World Water Week Statement Builds Bridge to Climate Talks

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, August 21, 2009 (ENS) – Water must be an integral part of the climate negotiations in Copenhagen, World Water Week participants today said with a unanimous show of hands in support of The Stockholm Statement.

The final outcome of a week of talks by some 2,000 water experts from the public, private, scientific and NGO sectors, the statement urges negotiators working towards a global climate change deal in Copenhagen in December to reach a “strong and fair agreement.”

Unanimous show of hands by World Water Week participants supports The Stockholm Statement. (Photo courtesy SIWI)

Anders Berntell, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute, convener of the annual World Water Week, said, “Water is a fundamental element in economies, communities, and public health. We know that it is the medium through which climate change manifests its most serious effects. To be effective, climate negotiations must factor in the impact and importance of water for the world and, indeed, human well-being.”

“Climate change is happening and adding complexity to existing global challenges,” the Stockholm Statement declares. “A strong and fair agreement on future global commitments on climate change measures — both mitigation and adaptation — is crucial in order to secure future water resource availability.”

At the United Nations climate change conference in Copenhagen, world governments are expected to finalize a deal to limit global warming by limiting greenhouse gas emissions. The Copenhagen agreement will kick in when the current Kyoto Protocol expires at the end of 2012.

“Water is a key medium through which climate change impacts will be felt,” says the Stockholm Statement. “Managing the resource effectively, including through well-conceived IWRM [Integrated Water Resources Management] approaches and at a transboundary level, is central to successful adaptation planning and implementation, and to building the resilience of communities, countries and regions.”

Ger Bergkamp, director general, World Water Council, said, “Water is key to development and the first medium through which climate change will be felt. Therefore, the global agreement that will follow the Kyoto Protocol must have clear targets and strategies for prioritising water in the adaptation to climate change.”

The statement highlights adaptation to the impacts that a warming climate is already having on communities and ecosystems, saying, “Adaptation is a prerequisite for sustainable development and poverty reduction,” and adaptation measures should be integrated into broader development goals.

“Integration of water with land and forest management is key to effective adaptation,” and “Ecosystem protection and sustainability is fundamental to adaptation and human development,” the statement declares.

A mountain stream in Glen Shiel, Scottish Highlands. Water and climate safeguards are rooted in ecosystem protection. (Photo by Ian Britton courtesy

The statement calls for vulnerability assessments and risk management practices in these words, “Knowing where and how the impacts of climate change are most likely to affect populations and ecosystems through the water cycle will help in the identification of areas for early intervention or hot spots; these include arid regions, areas highly dependent on groundwater, small island developing states, low-lying deltas and fragile mountainous areas.”

Finally, the statement calls for more sharing of information as well as “new and additional funds.”

“It is imperative that additional funding is allocated in support of developing adaptive strategies for vulnerable groups and ecosystems,” the statement declares. “There is a need for an initial mobilization of finance to assist vulnerable, low income countries already affected by climate change, followed by the establishment of a well-resourced mechanism for funding adaptation as part of ongoing climate negotiations.”

The global conservation organization WWF, which played a key role in the discussions leading to the Stockholm Statement, strongly endorsed the message.

Presenting the results of the discussions, Dr. John Matthew, WWF head of freshwater adaptation, said, “This Stockholm Statement is important in linking the need for effective mitigation measures through which we can minimize the extent of climate change and core adaptation priorities that can minimize the impacts of climate.”

“Decisions about water infrastructure and management that we will live with for decades are being made now, all too often under policies and by institutions that were built on an assumption of a stable climate and have yet to adapt themselves,” Dr. Matthews said.

The Stockholm Statement urges the global water and climate communities to look beyond the Copenhagen negotiations, known as Conference of the Parties 15, more commonly known as COP-15.

After the Copenhagen agreement is finalized, governments should work through dialogue to strengthen global mechanisms that can enhance collective action on water and adaptation.

Finally, the water community expressed its “commitment to strengthening institutional cooperation at all levels between the climate, water and wider development communities under appropriate mechanisms and institutional arrangements in order to work more collectively to address the immense development challenges ahead.”

Henk van Schaik, coordinator for the Cooperative Programme on Water and Climate, said, “Adaptation to climate change in the water sector is crucial for sustainable development. Both climate and water experts should join forces building a framework for improved support to societal needs – beyond the COP-15 in Copenhagen.”

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