This year, for the first time ever, there was a designated Water Day at a COP summit. Water Day on 14th November was designed to focus on water security action as part of the global climate agenda. Water is fundamental to life itself and is needed for economic growth and a healthy ecosystem. However, billions of people around the world are affected by floods and droughts. As the organisers say: “Without water, society cannot function.”
Now that COP27 is over, we thought it would be a good idea to take a look at what happened at the summit with regard to water.
The Water and Climate Coalition is a group of high-level representatives from ten UN entities who are collaborating on activities to tackle water and climate challenges. At COP27, they challenged global leaders to take water seriously, saying: “While water has not been seen as part of the solution in previous COPs, water can be a problem-solver for your climate actions. You can challenge this forthcoming COP to recognise and validate the contribution improved water outcomes can make to achieving Paris Agreement goals. There is no time to waste. Now is the time to get serious about water as an imperative for climate action.”
The Coalition offered three ways to improve the management of water resources: better management and safeguards with early warning systems for floods and droughts, enhancing climate change resilience by regulation that fosters cross-border and public–private co-operation, and the reduction of emissions and the adoption of clean energy.
On Water Day, Dr Hani Sewilam, Egypt’s Minister of Water Systems and Irrigation announced the launch of AWARe - the Action on Water Adaptation and Resilience initiative. AWARe aims to work towards getting water adaptation and resilience investments in some of the most vulnerable African communities. The initiative was drafted by the COP27 Presidency and the World Meteorological Organization. Echoing the statement by the Water and Climate Coalition, Dr Sewilam said: “The Global Water Crisis is currently affecting billions of people worldwide and is projected to be further aggravated by increasing demand, changing water availability and increasing impacts of floods and droughts, which calls for greater international cooperation.”
The Water Pavilion ran throughout the entire conference. It brought together 40 partner organisations to offer science-based and sometimes cutting-edge solutions to the climate decision-makers attending COP27.
The need for investment in water resilience projects in Africa is huge. It’s estimated there is a $66 billion backlog in infrastructure investment, with an annual $9-$14 billion necessary in order to secure water sources. The recently formed African Cities Water Adaptation Fund (ACWA Fund) used Water Day to call for public and private sector investors to support water resilience in Africa.
At COP26 held in Glasgow last year, the Glasgow Declaration for Fair Water Footprints was launched. Signatories to the Declaration used COP27 as a platform to call for action for greater climate resilience and equitable water management.
So it appears there has been a great deal of talk about water at COP27. We wait to see if that now translates into action.
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