Adam Greenberg of SustainUS was part of the Water Group of YOUNGO (the youth major group) at COP17. He participated in GWP’s press briefing and we invited him to contribute to our blog given his passion for one of the most important issues facing the planet.
Of all the daunting climate challenges facing the world today, the global water crisis is among the most dire. As the IPCC has acknowledged, water is the primary medium through which climate change impacts will be felt by humans and the environment. Water issues affect every sector, government, industry, and group. Yet, somehow, water represents the biggest gap in international environmental policy.
We are in the midst of the “Water for Life” Decade declared by the United Nations, which establishes Africa as a region of priority. We, the youth, hoped to take advantage of COP 17, in a country that has been ravaged by water woes, to take concrete and proactive measures to address global water issues around the world.
In preparation for COP 17, youth from around the world came together online to establish the YOUNGO Water working group. Our group is run and operated entirely by young people from across the globe, who have targeted water as an issue of critical priority. We have dedicated ourselves to tackling these challenges, and also to raising awareness of water issues internationally and establishing water as a priority within climate policy. We are the first and only official platform within the youth constituency to the UNFCCC that deals with water.
In Durban, we established the first and only official position on water for YOUNGO and the youth, but we’re not stopping there. We are committed to becoming major players in the global water movement.
During the COP, we raised awareness about water issues, undertook actions and campaigns—such as “Don’t leave COP thirsty” and “Where’s the Water in the COP?” We generated high levels of media coverage, including on national television networks of multiple countries. We worked and networked with water allies such as the Global Water Partnership (GWP) and African Ministerial Conference on Water (AMCOW), and had a representative of our water group sit on the High Level Panel on Water. We made ourselves visible and ensured our presence was felt throughout the conference, making certain that the voice of youth on water issues was one of the loudest voices of all.
It is clear that water demands a dedicated dialogue within the climate negotiations. Anything less is absurd, the height of short-sightedness and irresponsibility. The youth, as inheritors of this planet, will not accept this. Our survival is at stake.
People, especially at the UN, often tell us, as young people, that we will be the ones to solve climate change. I often reply, “Only if you give us a chance.” As far as water issues go, the case is clear. We will have a chance if we recognize and begin to tackle these issues now, if we take serious action preemptively instead of reacting when it is too late. It’s a given; these are issues we’ll be dealing with our entire lives. That much we cannot change. We can, however, control whether we fight a losing battle, or one with a possibility to succeed.
In Durban, we had great success as a group. We did a good job, but our work is not finished. Climate change is the most critical challenge humanity has ever known, and water issues are where these impacts are felt most. Water issues will continue to remain the biggest social and environmental challenge on the planet. We intend to be at the forefront of these issues, developing and contributing to innovative, practical, sustainable, and just solutions these issues. This is our planet, too. This is our future. We intend to save it.