The Water Diplomat Reports
Mara Tignino of Geneva Water Hub speaks with David Duncan, Publisher, OOSKAnews in this (LINK) “Water Diplomacy Talks” video interview. The subject is the "Geneva List" of legal principles on protection of water infrastructure.
Contemporary armed conflicts have seen an increase in attacks against and the weaponization of water infrastructure. These acts have had severe consequences on the environment and most importantly on the civilian population, especially on the most vulnerable groups, such as children. Indeed, the most vulnerable groups are usually the ones the most effected by, for example, the disruption of water services, which may, among others, lead to the outbreak of water-borne diseases or exacerbate the spread of epidemics. Other challenges not specific to, but important for the respect for and implementation of the rules on the protection of water infrastructure are the protracted and urban natures of the recent armed conflicts and the proliferation of actors, especially non-state armed groups involved in these conflicts.
The Geneva List of Principles on the Protection of Water Infrastructure (hereinafter the Geneva List) has been drafted in follow-up to the recommendations of the Global High-Level Panel on Water and Peace (GHLPWP) contained in its 2017 report “A Matter of Survival”, including on strengthening respect for and implementation of International Humanitarian Law in relation to water. The drafting process of the Geneva List has been led by the GWH, acting as the Secretariat of the GHLPWP, and included collaborations with other academic institutions such as the American University of Beirut, University of Amsterdam, Duke University, University of New Hampshire, Leiden University, Lund University, University of Léon and University of Trento and international and non- governmental organizations, including Amnesty International, the Conflict and Environment Observatory, the Environmental Law Institute, UNICEF and UN Environment.
The Geneva List is a reference document prepared for the use of parties to armed conflicts, international organizations, and other practitioners working in the contexts of armed conflicts, including in pre- and post-conflict situations. It is the first text that systematizes the main rules applicable to the protection of water infrastructure during armed conflicts, specifically in the conduct of hostilities, as well as in pre-conflict and post-conflict situations and sets forth good practices.
The objective of the Geneva List is to gather for the first time in a single document the rules on the protection of water infrastructure under different branches of international law, namely International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights Law, International Environmental Law and International Water Law. The aim of the Geneva List is not only to restate obligations stemming from these different branches of international law, but also to demonstrate their interaction with and significance for one another. In this sense, it aspires not only to enumerate the existing binding obligations, but also to supplement them by setting forth further recommendations and good practices, including by means of references to soft law documents.
The scope of the Geneva List is limited to the protection of water infrastructure and installations essential to their functioning such as electrical facilities; the protection of water resources is dealt with, when necessary, in connection with the protection of infrastructure. This is the case, for example, for the principle on the attacks against water infrastructure, such as wastewater treatment facilities, which are intended, or may be expected, to cause significant damage to the environment.
The Geneva List focuses on the protection of water infrastructure during and after armed conflicts. However, due to their nature, some principles are also applicable prior to the onset of an armed conflict. For example, States are encouraged to establish joint commissions or mechanisms with a view to ensuring the protection of water infrastructure located on transboundary water resources in pre-conflict situations.
The Geneva List is addressed to both States and non-State actors. While the issue of the obligations of the latter under International Human Rights Law, International Environmental Law and International Water Law remains unsettled, the existence of International Humanitarian Law obligations of non-State armed groups is undisputed. Consequently, the List sets forth these obligations alongside recommended practices derived from other branches of international law.
The Geneva List builds on existing initiatives dealing with the protection of the environment and armed conflicts. In this regard, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Guidelines on the Protection of the Natural Environment in Situations of Armed Conflict and the International Law Commission (ILC) Draft Principles on the Protection of the Environment in Relation to Armed Conflicts should be mentioned as important instruments to clarify the content of the principles protecting the environment in armed conflicts.
The Geneva List also relies on the UNICEF’s initative “Water under fire” that contains striking data on the impact of armed conflicts on children. The global aspirations of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and specifically SDG 6 to “leave no-one behind” cannot be achieved without significant progress in fragile and conflict-affected states. In these settings, the 2016 Agenda for Humanity calls for the respect of the rules of war. Governments and international organizations, aid providers and the private sector, local communities and individuals are all called to commit to implementing concrete initiatives aimed at making the Agenda a reality.
The Geneva List has the ambition to be among these concrete initiatives to uphold the norms that safeguard humanity even during wars.
In 2017, Strategic Foresight Group released the most recent addition of “Water Cooperation Quotient”, the only document analysing riparian relations in all 286 trans-boundary rivers in the world, flowing through 146 countries.
In 2016, Sundeep Waslekar briefed the United Nations Security Council during an Open Debate on Water, Peace and Security. [LINK TO TRANSCRIPT]
In 2019, Strategic Foresight Group has produced a monthly series of “Blue Peace Bulletins” which examine intersects of water security, human conflict and peace.
The conversation was recorded at the start of September 2019 as the full extent and impact of devastating fires in the climate-crucial Amazon Basin had become clear, and reached the front pages of mainstream media around the world as a contentious issue at the G7 Summit.
Those fires continue to rage, devastating ecosystems vital to natural freshwater systems. Opprobrium for the global tragedy has been aimed at the government of Brazil’s climate change skeptic President Jair Bolsonaro, whose administration has relaxed environmental enforcement standards, resulting in widespread arson by agriculturalists.
What are the environmental impacts, climate impacts and water impacts?
Jordi Surkin shared this WWF assessment of the fire situation:
- These fires have diverse causes, which are still not fully clear. However, some of the key factors involved include:
- Climate extremes, drought, strong winds. It is possible that some areas being affected have not received rain in at least six months.
- Under these conditions actors that traditionally use fire (cattle ranchers, local agricultural producers etc.) may have been unable to adequately control fires.
- Settlers from the highlands have been moving into various parts of the tropical lowlands and may have contributed as well since they do not know how to adequately utilize fire and may have used fire indiscriminately.
- Public policy changes, have encouraged expansion of agricultural and beef production, including through the promotion of beef exports to China and authorizing the use of controlled fires.
- In some points fires have entered Bolivia from Paraguay and Brazil. This demonstrates that this is a transboundary issue, since fires are not limited by geographic boundaries. In some cases, it appears that fires even crossed rivers.
- Global markets are tending towards deforestation free commodities such as beef, this trend has yet to become common in Bolivia.
Scotland’s James Hutton Institute hosted the first of a new series of aquaNOW Audiences 11 September, at the Institute’s spectacular Craigiebuckler campus home of world-leading environmental research.
An eclectic international and Scottish panel discussed opportunities offered by the recent announcement that Glasgow, Scotland, will co-host the 2020 UN Climate Change conference (COP 26, the Scottish COP?); the role of nation states in addressing global water, and water-related challenges; the "value of water"; ways to engage popular and political discourse around water resources management beyond the "water industry".
The theme of the 11 September event was “The Philosophy of a Hydro Nation”.
