The following blog article was written by the Global Water Partnership for “Outreach“, a multi-stakeholder publication on climate change and sustainable development, produced by Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future, in relation to GWP’s participation at COP19 in Warsaw, Poland.
Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines happened as if on cue – to put it crudely. As the world’s climate negotiators and policymakers were getting ready for another round of discussions in Poland, the shocking reality of Haiyan’s aftermath became a harsh reminder that extreme weather affects millions of people on earth. And while scientists say that a single storm cannot be blamed on climate change, nevertheless a catastrophe of this magnitude serves as a wake-up call for the international community. It comes only weeks after the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its latest findings, which reaffirmed that human-generated climate change is real.
So on the first day of COP 19, the Philippines’ lead negotiator, Yeb Sano, made headlines with his tearful appeal to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiators: ‘We can stop this madness. Right here in Warsaw,’ Mr. Sano said, ‘we cannot afford to procrastinate on climate action.’
Water is at the core of sustainable development. Climate change is the great spoiler because we know that the effects of climate change will be felt through the water cycle: more frequent and severe storms, more frequent and severe droughts and floods, sea level rise, glacier melt, etc.
At its seventeenth session, the Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UNFCCC acknowledged that national adaptation planning can enable developing countries and Least Developed Countries (LDCs), to assess their vulnerabilities, mainstream climate change risks, and address adaptation. The COP established the National Adaptation Plan (NAP) process to facilitate adaptation planning.
So what do we need to do? Let us start by recognising that countries with robust water management systems, institutions, and water infrastructure are better able to cope with climate change impacts. And then, on a practical level, we can:
- Develop the capacity of countries to build robust and flexible institutions that can respond to sudden changes and shocks. Capacity requirements include strengthening water resources monitoring and data collection, modelling, risk mapping and assessment, policy development, investment preparation, and performance measurement;
- Support decisions on adaptation priorities with appropriate information, data, and knowledge;
- Finance the implementation of NAPs – adapting to climate change will require the mobilisation of financial resources through the blending of funds from public, private, and multilateral sources; and
- Prioritise no and low regret options – there is a high degree of uncertainty over climate change impacts, but managing natural resources in a sustainable way – avoiding over exploitation – will improve the resilience of natural systems under future climate scenarios.
Global Water Partnership supports countries in the NAP process through the Global Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP), in particular countries who are trying to integrate water security and climate resilience in development planning and decision-making processes. WACDEP is running from 2011 to 2016 and targets 60 countries in Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Caucasus, Mediterranean and Latin America.
But there’s something more. 2015 is approaching fast and the world leaders are beginning to focus on the Post-2015 Development Agenda. If indeed water is at the core of sustainable development, and if climate change threatens that development, then what better way to address this ‘perfect storm’ than to have a dedicated Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on water, with associated targets on disaster risk reduction. Such a goal would contribute to the objectives of NAPs and promote coherence on water related adaptation. Furthermore, it would focus the attention of all governments on the task of improving the management of the world’s water resources: harnessing its productive power and minimising its destructive force. As Mr. Sano reminds us, ‘we cannot afford to procrastinate…’
Photo: Typhoon Kiko by Ernie Penaredondo GWP/PWP