Water & COP27

By Climate Champions | November 1, 2022

Climate change impacts are most directly felt through water. These affect the lives of people and ecosystems, as well as various sectors of the economy (including agriculture, energy, and industry). Human-induced climate change has led to significant changes in the global water cycle since the mid-20th century. These changes have caused considerable impacts on water resources, water and sanitation worldwide, and are most pronounced in the Global South. The main impacts include an increase in frequency of extreme weather events, such as droughts and heavy rainfall events; increasing evaporation and water demand (due to rising temperatures); melting of glaciers, and the increase in water variability due to changing rainfall patterns.

While the impacts of a changing climate are mostly felt through water, water also offers essential opportunities for climate adaptation and mitigation that must be seized. The recently published IPCC AR6 WGII Report on Adaptation, highlights water as a key topic for climate adaptation. The report emphasizes the importance of water both in terms of direct water-related adaptation measures and its interaction with other sectors. In particular, it addresses the water-related impacts (i.e., water scarcity, droughts, floods) on all sectors and regions as well as the resulting need for water-related adaptation measures.

The IPCC report also highlights that there are feasible and effective adaptation options to strengthen climate resilience – but implementation of this kind has been far from sufficient. The cross-sectoral relevance of water security as a basis for food and energy security, biodiversity conservation, resilient cities, improved health and conflict prevention is also highlighted, along with adaptation measures to reduce climate risks.

If cross-sectoral interactions are not sufficiently taken into account and water security is threatened, there is a risk of maladaptation. Sufficient, clean and accessible water is therefore a key aspect, not only to strengthen the climate resilience of people, ecosystems and various economic sectors, but also to enable the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

What needs to happen at COP27

Due to the relevance of water for climate adaptation and enhanced resilience, the Egyptian COP presidency has placed water as a core topic of COP27. The planned Water Day, which involves a Water Initiative and a prominently placed Water Pavilion under the lead of the Egyptian Presidency, will provide new and important opportunities for raising awareness on the strong interplay between water and climate resilience and placing water at the heart of climate action. The Initiative on water and adaptation (AWARE) is essential and should be seized to enhance resilience action. This initiative offers many starting points for improving the integrity of water and climate change adaptation. Joint action should be used to sharpen the initiative, to ensure that it can act sustainably and purposefully without duplicating existing initiatives and create impact beyond COP27.

The Egyptian Presidency is placing implementation issues at the heart of COP27 – so what the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions need to see from this COP is urgently improved implementation of the Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement. The focus should be particularly on countries and vulnerable people affected by water-related risks and threatened water security. Based on the planned thematic days of COP27, the following adaptation-related and water-related topics will play a key role here: Financing, Adaptation, Water, Biodiversity and Energy. Other cross-cutting themes include gender and youth and civil society.

Seizing the power of water to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement

To achieve climate resilience and sustainable development, climate adaptation and mitigation must be addressed and implemented together. A particular focus should be put on the sustainable use and management of resources in order to promote cross-sectoral goals of water security and food security. Incorporating targets and actions on water into National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) and Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) is an essential aspect to enhance water-related resilience. The development of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) makes up a key aspect in the national development planning cycles of many countries to define commitments under the Paris Agreement and to respond to the increasingly severe impacts of climate change. As water resources are fundamental to climate change adaptation, these targets and actions should be given special consideration in this process to achieve improved climate resilience.

Water should be mainstreamed in adaptation targets. Weaving in solutions from the water sector as part of the envisaged activities and levers to achieve the adaptation goal (GGA) is essential for enhanced adaptation action. These could be addressed together with goals on food security, ecosystem and soil protection.

Seize the power of nature and women

Ecosystems are a prerequisite for functioning water cycles and are therefore of critical importance for climate resilience, water security and human health and the environment. Promoting and sustainably implementing and financing nature-based solutions with regards to freshwater ecosystems is essential to enhancing resilience.

Women are agents of change and play a powerful role in tackling the effects of climate change, for instance through innovative water management. Despite their pivotal role, they are still disadvantaged and marginalized. Women play a central role in the extraction and protection of water as they are responsible for more than 70% of water-related work worldwide including (household) water provision and management. As providers of water and food for their families and managers of resources, women are in a key position to actively respond to and mitigate climate change impacts and contribute to livelihood strategies. Women’s traditional knowledge of both water management practices, and knowledge transfer should be seized to enhance climate adaptation and mitigation.





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