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Moldovan-Ukrainian Strategic Framework for Adaptation to Climate Change in the Dniester River Basin

Please briefly describe your Water ChangeMaker journey

Cooperation between Moldova and Ukraine on climate change adaptation in the Dniester basin started in 2010 with joint activities aimed at reducing vulnerability to extreme floods and climate change in the basin, including preparation of an assessment of climate change impacts. This served as a basis for participatory development of the Strategic Framework for Climate Change Adaptation in the Dniester Basin (Strategic Framework) and its Implementation Plan, endorsed by the Ministers of Environment in both countries. In parallel, a number of adaptation measures were implemented: - Improvement of the information base for climate adaptation  (e.g. creation of a joint online platform for exchange and dissemination of hydrometeorological data); - Ecosystem restoration and conservation activities aimed at reducing vulnerability and increasing resilience of communities to climate change (e.g. floodplain restoration) - Awareness raising activities (e.g. awareness campaigns with youth). Together with the hydropower sector, we are working on water allocation approaches (incl. environmental flow). We developed flood risk studies and maps where climate change is carefully considered. We are developing bankable project proposals on adaptation to climate change for the Lower Dniester. Finally, the Dniester river basin management plan is currently under development, integrating climate change adaptation considerations.

Please describe the change that your initiative created and how was it achieved

To ensure intersectoral dialogue and transparent decision-making we established a bilateral Working Group on Flood Management and Climate Change Adaptation (WG). The (WG) oversaw the process of developing the Strategic Framework and its Implementation Plan. It also enabled coordination between transboundary climate change adaptation process and national climate change initiatives resulting in integrating water and the benefits of transboundary cooperation into national climate-related documents such as National Communication for Ukraine and the Nationaly Determined Contribution for Moldova, national adaptation concepts, strategies and plans. The WG included representatives of the Moldovan and Ukrainian water, environment, emergency and hydrometeorological authorities, academia and NGOs. A number of consultations involving representatives from forest, agriculture, hydropower, infrastructure, health and finance sectors were also organized. Cooperation with these sectors enabled mainstreaming climate change and environment concerns into their policies (e.g. there is on-going cooperation with hydropower). In addition, youth, women, mass media and NGOs were involved into awareness raising activities which provided inputs for the Strategic Framework and its Implementation Plan. Cooperation on climate change adaptation contributed to the overall transboundary cooperation in the basin as well as to the signing and ratification of the bilateral Treaty on Cooperation in the Field of Protection and Sustainable Development of the Dniester River Basin (Dniester Treaty), followed by establishment of the Moldovan-Ukrainian Dniester Commission in 2018. Currently, the Commission supports integration of climate change considerations into river basin management planning (RBMP) and implementation of pilot adaptation measures in the basin.

How did your initiative help build resilience to climate change?

In the Dniester basin climate change is expected to lead to warmer and wetter winters, hotter and drier summers, frequent and severe floods and droughts, worsening water quality, and ecosystem degradation. These changes pose risks to many sectors. Climate change analysis and vulnerability assessment, the Strategic Framework and its Implementation Plan, cooperation between the riparians reduced uncertainties, served as a basis for further joint dialogue and relevant actions, ensured joint consideration of climate change projections in the development of water and related sectoral policies, and increased resilience in the basin. The Dniester Commission carefully considers climate change and flood management. Transboundary RBMP (under development) addresses these issues, in line with international and EU policies. A list of measures includes information management, water allocation from the Dniester reservoirs including environmental flows, nature-based solutions, flood and drought management, improvement of water supply and wastewater treatment, support to protected areas, and modernization of irrigation systems.

What water-related decisions did your initiative influence or improve?

The transboundary Strategic Framework and its Implementation Plan enabled prioritization of measures through a participatory process. The measures were discussed with numerous stakeholders including a variety of water users: agriculture, hydropower, infrastructure, finance, health, forestry, fishery, nature protection, civil society, and academia through a consultative transparent process. All discussions and results of the process have been included in meetings of the WG on climate change and floods, the Dniester Commission, and the national basin bodies, and are publicly available at http://dnister.meteo.gov.ua/en, http://nistru.meteo.gov.ua/, www.dniester-commission.com https://www.osce.org/projects/climate-change-and-security, and https://www.unece.org/env/water/eeurope.html. Stakeholders are always invited to comment on such important documents as RBMP, recommendation for the operational rules of the Dniester reservoirs, list of territories the significant flood risk. We communicate via social and mass media and web-sites. Women and civil society including youth are fully involved in cooperation and are an integral part of the process. Ecosystem services have been estimated for the Ramsar sites in the Dniester. A total of adaptation measures has been estimated as 235M€ though many of these measures are cross-countered with other measures.

What were some of the challenges faced and how were they overcome?

The positive results we have achieved so far are based on a long-term cooperation between our countries with the support of international organizations and donors throughout this process. The benefits brought by these results surely outweigh the challenges encountered in the process, and included the following:

- Building capacity and enhancing understanding of sectoral agencies on the importance of climate change adaptation in the Dniester basin in their relevant area of operation: That would, in turn, contribute to their capacity to effectively contribute to the participatory process of developing the Strategic Framework and its Implementation Plan.

- Bringing around one table stakeholders with different levels of awareness, knowledge or expertise on the subject matter: The argument that the participatory approach is the only up-to-date way to clarify positions and interests of the parties was used to overcome such a challenge.

- Targeted communication of results of studies and activities for various stakeholders: To address this issue the communications expert was involved, and we have been heavily campaigning using visuals and other communication materials though mass media, social networks, at workshops and other public events, streamlining climate change in policy documents.

In your view: Will the change that was created by your initiative continue?

Yes, for sure. At the moment we are expecting an update of the vulnerability and climate change scenarios. We use all the existing materials in our work on climate change adaption and consider it while developing drought and flood management plans. We also use the materials for communicating climate change issues to business and the general public. The results of the previous initiatives serve as a basis for climate change adaptation activities supported by the Dniester Commission as well as for the development of climate change related measures within the transboundary Dniester river basin management plan. Finally, activities on climate change in the Dniester basin serve as a model for other basin management organizations in our countries.

What did you learn during the initiative or after? And is it possible that others could learn from you?

We leaned on international and transboundary experience, particularly materials by the Water Convention serviced by the UNECE and GEF IW:Learn. We consulted with local, national and international consultants and organized many intersectoral meetings. Climate change-related actions in the Dniester river basin have been widely disseminated and quoted at the local, national and international levels. National environment authorities included project outcomes into national climate change related documents (e.g. those prepared under the UNFCCC). Ukrhydropower Company, water authorities and hydro-meteorological services in Moldova and Ukraine, and local authorities refer to these outputs when planning energy production, water release, flood forecasts, strategic spatial management, and environmental and climate change-related activities. Experience demonstrated that future initiatives should focus on awareness campaigns, education and work with youth as future decision-makers, and enhancing the role of women in water management. Information exchange with other basins in this area is important for further development and the application of best practices.