Message from the Coordinator: AGWA & UNFCCC Regional Adaptation Workshops
Greetings! At the end of April, I got an email from the UN climate change convention (the UNFCCC) asking to set up a call. Such emails (and calls) are not that unusual, though the UNFCCC body was new to me - the “consultative group of experts,” or CGE.
The call began by my colleagues saying, We were asking many of our colleagues who was an expert on assessing climate risk for water, and many people — well, everyone, really — said to contact AGWA. We’re organizing three regional workshops for roughly a total of 130 national governments on the how to help countries and communities adjust to climate impacts expressed through freshwater.
CGE works directly with national governments to provide them with access and training on the state of the art in climate relevant knowledge. To give you some idea of the scope of the what we’re working with, the other groups the CGE approached are the WHO (World Health Organization) and FAO (the UN Food and Agriculture Organization) — on a set of separate topics.
I could not do this alone. After all, I am not AGWA — AGWA is a global network. My first email was to Ad Jeuken, a good friend and colleague based in the Netherlands with Deltares and one of the most thoughtful and experienced people I know on water, climate adaptation, and implementation.
This first trip is to Lomé, Togo, in West Africa. Every government in Africa has been invited to attend - most of the representatives are the national focal points for climate adaptation. They advise all of the ministries on climate adaptation issues. Ad and I will give a short talk on the first day across all sectors on climate vulnerability assessments, then also give two one-day workshops on managing freshwater in a dynamic climate and on coastal climate adaptation issues.
Most countries - everywhere - are at a transition point. Climate impacts are biting. At the same time, more people and institutions are recognizing that sustainable development isn’t sustainable anymore; we need resilient development. And most of what that looks like is how we manage water - across sectors, borders, and institutions. That’s what these workshops are about.
At a national level, how do we cope with water-borne disasters, expand the energy base, increase access to clean water, prepare the cities for new immigrants, and grow the food a hungry economy needs? Meeting these challenges means understanding climate risk and how that risk may change in the future.
Five or six years ago, a workshop like this might have been mostly about fear, trying to convince decision makers about the seriousness of the problem. AGWA has been gathering the partners and evidence for a different approach: for those who are willing, there are positive answers and effective solutions. Resilience is not just a vague term. Resilience is a methodology — a set of actions. Insights and work by the World Bank, Deltares, the US Army Corps of Engineers, Arup, SIWI, and many others need to be shared and distributed. The number of people who need to know what works must grow, and grow quickly.
That’s why Ad and I are headed to Togo. And then South America. And then Asia.