Panelists at this aquaNOW Audience included:
Professor Bob Ferrier is Director of the Centre of Expertise for Waters (CREW), at the Hydro Nation International Centre, James Hutton Institute. Ferrier has over 30 years’ experience in water resources management, with a particular focus on developing a holistic approach to achieving sustainable solutions to resource management. He has worked globally on issues such as acid rain, diffuse pollution, contaminants, catchment to coast interactions, driven by climate change, land use, and human influences.
Professor Asit Biswas is founder of the Third World Centre for Water Management in Mexico, Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, University at the Lee Kuan Yew School for Public Policy in Singapore, University of Wuhan, China, and the Indian Institute of Technology, Bhubaneswar.
He has been a senior advisor to 19 governments, six Heads of the United Nations Agencies, the Secretary General of OECD, and many other international and national organisations.
Biswas has been the author or editor of 81 books and published over 680 scientific and technical papers, with his work having been translated into 37 languages.
Biswas has received the two highest awards of the International Water Resources Association (Crystal Drop and Millennium Awards), Walter Huber Award of the American Society of Civil Engineering and Honorary Degree of Doctor of Technology from University of Lund, Sweden, and Honorary Degrees of Doctor of Science from University of Strathclyde, Helsinki University of Technology, and Indian Institute of Technology. Biswas received the Stockholm Water Prize in 2006 for “his outstanding and multi‐faceted contributions to global water resource issues”, as well as the Man of the Year Award from Prime Minister Harper of Canada, and the Aragon Environment Prize of Spain.
He is a regular contributor to many national and international newspapers on resource and development related issues and is a television commentator in three continents.
Kathleen Stosch holds an MSc in Environmental Management and a BSc (Hons) in Environmental Science and has collaborated on a number of projects with Scottish Natural Heritage, the James Hutton Institute and The Esk Rivers and Fisheries Trust.
The Hydro Nation scholars programme is part of the Scottish Government’s Hydro Nation strategy. The objective of the strategy is to develop the economic, environmental and social value of Scotland’s water resources.
Stosch's current PhD research focuses on quantifying and optimising the multiple benefits that catchments can provide in terms of their ability to support food, water and energy security while at the same time evaluating how attempts to manage these catchment goods and services in light of future environmental change might impact water pollution, biodiversity and livelihoods of catchment dwellers.
Dean Muruven currently holds the position of Global Policy Lead Freshwater for WWF's International Freshwater Practice. He represents WWF at global policy fora connected with UN Sustainability Goals (SDGs) and climate change agendas. Previously Muruven had been the water source areas programme manager for WWF South Africa. The programme was a flagship for the WWF freshwater team in South Africa, achieving national recognition at the highest political level. Prior to joining WWF, Dean held positions as a mining and sustainabiity consultant for a number of mining companies and consultancies working across Africa.
Barry Greig joined the Scottish Government after working as a lawyer and commercial arbitrator in the City of London and has worked in a variety of policy roles including helping establish the Food Standards Agency, and drafting Scotland’s first Sustainable Development Strategy. He leads on "Scotland the Hydro Nation", an innovative policy which seeks to ensure Scotland manages its water environment responsibly and sustainably, maximising its value and contribution to society and the overarching economy and employing its knowledge and expertise effectively at home and internationally.
The aquaNOW Audiences series is convened by OOSKAnews, Inc and chaired by OOSKAnews Founder David Duncan
The aquaNOW Audiences series supports Scotland as a “Hydro Nation” that husbands, manages and develops all of its water resources responsibly, and sustainably, regardless of how plentiful they are, consistent with the view that Scotland should act as a “Good Global Citizen”, and is supported by the Government of Scotland.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) has warned that a combination of drought, conflict and general insecurity in 2019 has forced almost 250,000 people into migrating from their homes in Somalia. The Council further warns that the numbers will increase if humanitarian assistance remains under-funded.
“Thousands of Somali people are caught in a vicious cycle of conflict, insecurity and drought that is pushing families over the edge. Some are forced to flee their homes due to conflict while others are migrating to over-crowded camps in cities to find food and water because of drought,” Victor Moses, Country Director for NRC in Somalia said in a 10 September statement.
A long drought has affected water resources for pastoralists but the displaced also include those who have been forcibly evicted, with an estimated 134,000 this year, mostly from Mogadishu.
This year’s UN humanitarian aid appeal for Somalia has requested $1.08 billion for humanitarian programs in 2019, reflecting the crisis as one of the world's largest. Despite the growing emergency, only 47 per cent of the appeal has been funded so far this year, reports the NRC.
“Somalia’s crisis is a perfect storm of natural and human-made factors and is rapidly worsening. This never-ending barrage of problems is not only an assault on the dignity of people in Somalia, but a direct attack on their ability to survive. They have a right to survival and dignity, and it is incumbent on all of us to ensure it,” said Moses.
Favorable rains in Syria’s agricultural areas, coupled with improved overall security, have reportedly boosted harvests compared to last year, but higher food prices are putting more strain on many Syrians.
A report issued 5 Sptember by the United Nations Food and Agricultural (UNFAO) Progam and the World Food Program (WFP), describes some areas receiving more than double their yearly rainfall average in 2018-19. For example, Tartous, a high-rainfall governorate with a yearly average of about 900 mm of rain, recorded 2,200 mm over the season. Plentiful rains saw increased fruit and vegetable production, the report states, but some of the produce was lost to spoilage because high fuel prices, localized insecurity and a lack of refrigerator trucks hampered access to urban markets.
Around 6.5 million people in Syria are estimated to be food insecure and in need of food and livelihoods support. An additional 2.5 million people are at risk of food insecurity and need livelihoods support to strengthen their resilience.
Field fires, not unusual during harvesting, were more frequent and intense in 2019, with the Government estimating that about 85,000 hectares of crops were burnt. The report states that, while accidental fires are common, there is evidence to suggest that some fires were started maliciously, particularly in areas with active conflict.
Wheat production is estimated at 2.2 million metric tonnes, compared to last year’s 29-year low of 1.2 million tonnes, but is still far below the pre-crisis average of 4.1 million tonnes (2002-2011), according to the latest Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission (CFSAM) report, produced jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme (WFP). The estimated production of barley, at 2 million metric tonnes, is more than five times that of 2018 and more than 150 percent higher than the average production levels achieved prior to the crisis.
However, food prices have been gradually increasing over the past 12 to 14 months largely as a result of increased domestic fuel prices and a continuous depreciation of the Syrian Pound on the informal exchange market.
Food security remains a serious challenge due to continued localised hostilities, new and protracted displacements, increased numbers of recent returnees and the sustained erosion of communities’ resilience after almost nine years of conflict.
“Despite the good rains, farmers in rural areas are still facing many challenges including a lack of access to seeds and fertilizers, high transport costs, the presence of unexploded ordnance in some of their fields, and limited marketing opportunities,” said FAO Representative in Syria, Mike Robson. “Unless there is increased support for agricultural livelihoods, particularly those of Syria’s most vulnerable families, the reliance on food assistance will remain,” he said.
