The Policy & Practice of Climate Change & Water

From Bonn to Marrakech - The Role of Water in Ongoing Climate Discussions

This guest blog was written by AGWA Policy Group members Maggie White (French Water Partnership) and Sofia Widforss (SIWI)

The "spirit of Paris" — transparency, inclusiveness and flexibility — was on everyone’s minds during the Pre-Cop meeting that took place in Bonn at the UNFCCC headquarters from 16-26 May. A sense of purposeful urgency was in the air. Participants sought to continue the positive dynamics of Paris that promoted involvement of all stakeholders, leaving "no one behind," and inciting countries to ratify quickly so that the Agreement could also enter into force earlier. "The world is looking upon us and we cannot disappoint it."

During the UNFCCC Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) and Subsidiary Body for Implementation (SBI) meetings, the constructive tone from Paris was present. An optimistic spirit was in the hallways — a willingness to build on the Paris Agreement (PA), albeit facing a complex process ahead. Shifting from an agreement-focus towards an implementation-focus, adaptation has replaced mitigation as the centre of attention. Water, as the key element mentioned in most Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and essential for adaptation measures, was mentioned in many different contexts (e.g., linked to sustainable business and agriculture, gender and human rights, as well as to funding).

The Ad Hoc Working Group on the Paris Agreement (APA) held its first meetings, and elected the Co-Chairs Ms. Sarah Baashan (Saudi Arabia) and Ms. Jo Tyndall (New Zealand). This committee will have the responsibility of ensuring the proper implementation of the PA. By positioning the NDCs as guidelines for the implementation of the PA and for channelling different funding opportunities, water could end up being on top of the agendas.

Since the vast majority of NDCs that encompass an adaptation section have integrated water elements, now is the time to convince climate policy and decision makers to address this. This can be done by raising water in the development of the new APA, the UNFCCC Adaptation Committee, and the 5-year work plan for Loss & Damage that is being developed for a formal decision at the COP22.

The Adaptation Committee also decided to open discussions through a thematic approach in order to contribute to the implementation of the APA. Water and nature-based solutions were discussed and could become some of the first subjects treated at the next meeting in September.

All in all, water might not be explicitly mentioned in the Paris Agreement; yet, most seem to acknowledge that the implementation of the Paris Agreement cannot be done without water.

Christiana Figueres has served as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) since July 2010. The Bonn Climate Change Conference was her last event in this role. As a fun way to bid farewell to a very well-respected colleague, participants surprised Ms. Figueres with an adaptation of ABBA's popular song "Dancing Queen". Below are a some pictures of this celebration, including the lyrics to their rendition of the song -- cleverly renamed "Climate Queen." The "Climate Queen" piece was organized by ECO, an NGO newsletter for UNFCCC conferences, as a farewell gift from her concluding post as Executive Secretary.
Photo credit: Maggie White
Photo credit: Maggie White

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