Including Water in the Climate Change Negotiations

For the first time, the issue of water was included as part of the recent climate talks held 6-18 June in Bonn, Germany.

The proposal to include water on the agenda of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) was made at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Cancun 4 December 2010 by six. The countries, Ecuador and Sudan, was further supported by Syria, Chile, El Salvador and Sierra Leone, highlighted the fact that climate change stands to have a significant impact on water resources, and stressed the need for further discussions on how this issue can be addressed within the climate framework.
At the conclusion of the recent talks in Bonn, it was decided to include water as part of the Nairobi Work Programme work programme. The Water and Climate Coalition, an alliance of 15 international organisations including Green Cross, have been working to raise the profile of water in the context of the climate negotiation, including advocating for the establishment of a work programme on water.
While Green Cross did not take part in the recent climate talks, members of the coalition were on the ground to advocate for the formal inclusion of water. As such, the Coalition along with the Global Water Partnership and African Ministers Council held the side event Water, Climate and Development: Towards COP 17 on 13 June to look at how the UNFCCC process could better address water related issues in relation to climate change.
Karin Lexén of the Water and Climate Coalition Secretariat started off the event with a short presentation explaining the work of the Coalition and the need for a hub or interface for mainstreaming water into both the adaptation and the mitigation discussions within the UNFCCC process.
The presentation was followed up by a panel of speakers moderated by Alex Simalabwi, Senior Network Officer & Climate Change Focal Point, Global Water Partnership:
  • Dr. Ania Grobicki, Executive Secretary, Global Water Partnership, stated that water is the greatest unaddressed challenge of our time. She pointed out that the worst effects of climate change related disasters such as floods and droughts can be avoided with proper water management, and that investment in water management is a non-regret adaptation strategy.
  • Tarsicio Granizo, Ministerio Coordinador de Patrimonio, represented the Ecuadorian delegation. During the COP16 in Mexico, Ecuador called for water to be put on the agenda of the SBSTA, the body which provides the UNFCCC with scientific and technological advice. Ever since, Ecuador has taken the lead on advocating water issues within the UNFCCC process. Mr Granizo explained that water is strongly embedded in the Ecuadorian constitution, which acknowledges both the right of nature and the human right to water.
  • Mr Bai Mass Taal, Executive Secretary, African Ministers Council on Water (AMCOW), pointed out the fact that the discussions on water tend to suffer from compartmentalisation. The water representation in global policy forums such as the UNFCCC and the Convention on Biodiversity, tend to run in separate tracks.  The same problem can be found on country level, where Ministers of Environment need to communicate better with Ministers on Water.
  • Rob Bradley, from the Directorate of Energy & Climate Change, United Arab Emirates, shared some insights into the challenges faced by the United Arab Emirates in terms of water availability, and the progressive strategies that had been put in place to address them. Mr Bradley also stated that in order to get water issues onto the UNFCCC agenda, the water community needs to better at making its case, and build its rhetoric around the desired outcomes and results.
  • Elias Freig, Manager of carbon finance and climate change, Mexico Commission on Water pointed out that even though there are currently references to water in the UNFCCC texts, water is not treated as the cross cutting resource that it is. Instead it is listed together with sectors. In the UNFCCC negotiations, where adaptation is dealt with separate from mitigation, water has the potential to serve as the link between the two.
For more information on the Coalition, please visit the Water & Climate Coalition website.

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