“After nine years of crisis, the people of Syria, including those returning to their villages, continue to face great challenges,” said Corinne Fleischer, Country Director of WFP in Syria.
Between June and July 2019, the joint FAO/WFP mission team visited 10 of the country’s 14 governorates, but was not able to reach Raqqa and Idleb governorates due to insecurity. Based on interviews, surveys, field visits, national data and satellite information, the report provides estimates on crop production for 2019 and assesses the country’s overall food security situation.
Concerns that last year’s poor harvest would result in seed shortages were eased by access to a small supply from the national General Organization for Seed Multiplication (GOSM), as well as purchasing on the market, borrowing seeds and using some saved seeds from last year. In a joint FAO/WFP project, 14 450 of the poorest farmers in Hasakeh, Raqqa, Deir-ez-Zor, Aleppo and Hama governorates were supplied with wheat seed, enabling them to cultivate.
Asako Okai, Assistant Secretary General & Director, UNDP Crisis Bureau, spoke this week of the need for addressing climate-related security risks through concrete action at an event in advance of September's UN Climate Action Summit.
Okai observed that he was speaking on the occasion of International Peace Day with the theme, ‘Climate Action for Peace’, and called for "urgent attention is the nexus between climate change and international peace and security, and how we address it...we cannot disentangle the effects of one from the other. Climate change, conflict, instability and fragility have together resulted in protracted displacement, complex disasters and prolonged conflicts".
"Even in other areas where there is no active conflict, climate change is increasing local competition for natural resources, food insecurity, water stress and is changing migration patterns and causing mass displacement. In addition, the loss of livelihoods and increased exclusion mean that non-state armed groups are finding space to expand their influence. Climate change, in these contexts, is not only a risk multiplier, it is a major risk factor".
"While our understanding of the impact of climate change on peace and security is steadily growing, more work is needed to look at adequate management and response strategies. Climates change increases the fragility of natural systems which in turn exacerbates the fragility of socio-economic systems and we need solutions that address both aspects and break this cycle".
Okai and fellow panelists highlighted tangible and concrete actions at national and local levels in three key areas:
- The use of mediation in climate-induced inter- and intracommunal conflict;
- Promoting equitable and alternative livelihoods; and
- Social cohesion as a tool to strengthen resilience to climate change
"Now is the time for action on social and political drivers", the official said. "These are not distinct and separate issues. We need to address, holistically, the socio-economic, political and security dimensions and risks related to climate change. And we must, by default, choose integrated responses. In this climate emergency, those highly exposed to the dual burden of climate change and conflict are among the most vulnerable and underserved of all our constituencies. They should be our first priority as we try to urgently deliver on Climate Action for Peace and Human Security".
Egypt's Foreign Minister (FM) Sameh Shoukry has expressed frustration with Ethiopia’s stance on filling the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD).
Shoukry’s comments, in an interview in New York 22 September, comes after the first round in a year of tripartite ministerial negotiations around the filling and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) stalled. A 16 September statement by the Egyptian Ministry of Irrigation said that two-day negotiations among the irrigation ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan focused on procedural matters but did not address technical aspects, and made no breakthrough on impassses.
"The meetings did not touch upon substantive issues because of Ethiopia's refusal to discuss the proposal Egypt offered to the two countries," the ministry said, adding that Ethiopia's delegation refused to discuss a proposal on filling and operating the $5 Billion USD GERD.
Since the breakdown in talks Ethiopian Foreign Ministry has claimed that Egypt’s proposal puts Ethiopia’s sovereignty in question, saying in remarks to Ethiopian News Agency “any move that does not respect Ethiopia’s sovereignty and its right to use the Nile dam has no acceptance.”
The Nile River is essential to lives and livelihoods in Egypt, with a population of 100 million dependent on 55 billion cubic meters of Nile water. Egypt contends that Ethiopia, with a population of approximately 105 million, has access to over 900 billion cubic meters of water from the Ethiopian plateau.
Egypt insists that Ethiopia should fill the dam reservoir over a period of seven years and release 40 billion cubic meters of water every year. However, Ethiopia wants to fill the dam in 3 years and rejected Egypt’s proposal, claiming that it does not “respect current and future rights and development plans of Ethiopia over the Nile and complicates the filling of the dam”, according to reportage in Ahram.
Shoukry has said that Egypt has no intention to infringe on Ethiopia’s sovereignty but at the same time will not accept any infringement on Egypt’s. He believes that the dispute is a matter of international law, falling under the Declaration of Principles that was signed in 2015 by Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia that ensure access to the Nile waters for all three countries.
An earlier statement from the Egyptian ministry said that it was decided to hold an urgent meeting of the (GERD) independent scientific group in Khartoum from 30 September to 3 October to discuss Egyptian proposals for the rules around filling and operation of the dam and that Sudanese and Ethiopian proposals would also be discussed at that time.
In July this year Ethiopia Foreign Minister Gedu Andargachew expressed his country’s enthusiasm to strengthen bilateral relations with Egypt and a commitment to resume negotiations on the contentious, and massive, dam on the River Nile. At a subsequent meetings in Cairo, Gedu delivered a message from Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed communicating Ethiopia’s resolve to resume tripartite talks on GERD – which were expected to focus on implementation of the declaration of principles regarding water fills and operation of the dam.
Al-Sisi on this part reportedly returned greetings to Abiy Ahmed and expressed “hope for promoting various aspects of bilateral partnership between both sides”.
That exchange of goodwill came soon after, and perhaps in spite of, reports in Arab and Israeli media that Israeli firms, in May this year, installed an advanced “Spyder-MR” air defense system for GERD on behalf of Ethiopia, in the face of objections from the highest levels of Egypt’s government. There has been no official comment on these reports from the governments involved.
Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan have engaged in tripartite talks since 2014 to reach a final agreement on the rules of filling and operating the dam. In 2015, the leaders of the three countries signed an initial agreement on the Renaissance Dam to guarantee Egypt’s share of 55 billion cubic meters of the Nile water.
A new round of negotiations among the three countries had been planned for April this year, but the ouster of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and the ensuing upheaval in Sudan resulted in postponement.
The Malaysian government is finalizing a revised raw water selling price and expects to be propose this to Singapore in the near future.
Changes to the 1962 Johor River Water Agreement which governs water supply essential to Singapore have been a major effort of Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. The price-revision conditions in the agreement have long been a major point of bickering between Malaysia and Singapore for a number of years and discussions between the two sides on alternatives have not progressed.
"We know it is going to be tough," said Malaysia Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah in a 20 May interview with Nikkei Asian Review.
According to the Agreement that expires in September 2061, Singapore water agency PUB has the exclusive right to draw up to 250 million gallons per day (mgd) of raw water from the Johor River at 0.7(Singapore) cents per gallon. In return, Johor is entitled to purchase up to 5 mgd (or 2 percent of withdrawn water) treated water at 50 (Singapore) cents per 1,000 gallons.
