How come everyone’s climate change disaster scenarios involve water, but it appears nowhere on the COP15 agenda?
The opening session of the Copenhagen climate change conference began with an emotional video of a girl experiencing all the projected (some would say present) impacts of climate change: floods, glacier melt, hurricanes, severe storms, and drought. What do they all have in common? Water, or the lack thereof.
Then the Chair of the IPCC, Dr. Pachauri, gets up and lists seven consequences if countries can’t agree on mitigation policies. Six of the consequences involve water. Finally, Mr. de Boer, the UNFCCC Executive Secretary introduces his brief statement with the story of Nyi Lay who loses his parents and younger brother, and fears for his own life, in a terrible cyclone.
Water, water, water. That’s how the impact of climate change will be felt. But is this on the radar screen of the negotiators? Not a chance. Apparently they are unable to multi-task. The whole climate change discussion is at a standstill on emission targets and financing. However important those are, there is one thing the international community can do that is a no-brainer: commit to better water resources management at all levels. Even if you don’t accept climate change as a certainty, it is a risk, just like nuclear war was not a certainty during the Cold War, but it was still a very real risk.
Some will say, ‘it’s obvious we have to do something about water, there’s no need to state it.’ That’s like saying, in the face of world hunger, that we don’t need to talk about food production. Of course we do! We have to talk solutions. And if better water resources management is one of the most important solutions to dealing with climate change, let’s give it its rightful place in a treaty on climate change. Let’s do one better: let’s allocate massive amounts of funding to it. Investing in water today contributes to poverty reduction and sustainable development now and is a long-term investment that will strengthen communities against future threats.