A blog from Durban by Dr. Ania Grobicki, GWP Executive Secretary:
In African countries the impacts of climate change are being primarily felt through water. There are posters outside the conference venue designed by the host, the South African Ministry of Environment and Water Affairs, proclaiming: “More Climate Change Means Less Water” …. “More Climate Change Means More Floods” … “More Climate Change Means More Droughts”…
This is Africa’s reality. Always the continent with the greatest climatic variability, with irregular rainy seasons and prone to droughts which parch the land, everyone with a link to the African soil knows how precious water is here.
After two years of advocacy on water issues, and strenuous lobbying by some African countries as well as many others (Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Bolivia, Mexico, to name a few) water is slowly seeping into the consciousness of the climate delegates here and it is being discussed in a range of groups and committees. It comes into discussions on the Nairobi Work Programme (as the UNFCCC recently published a major report from the NWP entitled “Freshwater Resources and Climate Change”) as well as the Adaptation Framework, National Adaptation Plans, the SBSTA, the SBI and the Committee on Loss and Damages.
On Saturday December 3, 2011, the African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW) in conjunction with the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB), the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), the Department of Water Affairs(DWA) South Africa and the Global Water Partnership (GWP) arranged an all-day event on Water, Climate and Development in the River Room at the African Pavilion.
The outcomes of the Water, Climate and Development Day were taken forward to a High Level Panel on 6 December which featured a number of Ministers together with Richard Kinley, the Deputy Executive Secretary of UNFCCC, who firmly stated that opportunities to integrate water explicitly into the climate negotiations are growing.
Water is seen as something which unites both the developing and the developed countries. Kinley encouraged the water community to return to the climate negotiations next year with even stronger and more detailed recommendations. Speaking with one voice, a remarkable degree of unanimity among the speakers and the various calls for action has resulted in some clear and succinct messages:
• AMCOW and the African Union are the institutions that have committed to push policy-making which prioritizes water management and adaptation measures to deal with the scarcity of water in Africa.
• COP 17 must result in decisions that will salvage the injustices concerning women, children and other vulnerable groups affected by extreme climate events and water scarcity. The youth through the YOUNGO water group are now impatiently pushing for action on water issues.
• Investments in water management, especially to ensure better hydrological data and information, must be prioritized – together with investments in water infrastructure in Africa.
• Water is not a sector, it is a resource. Certainly, drinking water supply is a sector. However, addressing water systematically within the climate change negotioations means tackling complexities related to a wide range of issues relating to floods, droughts, food insecurity, land degradation, energy generation and natural ecosystems. Water is about both adaptation and mitigation. It needs to be emphasized that the success of most mitigation interventions as determined by the UNFCCC rest upon the availability and sustainability of water resources.
• COP 17 must follow up to implement references to water resources in Paragraph 14 of the Cancun Adaptation Framework which calls on ‘Parties to put in place adaptation programmes on water resources…’
• There is an obligation to push the water issue deeper into the agenda of UNFCCC as it is already part of Article 4 e of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
• The Nairobi Work Programme should be strengthened and used to establish a Thematic Focus on Water Resources Management following on the report on “Freshwater Resources and Climate Change” under the NWP which was published by UNFCCC in 2011.
• The Green Climate Fund should be established with a thematic funding window for integrated water resources management as it relates to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
• The African Green Fund (to be set up by the African Development Bank) should also include a dedicated thematic funding window for integrated water resources management as it relates to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
• There is now an agreement by the climate negotiators to hold a technical workshop on water under SBSTA before the next COP meeting. The water community needs to be ready for the challenge, to work closely with partners and stakeholders in agriculture, in the cities, in the energy sector, in forestry and in the environmental groups, to address systematically the complexities of both adaptation and mitigation.
Moving from water vulnerability to water security must become a key focus for climate action at all levels, from local to national to global, in our rapidly changing world.