Importance of Water Acknowledged at COP19

Posted: 2013-11-25

This year’s UN Climate Change Conference (COP19) brought some good news for the water community, said the GWP delegates who participated at the event in Warsaw, Poland 11-22 November.

During a press briefing in Warsaw, GWP Chair Dr. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss referred to the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP) and the draft decision that was taken at COP19:

“The good news is that the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) has come to an agreement on the Nairobi Work Programme, to include water resources as one of four focus areas. This is something that GWP has been fighting for the last four years.”

The other focus areas under the NWP are ecosystems, human settlements, and health. Dr. Schaefer-Preuss also high-lighted a decision on the National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) which was made at this year’s COP:

“There is also good news that the Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) has agreed on a draft decision that the Global Support Programme for the NAPs will be funded. Investment in better water resources is much cheaper than dealing with the impacts after the extreme events have hit home.”

The wording in the agreement from Warsaw states that the Conference of the Parties (COP) “invites developed country Parties, United Nations organizations, specialized agencies and other relevant organizations, as well as bilateral and multilateral agencies, to continue to enhance financial and technical support to the national adaptation plan process for the least developed country Parties.”

AMCOW: More Optimistic

Participating at the GWP press briefing was also Mr. Bai-Mass Taal, Executive Secretary of the African Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW). He said he is now more optimistic than before that water can be imbedded in the post-2015 climate change framework. Mr. Taal said that after years of negotiations, it finally seems like water is becoming one of the important pillars.

“We’ve been on this journey for four years, since Copenhagen (COP15), to get water as one of the issues that will be raised in the negotiations. It’s been a difficult journey, but we had a breakthrough in Cancun (COP16), when the NAPs were addressed for least developed countries. The NAPs are where we in the water community can make sure that we have an entry point”.

SIWI: Milestone Decision

Karin Lexén, Director for the World Water Week and Prizes at Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) quoted British climate economist Sir Nicholas Stern, who has said that ”climate change is all about water and managing the changes in water”.

“Also the fifth IPCC assessment report underlined that water is the medium through which the majority of the climate change impacts are being felt. I think this shows what we feel – that there is an increasing recognition of the importance of water and we’ve seen some positive results here, with the Nairobi Work Programme and with the NAPs. This is important and I regard it as a milestone”, said Ms. Lexén at the GWP press briefing.

In conclusion, Dr.  Ursula Schaefer-Preuss brought up the importance of local inclusion and prevention:

“In the context of designing the NAPs, I would wish to stress the importance of getting the local communities and their experiences on board, and having them involved in the planning and prevention of disasters. Prevention is of utmost importance.”

Wide Participation

During the two-week long COP19, GWP representatives participated in many of the side events in Warsaw. Among these was a side event by SIWI, “From negotiations to action on the ground – Promoting coherence on adaptation”, which was organised in collaboration with a number of actors, including GWP. The aim of the side event was to find coherence on what’s happening on the ground and in the corridors of policy makers.

Finally, Dr. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss gave a statement during the High Level Segment of the last day of COP19. In her speech, she stressed that GWP’s message has been consistent throughout all negotiations:

“Water is central to climate change adaptation, and to sustainable development. In the context of the post-2015 development framework, world leaders need to prioritise a Sustainable Development Goal on securing sustainable water for all.”

Photo: COP19 was held in the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland.

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