As reported in OOSKAnews, Malaysia Prime Minister is of the view that the price negotiated in 1962 is not representative of current price. Mahathir made it clear that the price structure is “manifestly ridiculous” and, since his re-election, has made it clear that the terms would be re-negotiated. Singapore says the price for the treated water is does not reflect market realities.
Responding in Parliament to a July 9 question about bilateral relations with Malaysia, Singapore Foreigh Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the 1962 deal is “not an ordinary agreement” and that Singapore will fully honor the terms, including the price of water stipulated. “The 1962 Water Agreement was guaranteed by both Singapore and Malaysia in the 1956 Separation Agreement, which in turn was registered with the United Nations, “ he said. “Any breach of the 1962 Water Agreement would call into question the Separation Agreement, which is the basis for Singapore’s very existence as an independent sovereign state.”
In the meantime, the state of Johor is developing water projects in order to reduce its reliance on Singapore for treated water.
Yoshiaki Harada, Japan’s environment minister, commenting on Tokyo Electric Power's (TEPCO) lack of storage capacity for contaminated Fukushima water, has said "The only option will be to drain it into the sea and dilute it". In a 10 September 10 news briefing, Harada said "The whole of the government will discuss this, but I would like to offer my simple opinion." He did not reveal how much of the stored water would be released.
Separately, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, said Harada's comments were "his personal opinion." The government, and not TEPCO, is responsible for the disposal and Suga indicated that the government has not yet decided on the method of disposal. "The government would like to make a decision after making thorough discussion," he added.
Storage capacity for radiocactive water at Fukushima nuclear power plant which was hit by 2011's earthquake and tsunami will run out in 2022. Dumping radioactive waste in the ocean would certainly ekoke strong response response from neighboring countries, particularly South Korea. According to OOSKAnews, Japan’s economic minister at its embassy in South Korea was summoned for a meeting in Seoul last month regarding a reported decision to release toxic radioactive water into the Pacific Ocean. Kwon Se Jung, director general in charge of climate change and environmental affairs at South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a note verbale, on August 13, to Japan on the matter.
South Korea said then that its action follows requests for meetings and information since October 2018 after the environmental group Greenpeace released a report about the Japanese government’s plan for the toxic water discharge.
A September 5 briefing for embassy officials in Tokyo followed an August meeting of a government panel of experts looking into ways to solve the water problem and a final government decision will be made based on a report by the panel, diplomats were told, but timing of the decision has not been fixed.
The briefing for diplomats was attended by 27 embassy officials from 22 countries and regions, including South Korea and the United States.
“With transparency in mind, Japan will continue providing the international community with information (on the Fukushima situation),” Koichiro Matsumoto, the Foreign Ministry’s director of international cooperation, told diplomats.
When Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Summer Olympics, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe assured the Olympic Committee that waste and contamination from Fukushima was under control. With the imminence of the games, there is additional motivation to resolve the disposal issue efficiently.
Contemporaneous with the UN Climate Change Summit, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its special report on the state of oceans and cryosphere 24 September.
The Panel highlights the urgency of prioritising ambitious and coordinated action to cope with rapid, unprecedented and long-lasting changes in the frozen components of the earth caused by climate change. The report addresses water in its “cold” status: snow, glaciers, ice sheets, icebergs and sea ice, ice on lakes and rivers in addition to permafrost and seasonally frozen ground as well as ocean “health”.
The cryosphere represents about 70% of all fresh water on Earth, where the oceans represent 96.5% of all water everywhere. Put differently, the cryosphere and ocean represent, in turn, the majority of all potable water and all water on Earth.
Glaciers, snow, ice and permafrost are declining and will continue to do so. This is projected to increase hazards for people, for example through landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods.
The IPCC draws its assessments from thousands of scientific papers that are published each year. In this report, more than 100 authors from 36 countries assessed the latest scientific literature related to the ocean and cryosphere in a changing climate for the report, referencing about 7,000 scientific publications.
The report indicates that there is overwhelming evidence that the additional increase in temperature of 1°C above the pre-industrial level has already resulted in profound consequences for ecosystems and people. Melting glaciers and ice sheets are causing sea level rise, and coastal extreme events are more frequent and severe.
The focus on mountains is important as mountains have been found to be warming faster than elsewhere. The rise in temperatures has caused methane emissions, the loss of ice face and a loss of the ability to reflect light. As temperatures rise, white mountain snow melts, and light that would have been naturally reflected by the ice instead is re-focused on the mountain itself. If melting ice is not replaced, more sunlight gets through and creates a warming cycle.
This accelerates the ice melt, thereby affecting billions that depend on the ice in one way or another. As mountain glaciers retreat, they are also altering water availability and quality downstream, with implications for many sectors such as agriculture and hydropower.
Millions of people that live in the Arctic region, and more than half a billion more in mountain regions, and roughly an equal number in low-lying and downstream coastal zones depend on the frozen parts of the planet for water. There are an additional estimated 65 million people that live in island states that are directly exposed to sea levels that are rising as a consequence of climate change and the development of rapid ice melt.
The report also discusses drinking water, mountain runoff, and mountain habitability and other sections deal with polar regions and sea level rise, with particular focus on coastal and low-lying areas. Some areas experience droughts from lack of rain and low snowmelt. In addition, the ocean is becoming acidified, driven by CO2 emissions, coral reefs are dying and algae blooms are more frequent and severe. Polar ice cap melt in Greenland and Antarctica could flood coastal cities and possibly submerge island nations.
Importantly, the report addresses the escalating costs and risks of delayed action and identifies the benefits of ambitious and effective adaptation for sustainable development.
Download full report here.
“The open sea, the Arctic, the Antarctic and the high mountains may seem far away to many people,” said Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC. “But we depend on them and are influenced by them directly and indirectly in many ways – for weather and climate, for food and water, for energy, trade, transport, recreation and tourism, for health and wellbeing, for culture and identity.”
“If we reduce emissions sharply, consequences for people and their livelihoods will still be challenging, but potentially more manageable for those who are most vulnerable,” Lee said. “We increase our ability to build resilience and there will be more benefits for sustainable development.”
The Global Commission on Adaptation (GCA) has published a report calling on governments and businesses to take action to innovate and advance climate adaptation solutions based on new research findings. The report explains that climate adaptation can deliver a “triple dividend” by avoiding future losses, generating positive economic gains through innovation, and delivering additional social and environmental benefits.
"Adapt Now: A Global Call for Leadership on Climate Resilience", launched 10 September, finds that adaptation can lead to significant economic returns and that investing USD 1.8 trillion globally from 2020 to 2030 in five climate adaptation areas could result in $7.1 Trillion USD in net benefits. The five areas – early warning systems, climate-resilient infrastructure, improved dryland agriculture, mangrove protection and investments in increasing water resource resilience – represent only a portion of total investments needed and total benefits available.
