Climate Change is about Water, but Missing from Agenda

Press release 11 December 2010


Cancún, Mexico—The world’s economic growth and social welfare depend on the sustainable management of the world’s water resources in the context of climate change, according to a statement issued by the Global Water Partnership (GWP). The statement was delivered by GWP Chair Dr. Letita A. Obeng to the high level session of the world climate change conference.

(Photo: GWP Chair Letitia A Obeng, by Marianela Arguello)

“When world leaders speak about climate, they invariably speak of water – of floods, droughts and failed harvests – and express their alarm. They are right to do so: because climate change is primarily about water,” the statement says. The statement calls on the 193 countries that participate in the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to make sustainable water resources management and disaster risk management an integral part of the global response to climate change.

The statement responds to the objections by climate negotiators that sectoral issues complicate negotiations by arguing that water resources management is not a sector, but a “cross-cutting concern for the achievement of mitigation objectives around forestry, agriculture, and energy, many of which rely on [water’s] availability.” The statement continues, “The water supply and sanitation sector, agriculture or any other sector should not be singled out for sectoral discussion. But the world’s water resources and their management should be singled out because the potential impact of climate change on society will, in many cases, be transmitted through the medium of water.”

“Failure to recognize the role of sustainable water management in adapting to climate change could prove disastrous to people’s livelihoods and economic development,” said Dr. Obeng in comments delivered earlier in the week.

The GWP statement outlines the potential consequences of inaction including insufficient water to support economic growth and the world’s food supply.

“GWP’s delegation came to Cancun to highlight the seamless link among water resources management, climate change, and sustainable development,” said Dr. Obeng, noting that GWP’s statement reflected the views of similar agencies. GWP is a network of more than 2,300 partner organizations, works in nearly 80 countries, and has observer status to the UNFCCC as an intergovernmental organization.

“We have to remember that the ones most vulnerable to the impact of climate change are those in lower income countries, indigenous groups, and those in extreme poverty,” said Dr. Obeng. “World leaders need to understand that investments in sustainable water resources management will deliver important benefits to vulnerable populations today, while strengthening resilience to longer-term climate risks.”