Photo by John Matthews
Just six months after the signing of the Paris Agreement, Morocco and France have kept the promise made at COP21 to highlight water’s critical role when it comes to addressing climate change – including both the reduction of carbon emissions and adapting our societies to the climatic impacts that are now inevitable.
The key role that water plays in both adaptation and mitigation was acknowledged by the majority of countries that signed the Paris Agreement, as evidenced through the content of their nationally determined contributions (NDCs). In fact, 83 percent of the NDCs that have been submitted highlight the importance of adaptation – especially in Africa, Latin America, the Caribbean and Pacific-Asia – and 93 percent of the adaptation content refers to water as fundamental to effective adaptation programmes (1). It is beyond question that water is central to the successful implementation of the Paris Agreement.
It was therefore essential that just before COP22, the COP Presidency chose to support, promote and lead an event on addressing climate change in Africa specifically from a water perspective.
The International Conference on Water and Climate: water security for climatic justice (2) was co-organised on the 11-12th of July by the Government of Morocco, the Government of France, the World Water Council and with the support of the French Water Partnership. The event fell under the high patronage of his majesty the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, and was fully supported by the head of the Moroccan government. With over 600 participants in attendance, and more than 20 African ministerial delegations, the conference was a huge success in terms of building the much-needed political awareness of the role of water in the battle against climate change.
Photo by John Matthews
Unfortunately, the conference lacked a balanced representation of speakers, with the majority being representative of ministries, international institutions and development banks. There were very few representatives of NGO/CSO’s, youth movements, local authorities, parliamentarians or the private sector. The members of the AGWA policy group often seemed to be the only genuine multi-stakeholder participants – with few formal panel opportunities. Fortunately, this was partially ameliorated with a number of well-received interventions from the floor.
The #ClimateIsWater initiative also benefited from strong support from plenary speakers which greatly increased visibility and recognition among the participants. The three key ‘water’ alliances and coalitions (3) launched at COP21 were identified as key entry points to continue advocating water’s place within the Global Climate Action Agenda. The alliances are also recognised for their ability to showcase how multi-stakeholder involvement adds value to the operationalization of the Paris Agreement – now more critical than ever before.
Climate justice was a key conference theme. Climate justice relates to the fact that the people and communities that are bearing the brunt of climate impacts are also those that have contributed least to the problem. Interventions from the floor enabled participants to make concrete points on climate justice. The importance of climate change as it relates to sanitation, hygiene, health, education and, critically, extreme poverty were discussed both during formal sessions and throughout the conference hallways. Attendees were reminded of the need to better link the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and global climate policy processes, as doing so will help to ensure that ‘no one is left behind’ and will also help to ensure available finance is used strategically. And this message came from the highest political level, with King Mohamed VI’s passionate plea: “How can we speak of sustainable development when majority of human beings are still trapped in poverty?”
Ms. Charafat Afilal, Minister Delegate for Water in Morocco, confidently closed the conference by confirming that “We have sensitized the COP22 Presidency about mainstreaming water in the climate discussions” and calling for an annual edition of this “mini-water-COP.” Let’s hope that this, and many other events between now and November, help to secure water’s place at the centre of the on-going climate debate.
1) Study undertaken by the French Water Partnership and Coalition Eau : http://www.coalition-eau.org/wp-content/uploads/2016-06-review-of-water-integration-in-indc.pdf
3) The “Paris Pact on water and adaptation to the effects of climate change in the basins of lakes, rivers and aquifers”, The Business Alliance for Water and Climate Change (BAFWAC), and The Megacities Alliance on Water under Climate Change