Adaptation and Water Resources
The report describes a world already "facing daunting challenges managing this precious resource and ensuring that people, crops, and the environment have the water they need. Crucial water supplies, like aquifers and lakes, are shrinking or increasingly polluted. Floods and droughts cause damages in the billions of dollars and take a huge human toll, in particular on women and girls. Nor does it help that water is now grossly mismanaged in many areas—wasted in inefficient irrigation systems, poorly allocated, and lost in aging, leaky water mains".
"On top of all of these issues come the potentially devastating impacts of climate change, which will largely be felt through their effects on water. By 2050, the number of people who lack sufficient water at least one month per year will soar to more than 5 billion, from 3.6 billion today, causing unprecedentedcompetition for water. This competition will in turn fuel regional conflicts and migrations, tearing the already frayedfabric of society, especially in developing countries".
"At the same time, climate change has already begun increasing the number and severity of storms. Tomorrow’s storms will overwhelm stormwater systems, send rivers spilling over their banks, trigger landslides, and wash away entire communities, increasing flood risks for fully half of the planet’s population. Coastal cities and communities—home to one-tenth of the world’s population—and small island statesare particularly vulnerable, facing the triple threat of more floods, rising seas, and higher storm surges".
"Adapting the planet’s water resources and systems to the new climate reality is a formidable task. But it also offers opportunities—to improve ecosystems, grow economies, boost agricultural efficiencies, and tackle huge problems, like inequity".
Four Key Actions
The report's authors recommend and describe four key actions on water:
- Harness the power of nature and expand water infrastructure
- Cope with water scarcity by using water more productively
- Prepare for a changing climate by planning for floods and droughts
- Improve water governance and scale up financing
“Climate change doesn’t respect borders: it’s an international problem that can only be solved with co-operation and collaboration, across borders and worldwide. It is becoming increasingly clear that in many parts of the world, our climate has already changed and we need to adapt with it,” said Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary General of the United Nations and Chair of the Global Commission on Adaptation.
“Mitigation and adaptation go hand-in-hand as two equally important building blocks of the Paris Climate Change Agreement,” he added. “Adaptation is not only the right thing to do, it is also the smart thing to do to boost economic growth and create a climate resilient world.”
The Global Commission on Adaptation seeks to accelerate adaptation by elevating the political visibility of adaptation and focusing on concrete solutions.
The Commission is led by Ban Ki-moon, 8th Secretary-General of the United Nations, Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Kristalina Georgieva, CEO, World Bank. It is guided by 34 Commissioners, consisting of leaders from political, business, multilateral,and scientific worlds; and it is convened by 20 countries.
A new policy brief from UN-Water, the interagency mechanism that coordinates the efforts of United Nations entities and international organizations working on water and sanitation issues, highlights that climate change increases variability in the water cycle and makes extreme weather events more frequent. Access to water and sanitation services for billions of people is threatened, placing huge stress on ecosystems. At the same time, growing demand for water has led to an increase in energy-intensive pumping, treatment and transportation, and has raised carbon emissions, thereby exacerbating the effects of climate change.
Gilbert Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) commented: “The way we manage water resources can help us tackle climate change in two ways. First, by coordinating across sectors we can reduce the impacts of floods and droughts, adapt to the expected increase in unpredictability and ensure communities and businesses have the water they need to thrive. And second, we can reduce harmful emissions by making water supply more sustainable.”
The policy brief calls for national and regional policy planning of water management to be viewed though a climate resilience lens. The brief suggests that increased investment is needed to improve hydrological data, governance, education, risk assessment and knowledge sharing. The brief further suggests that low-income populations must benefit from targeted strategies to help them cope with climate change, as they are disproportionately affected by extreme weather events.
Countries and international river basin management authorities must do more to implement integrated solutions. UN-Water contends that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, compared to 2 degrees, can have huge implications on water resources as it may reduce the proportion of the world’s population exposed to an increase in water stress by climate change by up to 50%.
“Uncertainty about the future cannot be an excuse for inaction today,” says Houngbo. “We cannot afford to wait to make water management more climate resilient and sustainable. We have the tools, methods and financing mechanisms at our disposal. We must act now.”
The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) issued a new report 19 September examining the current cost of climate change on humans, and projects what the cost will be at the end of the next decade, in the absence of implementing adaptation measures that would cope with extreme weather events.
Already, over 2 million people per week need some form of humanitarian aid as a consequence of a climate emergency. The predicts that the number will double to 200 million per annum by 2030.
The report, “The Cost of Doing Nothing”, indicates that the current per annum contribution (humanitarian aid in climate emergencies) of $3 Billion USD to $12 Billion USD would have to rise to at least $20 Billion USD per year in order to meet the humanitarian needs that would arise from climate-related disasters such as storms, floods, drought, and other extreme weather events.
Launching the report at the United Nations in New York in advance of its Climate Summit, Francesco Rocca, president of the IFRC, said: “This confirms the impact that climate change is having, and will continue to have, on some of the world’s most vulnerable people. The cost of doing nothing is high, and it’s the most vulnerable who will have to pay if we don’t act. This is intolerable.”
The strain that climate-related disasters have already placed on humanitarian agencies and donors is well-reported. “Globally, most humanitarian appeals are already underfunded and have been for a number of years. It doesn’t seem realistic to expect that the system will be able to accommodate such a massive increase in need,” he said. “Something needs to change.”
The Red Cross recommends spending on efforts to increase resilience of vulnerable people in combination with efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The report estimates that timely adaptation to the effects of climate change and lower levels of global heating would drastically reduce those affected and needing aid to 10 million per year by 2050.
The report offers a range of possible solutions, with many being relatively low-tech and inexpensive to implement. Tech solutions include early warning systems for storms and access to weather forecasts in remote regions. Restoration of natural landscapes such as mangrove swamps and wetlands can protect against flooding and re-growth of tree cover on hillsides would prevent landslides.
The Red Cross urges climate adaptation and disaster risk reduction as key to avoiding increased suffering and escalating humanitarian response costs.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) has projected that crop and livestock production will decrease and may even have to be abandoned in parts of Europe’s southern and Mediterranean regions due to increased negative impacts of climate change, including extreme events like droughts, heatwaves and floods.
A new study by the Agency, announced 4 September, says that adapting to climate change must be made a top priority for the European Union’s agriculture sector if it is to improve resilience to extreme events.
“Despite some progress, much more must be done to adapt by the sector itself, and especially at farm-level, and future EU policies need to be designed in a way to facilitate and accelerate transition in this sector”, said Hans Bruyninckx, EEA Executive Director
Adverse impacts of climate change are already being felt across Europe. Extreme weather, including recent heatwaves in many parts of the EU are already causing economic losses for farmers and for the EU’s agriculture sector. Future climate change might also have some positive effects due to longer growing seasons and more suitable crop conditions, but these effects will be outweighed by the increase in extreme events negatively affecting the sector, according to the report.
