As COP26 drew to a close, the subject of water was brought up by many media commentators. Unfortunately, not in a good way.

Many accused the COP26 climate deal of being “watered-down”. One delegate from Pakistan said: “Developed countries have disappointed developing countries in climate finance”, and this sentiment was echoed by poorer countries that have been affected by climate change.

Tuvalu’s Foreign Minister made his speech remotely while standing in the sea to highlight his low-lying island’s struggles against rising water levels as a result of climate change. As expected, this produced a very powerful visual image.

Even the COP President’s closing statement was muted, as Alok Sharma called the deal a “fragile win” and promised to work closely with countries to make sure they keep to their agreements.

Water and COP26

Water is, of course, an integral part of sustainability, so we’ve been looking at some of the water-related issues highlighted by COP26:

COP26: Benefits for private businesses

In business terms, experts from the Cambridge Judge Business School were optimistic in their summation of COP26. “The connections between climate change and nature—and the value to business and society from all that nature provides—clean water, clean air, food, fibre, pollination, healthy living environments, and natural defences against flood, forest fire and drought—are increasingly recognized by business, investors, and policy makers.”

“By 2030, up to $10 trillion US in annual business value could be created, alongside 395 million jobs, through nature-focused shifts in food, land and ocean use, extractives and energy, and the built environment.”

However, it was cautioned that while enterprise is recognising the benefits of doing business sustainability, governments must support private business in terms of regulations and financing for deeper-seated benefits.

COP26: Call for action on water

At the end of October, the Water and Climate Coalition and nine international organisations called on heads of state and government “to consider the water dimensions of climate change adaptation and mitigation action more aptly”. This would mean accelerating “efforts on integrated water and climate action and ... for addressing associated adverse effects like pollution, biodiversity loss, food security and health as an urgent measure to address current water threats and the challenges of our rapidly changing climate and environment”.

The Coalition has yet to post any comment on the outcome of COP26.

Water Pavilion

For the first time ever, a Water Pavilion was set up at a COP event. It was devised to deliver science-based information and advice on water-related solutions and better water management to climate decision makers. Organisers also used it to highlight the need to put water at the centre of climate solutions as water and nature are mutually dependent.

Also highlighted was the role of the UK’s water industry in the Race to Zero initiative to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2030 to help combat climate change.

Cloud seeding

On a positive note, a presentation on rain enhancement science highlighted the technology being developed for cloud seeding as a way of increasing water security. Scientists from the UAE highlighted the innovative research and development they are involved in, saying they will find ways to “find reliable, feasible and cost-effective solutions such as cloud seeding to address water scarcity and achieve water security”.

Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors

Greenhouse gases emitted from shipping was the main concern of the Clydebank Declaration for Green Shipping Corridors. It’s estimated that by 2050, if no further action is taken, international shipping emissions are expected to represent 90% to 130% of 2008 emission levels. Signatories recognise that “a rapid transition in the coming decade to clean maritime fuels, zero-emission vessels, alternative propulsion systems, and the global availability of landside infrastructure to support these, is imperative for the transition to clean shipping.”

The main proposal was for the “establishment of green shipping corridors – zero-emission maritime routes between 2 (or more) ports”. The Declaration’s mission statement continued, “It is our collective aim to support the establishment of at least 6 green corridors by the middle of this decade, while aiming to scale activity up in the following years.”

Youth Adaptation Solutions Challenge

While the world’s leaders struggled to implement radical plans, COP26 celebrated small projects that are already making a difference in their local areas. The YouthADAPT Solutions Challenge is an annual competition for young people and women in Africa. Grants of up to $100,000 were awarded to enterprises that provide solutions in areas affected by climate change. One of the winners announced at this year’s COP26 was a Kenyan organisation that installs green-powered irrigation technology that helps people to harvest water in eco-friendly ways. Another winner in Cameroon uses drones to help tackle the poor disposal of waste that has resulted in major flooding in some areas of the country. Another winner in Cameroon has developed greenhouse and irrigation technology to enable year-round vegetable production.


COP27 will be held in Egypt, 7-18 November 2022. It will be interesting to see how the decisions made at COP26 will have impacted the fight against climate change by then.


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