Six months ago, world leaders from more than 200 countries attended the COPS summit in Glasgow. This was the first-ever COPS summit that had a dedicated Water Pavilion, where the focus was “on the role of water in meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement” and supporting “ambitious and science-based global climate action”.
Sadly, the word ‘water’ wasn’t even mentioned in the Glasgow Climate Pact that was published immediately after the summit. It included achievements such as agreements on halting and reversing deforestation, phasing out coal power, reducing methane emissions, and accelerating the transition to electric and zero emission cars, all of which will have a positive impact on the sustainability of water. But it was nevertheless disappointing that water didn’t gain recognition.
While water didn’t seem to get official recognition, there is positive news arising from the summit. The Water and Climate Coalition did make progress at COP26 where more than 125 countries agreed to share weather data with the rationale that “we cannot manage what we don’t measure”. As representatives of Water and Climate Leaders, they would like water-related indicators to be included in the COP process and propose an action plan at the UN 2023 Water Conference. The Coalition are calling for the role of water in climate change mitigation to be recognised, international support to improve water data and information, and a better understanding of the role of glaciers as a critical source of freshwater.
Dr Sadek Wahba is Chairman & Managing Partner of I Squared Capital and a Senior Fellow at Development Research Institute, NYU. Writing in Forbes magazine, he called for water to be added to the agenda for COP27 to be held in Sharm el-Sheikh this November. He believes that COP27 needs to look for ways of reversing the climate trends that have the greatest impact on water and look for ways of investing in infrastructure and solutions that protect water resources, such as irrigation systems, agricultural improvements, water storage, and desalination.
The Paris Agreement on Climate Change was adopted at the 2015 COP21 summit. It is a legally binding international treaty to limit global warming to well below 2 degrees Celsius, preferably less than 1.5 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels. Subsequent COP summits have been trying to agree on and implement solutions to significantly reduce emissions and reach ambitious Net Zero targets. Hitting these targets is key to averting irreversible climate change. Businesses can also help reach net zero targets and improve corporate responsibility by saving water.
Unfortunately a recent study conducted jointly by researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia and the International Energy Agency in Paris, France is not optimistic. They conclude: “Commitments made so far, especially for this decade, fall far short of what is required to limit temperature rise to 1.5°C.” They warn there’s only a 10% chance of hitting the Paris Agreement targets unless substantially more is done by countries to hit their Net Zero targets much earlier than planned.
So when it comes to water, apparently very little has changed as a result of COP26.
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