The report looks at key climate change problems facing agriculture in the EU and the outlook for the years ahead. It also gives an overview of how EU policies and programmes address climate change adaptation and includes examples of feasible and successful adaptation actions. The EEA assessment is consistent with the key messages from the recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) on climate change and land.
The report identifies adaptation at farm level as key…most of the EEA member countries have national adaptation strategies in place. While all of these strategies include agriculture as a priority sector, only a limited number of countries included adaptation measures specific to the agriculture sector.
One of the EU’s objectives is to mainstream adaptation in various EU policies, including the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). However, adaptation at the farm level often does not take place because of lack of financing, policy support to adapt, institutional capacity and access to adaptation know-how. The EEA report stresses that more knowledge, innovation and awareness raising are required to improve the effective use of the already available adaptation measures, like introducing adapted crops, improved irrigation techniques, field margins and agroforestry, crop diversification or precision farming.
These practices should also lead to lower greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions, better management of soil, land and water resources, which in turn will help preserve local ecosystems and biodiversity. The report also suggests that EU Member States should better prioritise adaptation in the agricultural sector, for example by increasing the financing of adaptation measures through the implementation of the CAP.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and UN-Water have published the most recent version of the UN-Water Global Assessment and Analysis of Sanitation and Drinking-Water 2019 (known as the GLAAS Report).
The survey of 115 countries and territories reveals that weak government systems and lack of human resources and funds continue to hamper the delivery of water and sanitation (WASH) services in the world’s poorest countries and that efforts to ensure adequate services for all have been undermined.
“Too many people lack access to reliable and safe drinking-water, toilets and hand-washing facilities, putting them at risk of deadly infections and threatening progress in public health,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. “Water and sanitation systems don’t just improve health and save lives, they are a critical part of building more stable, secure and prosperous societies. We call on all countries that lack essential water and sanitation infrastructure to allocate funds and human resources to build and maintain it.”
The scope of the survey affects 4.5 billion people, roughly more than half the world’s population. The report shows that, “in an overwhelming majority of countries, the implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene policies and plans is constrained by inadequate human and financial resources. Nineteen countries and one territory reported a funding gap of more than 60% between identified needs and available funding.” Fewer than 15% of countries have the financial or human resources needed to implement plans.
“If we are to create a healthier, more equitable and stable society, then strengthening the systems to reach those currently living without safe and affordable water, sanitation and hygiene services must be a top priority,” says Mr Gilbert F Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. “While we need to ensure that there is sufficient funding to tackle these critical challenges, it is equally important to continue reinforcing national delivery systems.”
The report points to funding gaps and weak systems that negatively affect a country’s progress, but the report also provides information on positive steps to deliver Sustainable Goal 6 on water and sanitation.
Almost half of the countries surveyed have set drinking water targets and aim for better than universal coverage by 2030. These address water quality and increasing access to water on premises. Targets also address open defecation, and the positive impact on public and environmental health.
2019's "World Risk Report" identifies water shortages as posing a growing risk to global stability. Securing access to clean water and protection against flooding and tsunamis is critical to safeguarding society against the effects of climate change, according to the Report published this week by the Institute of International Law of Peace and Armed Conflict at the University of Bochum, Germany.
The "World Risk Report, Focus: Water Supply" says that "Record breaking high temperatures, globally, and more frequent and intense droughts have exacerbated water supply problems. These climate-change realities have increased the vulnerability of societies. Extreme natural events and the effects of climate change intensify water-related problems as they push long-established water supply processes to their limits".
Published since 2011 the World Risk Report examines the links between natural events, climate change, development and preparedness at a global level and draws future-oriented conclusions regarding relief measures, policies and reporting.
Published within the report is the World Risk Index that measures a country’s exposure to extreme natural events as well as its societal vulnerability. Overall, according to the World Risk Index, the disaster risk “hotspots” are located in lesser-developed countries and in the Pacific Ocean, Southeast Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, and West and Central Africa. Europe has the lowest disaster risk.
The report contends that the risk of a natural event turning into a disaster only partly depends on the force of the natural event itself. The more fragile the infrastructure network, the greater the extent of extreme poverty and inequality and the worse the access to the public health system, the more susceptible a society is to natural events.
The analysis suggests that countries can reduce disaster risk by fighting poverty and hunger, strengthening education and health, and taking preparedness measures.
Peter Mucke, CEO of Bündnis Entwicklung Hilft, stated: “In developing countries in particular, policymakers need to act urgently and give all households safe access to clean water. After extreme natural events, the water supply must be restored quickly to ensure survival and prevent the spread of diseases.” People living in poverty are especially unlikely to have access to clean water inside their household and can be forced to pay fees at public water points. “Often the poorest people have to pay the most for water,” says Mucke.
With its focus on water supply, a conclusion of the report is that the international community faces major challenges in meeting Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6, a guarantee of universal access to clean and affordable water by 2030.
The World Risk Index
This World Risk Index calculates the risk of disaster in consequence of extreme natural events for 180 of the world’s countries. It is calculated on a country-by-country basis through the multiplication of exposure and vulnerability. “Exposure” means threats to populations and other certain protected entities due to earthquakes, cyclones, floods, droughts and sea-level rise. “Vulnerability” is comprised of three components, which are weighted equally in the calculation:
- Susceptibility: the likelihood of suffering from harm in an extreme natural event.
- Coping: ability of a society to minimize negative impacts of natural hazards and climate change through direct action and the resources available.
- Adaptation: the long term strategy to deal with and address the negative impacts of a natural hazard and climate change.
Marking the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of UNICEF, has written an open letter to the world’s children.
Fore emphasises that following the adoption of the Convention and in spite of an exploding global population, “the number of children missing out on primary school has been reduced by almost 40 per cent. The number of stunted children under 5 years of age dropped by over 100 million; 99 per cent of polio death cases have been eliminated. Many of the interventions behind this progress – such as vaccines, oral rehydration salts and better nutrition – have been practical and cost-effective. The rise of digital and mobile technology and other innovations have made it easier and more efficient to deliver critical services in hard-to reach communities and to expand opportunities.”
Despite this progress, Ms. Fore does not “sugar coat” the statistics with respect to children. Quoting the UN-related International Organization for Migration, she said environmental migrants are expected to reach 200 million by 2050. “Today, more than half a billion children live in areas with extremely high flood occurrence and almost 160 million in high drought severity zone,” she wrote in her open letter.
More countries are embroiled in internal or international conflict than at any other time in the past three decades, threatening the safety and wellbeing of millions of children. Hospitals, health centres and child-friendly spaces – all of which provide critical services to parents and babies – have come under attack in conflicts around the world in recent years.
The letter identifies that in the past 30 years global shifts have developed into a new set of challenges that were unimaginable to prior generations. Chief among those shifts is “climate is…changing beyond recognition. Inequality is deepening. Technology is transforming how we perceive the world. And more families are migrating than ever before.” Fore acknowledges that approaches to dealing with issues must change.
