New York - The impacts of climate change are often felt through water – more intense and frequent droughts, more extreme flooding, more erratic seasonal rainfall and accelerated melting of glaciers – with cascading effects on economies, ecosystems and all aspects of our daily lives.
And yet, for too long water has been a ‘blindspot’ in climate talks and does not receive the necessary urgent priority in sustainable development and disaster risk reduction efforts. Water management is a powerful solution for adapting to the impacts of climate change, achieving resilience, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
It is time to “wake up to water,” according to the World Meteorological Organization and other Water and Climate Leaders.
The call to make a paradigm shift to ensure integrated action on water and climate resilience was issued on the eve of a once-in-a-generation U.N. 2023 Water Conference, which seeks to accelerate efforts to achieve a more water safe and water secure world.
Currently, 3.6 billion people face inadequate access to water at least a month per year and this is expected to increase to more than 5 billion by 2050. Water-related hazards are on the increase. Over 100 countries are not on track to have sustainably managed water resources by 2030.
“Almost 75 percent of all disasters were water related in the past 20 years, with at least 1.6 billion people affected by floods and 1.4 billion by droughts) and economic damage of almost US$700 billion,” said WMO Secretary-General Prof. Petteri Taalas.
“One important preparedness measure for combating the water-related disasters is to have effective and tailored multi-hazard early warning systems. WMO is committed to support the implementation of the UN Early Warnings for All initiative, through observations, monitoring and forecasting of weather and water-related hazards like floods and droughts,” he said.
Prof. Taalas will be a co-chair of a high-level panel convened by UN Secretary-General António Guterres to implement Early Warnings for All – which will be one of the focal points of WMO activities during the UN Water Conference. He will also join other Water and Climate Leaders in continuing the campaign for integrated water and climate action.
Today, more than 60% of WMO Member States report insufficient capabilities in hydrological monitoring, making it difficult to provide decision support in water-related sectors such as food production, energy security, health, economic development and climate change resilience.
In response, WMO has committed to implement better water information services for all through the Global Hydrological Status and Outlook System (HydroSOS), which integrates the best available data using remote sensing, Earth observations and models, The implementation of HydroSOS will be a transformative game changer. It will significantly improve Member States’ capability to address the increasing demand for water, manage the impacts of climate change while ensuring sustainable ecosystems.
“We need to wake up!,” proclaimed an op-Ed from the Water and Climate leaders.
Wake up to water’s role in providing life, achieving food security, maintaining peace and security, contributing to economic growth, and rejuvenating ecosystems.
Wake up to water’s role in reducing emissions from water and sanitation services. Only about 20% of wastewater globally is properly treated. Untreated wastewater released into the environment generates an emissions footprint of roughly 3 times that from the same wastewater treated in a traditional wastewater treatment plant.
Wake up to water’s role in reducing emissions from water resources such as wetlands and reservoirs and by sequestering carbon. Well-defined actions taken to preserve and restore natural functioning of wetlands (e.g., wetting and drying cycles) and manage water levels and littoral vegetation of reservoirs can preserve their role as carbon sinks that absorb emissions naturally.
Wake up to water’s role in enabling clean energy production from sustainable hydropower, biofuels, carbon capture and storage (CCS), green hydrogen, solar and wind power. Water is key to the necessary transition to clean energy. Simultaneously, demand for water in the energy sector must be managed to avoid challenges and risks to water resources and decouple water use from economic growth.
Sustainable Development Goals
The Water and Climate Leaders are an eminent panel of 16 high-level decision and policy makers, which provides strategic guidance on integrating the water and climate agendas. They front an international coalition spearheaded by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), international agencies, the private sector and civil society.
The Water and Climate Leaders last year issued an Action Plan For Integrated Water And Climate Agenda that presents the international water community with solutions to manage water for multiple objectives on the rapidly changing climate. This includes a global water information service, a cryosphere information mechanism and a new financing rationale.
Their work will feed into the Water Action Agenda – a series of bold commitments made by governments, businesses and communities to meet the global water and sanitation related goals and targets.