progress towards Sustainable Development Goals 6 (water and sanitation) and 13 (climate).
The world is seriously off track to meet both targets.
“Climate change is happening now and is jeopardizing peace, security, biodiversity and global sustainable development. Water is key to achieving real change and to reaching the goals of the 2030 Agenda. Let’s scale up and accelerate action in the field of governance, financing, data and information, capacity building and innovation to turn the tide and to secure a sustainable future, leaving no one behind,” said H.E. Ms. Barbara Visser, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management, Kingdom of the Netherlands.
“Increasing temperatures are resulting in global and regional precipitation changes, leading to shifts in rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, with a major impact on food security and human health and well-being,” says World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas. “This past year has seen a continuation of extreme, water-related events, which have killed hundreds, displaced thousands and affected millions,” he said.
One of WMO’s top priorities is monitoring and predicting changes in weather, climate and water through the exchange of information and services, research and training, through cooperation between national meteorological and hydrological Services.
Ahead of COP26, Prof. Taalas joined the heads of nine other international agencies in issuing an urgent call for action.
Mari Pangestu, World Bank Managing Director of Development Policy and Partnerships said: “In the fight against climate change, water is the great connector. We need exceptional and urgent collective global action to tackle the combined impact of cascading crises that have hit the poor and vulnerable hardest. Today, the World Bank is focusing on delivery more than ever before. Global water management must transform as part of overall efforts to achieve green, resilient and inclusive development.”
“Nearly 40% of the world’s population is considered as youth. At any conference proceeding, political dialogue, and decision to be made around our most precious asset, the voice of youth MATTERS. It is therefore of vital importance to ensure that the input and voices of youth are well accounted for,” said Lindsey Blodgétt, World Youth Parliaments for Water.
The private sector plays a key role
“To tackle the water crisis at a global level, there are three areas of action: first, we need commitment from the private sector. Second, we need overarching political action. Third, and most importantly, we need wide-ranging cooperation. We have a joint responsibility to make this work. If we fail, it is not just a failure for us, but also for future generations,” said Matthias Berninger, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs & Sustainability at Bayer.
Join the Water and Climate Coalition
The Water and Climate Coalition is a multi-stakeholder initiative to provide tangible action, activities and policy support, for an integrated water and climate agenda with a special focus on data, information, monitoring systems and operational capacity. WCC is open for a wide range of members from scientific organizations, private sector, NGOs, UN Organizations, governments and the civil society that are on equal footing to generate momentum through implementing concrete hydrological activities at national, regional and global scale.