As Executive Director of UNICEF, Ms. Fore insists that “We must listen to you – today’s children and young people – about the issues of greatest concern to you now and begin working with you on twenty-first century solutions to twenty-first century problems.”
Ms. Fore’s hopes are stated next to each fear and are complex. With respect to her number one fear, clean water, air, and a safe climate, she calls on “governments and business [to] work together to tackle the root causes by reducing greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement…. To turn the tide on air pollution, governments and business must work hand in hand to reduce fossil fuel consumption, develop cleaner agricultural, industrial and transport systems and invest in scaling renewable energy sources".
For the second time in two years, 15-year-old Autumn Peltier, Anishinabek Nation (Canada) chief water commissioner went to the United Nations to participate in the UN Climate Action Summit.
Peltier joined fellow teenager Greta Thunberg at the forefront of an environmental youth movement that stresses the urgency of the climate crisis.
Peltier told hundreds of international guests at UN headquarters September 28 "I've said it once, and I'll say it again, we can't eat money, or drink oil".
Peltier spoke at the Global Landscapes Forum, a platform on sustainable land use founded by UN Environment and the World Bank that's dedicated to achieving development and climate goals.
"All across these lands, we know somewhere were someone can't drink the water. Why so many, and why have they gone without for so long?"
She said she's been taught traditional knowledge from an early age about the sacredness of water, and that more should learn these lessons. (Airdrietoday)
"Maybe we need to have more elders and youth together sitting at the decision table when people make decisions about our lands and waters."
Canada's Globe and Mail receently reported: “There are 56 First Nations communities across Canada under long-term boil-water advisories, the longest of which have lasted nearly 25 years. Worse, some types of contaminations are resistant to being boiled. Others don’t even need to be consumed to be toxic, such as trihalomethanes (THMs), which recently forced Northern Ontario First Nations community Attawapiskat to declare a state of emergency. THMs are linked to an elevated risk of cancer. They can be absorbed through the skin, making showering and even washing your hands a danger.”
In addition to an emphasis on water, Ms Peltier has a voice representing Indigenous populations. “I will be emphasizing on our direct connection to the land and water. I will share an Indigenous perspective how our people are caretakers of the land and waters and how everything is connected and depending on clean water.” As reported in the Anishinabek News, Peltier is a citizen of Wiikwemkoong Unceded Territory in northern Ontario. “I will share knowledge of why we as Anishinaabe people are so protective of our waters and that we come from a place where we are surrounded by the freshest water in the world and it’s at risk of being contaminated.”
Further, Ms Peltier won’t accept the status quo. “There are people living in third-world conditions in our first-world country,” she says. “It’s insane. Canada is wealthy. There shouldn’t be places that can’t drink their water.”
Ms Peltier has recently been nominated for the 2019 International Children’s Peace Prize by the David Suzuki Foundation for her environmentalism.
“Nothing can live without water, if we don’t act now there will come a time when we will be fighting for those last barrels of water, once that’s gone we can’t eat or drink money or oil. Then what will you do?”
The Youth Climate Action Summit provides a platform for young leaders to showcase their solutions and meaningfully engage with decision-makers. The Summit brings together young activists, innovators, entrepreneurs, and change-makers who are committed to addressing the global climate emergency.
A coalition of environmental actvists in India has sent an open letter to actor Leonardo DiCaprio describing his support for the Isha Foundation’s “Cauvery Calling” tree-planting campaign as poorly advised. The letter outlines negative impacts on Cauvery River flow and pollution, and has the support of at least 95 NGOs and numerous individuals who ask DiCaprio for a retraction of his appeal for support of the Foundation.
The Isha Foundation is proposing to plant over 2.4 billion trees along the Cauvery River and is attempting to raise $1.5 Billion USD to fund the activity. DiCaprio’s endorsement of the project would amplify the activities of Jaggi Vasudev, or Sadhguru, who is a (celebrity) Indian yogi, mystic, author and founder of the Isha Foundation with a somewhat mixed reputation.
The Coalition for Environmental Justice, in its 24 September letter, cites that the multiple diversions of the Cauvery has provided water to support water intensive agriculture, generate hydropower and bring water to ever expanding urban and industrial projects. The letter points out that such human influence has been taken without proper consideration for treatment of effluent, the importance of biodiversity, and has left the river highly polluted in some regions.
The Coalition does not object to tree planting, if using appropriate species and if implemented on a “bottom-up” approach based on local needs and sensitive to local ecological dynamics. The letter criticizes the tree planting campaign as not in the best interests of the full use of the river basin: “It appears to be a programme that presents, rather simplistically, that the river can be saved by planting trees on banks of her streams, rivulets, tributaries and the floodplains of the river.”
The letter admits that tree planting is one action among many that is required to restore river health.
“Tree planting alone won’t achieve the critical task of saving Cauvery. It is also important to note that even when tree planting is taken up in the most appropriate way, as described above, there is a critical need to stop mindless destruction of forests and watersheds of the Cauvery, which is taking place extensively across the rivers’ watersheds, all in the name of ‘development’.”
The letter also cautions against indiscriminate use of trees: “such a programme could create unintended and unforeseen social and ecological consequences, as planting trees in certain regions (grasslands and floodplains for instance) could result in drying up of streams and rivulets, and destruction of wildlife habitats. Further, it can also lead to encroachments of the floodplains and riverbeds, as has happened at numerous places.”
While the Isha Foundation is campaigning for tree planting, it is alleged that the Foundation does not have a good track record with Indian laws with respect to the environment and human rights. In fact, the letter indicates that the Foundation’s headquarters has been built on an elephant corridor in Coimbatore on land belonging to an indigenous community.
The letter attempts to cast a shadow on Sadhguru’s reputation citing the size of the fund-raising campaign of $1.5 Billion USD. “The implications of such massive funds being made available to a private foundation, particularly one that [h]as a very weak, and rather dubious, record of compliance of human rights and environmental laws, is quite worrying.” Further, Rajendra Singh (who is in charge of the Indian effort to provide water for all) has remarked that Jaggi Vasudev’s “Cauvery Calling” is a campaign “just to earn name and money”.
The Foundation has released a rebuttal of the main issues in the letter but there has been no response to date from DiCaprio.
Importantly, the letter praises DiCaprio’s work in “promoting rights of indigenous communities, protecting wildlife, case sensitively promoting conservation strategies, and, needless to state, pushing for clear action to tackle global warming”. To advance its The Coalition has invited DiCaprio to visit the Cauvery basin and in the meantime to withdraw his support.
In July this year DiCaprio joined billionaire investors and philanthropists Laurene Powell Jobs and Brian Sheth to found a new non-profit world organisation for environmental protection. According to a statement issued by the organisation at the time, Earth Alliance “will work globally to protect ecosystems and wildlife, ensure climate justice, support renewable energy and secure indigenous rights to the benefit of all life on Earth.”
Investing in land restoration could not only help keep our planet healthy, but also be the starting point for resolving some of the biggest issues of our time, according to Ibrahim Thiaw, Executive Secretary of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).
Speaking on the sidelines of the 14th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 14 of UNCCD) in New Delhi this week, Thuaw said that (Put concisely, we must) “invest in land restoration as a way of improving livelihoods, reducing vulnerabilities contributing to climate change, and reducing risks for the economy”.
The COP14 summit in New Delhi, India, is hosting ministers, scientists, government representatives, non-governmental organizations, and various community groups all over the world, in the hope of agreeing new actions to boost land fertility.
“Land is providing us with 99.7 per cent of the food we eat,” Thiaw said. “It is also providing us with water we drink - the quality of the water we get is coming from land and its ecosystems”.
Last year, 25 countries called for emergency measures following widespread drought, Thiaw said, and on average, 70 countries are affected by droughts per year. Often the poorest communities are those who bear the brunt; facing depletion of resources and left relying on humanitarian aid.
Land degradation also “has connections with peace and security,” he added, forcing communities to compete for access to land and water, and in some cases, spiralling into conflict.
As the phenomenon of desertification intensifies, a thirsty planet has given rise to forced migration, rising pressures on fertile soil, food insecurity, and financial burdens.
“It is estimated that desertification alone “is generating a loss between 10 and 17 per cent of the global GDP,” Mr. Thiaw lamented.
Poor land health combined with biodiversity loss - exacerbated by the effects of climate change - has given birth to environmental shifts that could force up to 700 million people to migrate by 2050, the UNCCD calculates.
The Conference is expected to agree on about 30 decisions in a bid to ensure the Convention’s goals for 2018-2030 are achieved, as outlined in the Convention’s Strategic Framework—the most comprehensive commitment to achieve Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN).
Parties in attendance will adopt a land degradation declaration to be presented at the UN Climate Action Summit on 23 September, which will highlight land restoration as part of the solution in combating the effects of climate change.
The European Commission has announced an additional $38 Million USD in humanitarian relief for the Great Lakes region of Africa. The aid is earmarked for the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and for continued support to Burundian refugees in the region.
This brings the overall amount of EU aid in the Great Lakes region in 2019 to almost $77 Million USD.
“Food insecurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo is worsening the humanitarian situation. We are stepping up support, including in the eastern conflict-torn part of the country, affected by the Ebola epidemic. We also maintain our solidarity with Burundian refugees in the region. Our new aid package will provide emergency healthcare, improve hygiene conditions and access to clean water, provide protection, and give education to children caught in these crises,” said Christos Stylianides, Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management and EU Ebola coordinator (September 18).
Africa's Great Lakes region continues to face armed conflicts and insecurity. As a consequence there is an increase in both cross-border as well as internal forced displacements, food shortages and undernutrition, with a concomitant recurrence of outbreaks of epidemics and natural disasters.
EU-supported projects include giving rapid and flexible aid to conflict-affected people, providing psychosocial support to survivors of gender-based violence, and giving vulnerable communities clean water supply systems.
The EU is a significant contributor in the Ebola response in the DRC. Since the outbreak of the current Ebola epidemic, the EU has supported health experts, airlifts to and from remote areas, vaccine development and research, among other things. In addition, the EU is providing training in medical evacuations through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. Burundi's political crisis, ongoing since 2015, has triggered a major socio-economic downturn in an already poor and fragile country. The EU supports Burundian refugees in Tanzania and Rwanda.
The inaugural Blue Peace Index, an assessment tool to measure the extent to which countries and water basins manage shared water resources in a sustainable and collaborative manner, was launched at World Water Week in Stockholm.
The need for such an index is increasing as efforts to share rivers, lakes and aquifers that cross national boundaries are falling short, raising a growing risk of conflict as global water supplies run low.
The Index, launched August 25 following 18 months of collaboration between the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), makes the case that:
Reliance on stressed transboundary water resources is growing
By 2050, more than 50% of the world’s population will live in water-scarce regions and, with almost 60% of freshwater flows coming from transboundary rivers, these resources will become increasingly crucial in ensuring people have an adequate water supply. This creates an urgent need to manage these shared resources in a sustainable, equitable and collaborative manner.
Diverse stakeholders need a common framework to boost cooperation
To improve management of shared water resources and boost transboundary water cooperation, policymakers and diplomats must work closely with scientific and technical experts at local, national and international levels. In developing the index, the EIU explored various elements that impact management of shared water resources and transboundary cooperation and grouped them into five domains. The index thus provides stakeholders with a common framework to understand the complexity of this issue and to organise a co-ordinated response.
Countries and basins need to know how and where to act
Policymakers, donors and practitioners working in transboundary water are typically constrained by limited resources. The index analyses countries’ management and cooperation over shared water across a broad range of indicators. It thus allows stakeholders to identify and understand their countries’ relative strengths and weaknesses, enabling them to address the most relevant challenges. The index’s distinction between domestic and basin-level indicators also enables stakeholders to understand whether they should focus their activities on domestic or regional-level policies and institutions.
The index is aimed at policymakers, practitioners, international organizations and private sector investors. It will provide a global platform for understanding what can be done to improve the use of transboundary water as an instrument to promote cooperation and peace.
Blue Peace Index researchers reviewed an extensive body of literature, consultation with an expert panel, and a comprehensive interview program conducted between January 2018 and July 2019. International institutions, NGOs, government entities, the private sector and academia were included in the assessment.
The first version of the index examines 24 countries and focuses on 5 transboundary river basins. The index examines 74 qualitative and quantitative indicators; some assessed at river basin level, some assessed at the national level. The indicators have been designed to reflect the degree of “agency” of each country and cover these categories: policy and legal frameworks, institutions and participation, water management instruments, infrastructure and financing, and extent of transboundary cooperation.
The 2019 report covers river basins in South America, Africa, Asia, Europe and the mid-East Amazon, and scores the defined river basin against the five categories, pointing out the strength of the regional cooperation as well as the challenges presented.
The report suggests national leaders make water security a priority now, link water policy to other national policies, from agriculture to trade, and put in place water-sharing institutions early.The index will be expanded to include the Nile River, Lake Chad and the Indus river system.
The Economist Intelligence Unit reports that fewer than one in three of the world’s transboundary rivers and lake basins and just nine of the 350 aquifers that straddle more than one country have cross-border management systems in place. In addition, there is a growing threat as more than 50 percent of the world’s population is likely to live in water-stressed areas by 2050 and of 40 percent will be dependent on transboundary water.
“Most transboundary basins are peaceful, but the trend is that we are seeing more and more tensions and conflict arising,” according to Matus Samel of EIU. “There are no easy solutions or universal solutions,” Samel warned. “But there are lessons regions and basins can learn and share".
The index now plans to include the Nile River, Lake Chad and the Indus river system.