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[News Stream] Responses to climate change at the 6th World Water Forum

The main theme for the 6th World Water Forum was "Time for solutions" and one of the sub-themes dealt with at the thematic sessions was "Respond to climate and global changes in an urbanizing world". The sub-themes under the 6th World Water Forum were, however, not only themes developed and discussed at the Forum as such, but they were prepared during an ongoing process initiated after the 5th WWF in Istanbul 2009 and leading up to the 6th WWF. The process concerned the Water and Climate-theme identified that water management would require holistic and multidisciplinary responses to the increasingly complex challenges, including those linked to responses to climate and global changes. Hence, under the theme seven different targets were identified with different target-and-solution-group coordinators, which would all contribute to the process.

The issue of Water and Climate Change was debated and discussed during high level political round tables, such as the closed session on "Adaptation to Climate Change" convened by the National Water Commission of Mexico, CONAGUA, the Jordan Ministry of Water and Irrigation, and the Portuguese Ministry of Agriculture, Sea, Environment and Spatial Planning. This Roundtable resulted in a set of Recommendations on

  • Improving water governance horizontally as well as vertically;
  • Improving water management financing, including by a mainstreaming of funding strategies; and
  • The need to ensure for decision making under uncertainty, in combination with no regrets strategies as key components of the enabling environment to manage water resources.

The three convening countries and other stakeholders “commit to build the consensus and outcomes of this roundtable into ongoing processes, such as the UNFCCC and the Rio+20 Conference”.

One of the high level panels was “Water Debate: Increasing Resilience to Climate Change: What is the Role of Water Storage”, which included panelists Maria Mutagamba, Minister of Water and Environment, Uganda, Gabriel Azavedo, Director of Sustainability, Odebrecht Energy, Brazil, and Rachel Kyte, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank and the former key water person at the World Bank and one of the initiators to the World Commissions on Dams, now professor of Environmental Engineering at Harvard University, John Briscoe. The panel discussed the role of man-made water storage as part of a solution for building resilience to changing water futures. However, the discussions revealed not very much of new suggestions.

There were also side events, such as the one on “Improving Water Resources Management Through the Global Framework for Climate Services /GFCS)” convened by WMO, and regional sessions such as the one convened by the Korea Water Forum on "Water Education Center for Sustainable Future: Meeting Challenges of Climate Change in Northeast Asia", and the session by Inter-American Development Bank and Mexico National Water Commission (CONAGUA): "Top-Down or Bottom-Up Approaches to Water-Based Climate Change Adaptation in the Americas: the 'Chicken and Egg' Syndrome", all discussing suggested solutions to water adaptation to climate change. Also the high level roundtable on the "Future of Water Desalination" suggested more concrete solutions.

Among the key events under the thematic sessions on "Respond to climate and global changes in an urbanizing world" was the one on "Building Blocks for Integrating Water into the Climate Regime - Raising the Profile of Water in the Global Climate Discourse" convened by Water and Climate Coalition/SIWI. This session, with contributions from among others Freshwater Action Network, CONAGUA Mexico, BRAC University Bangladesh, UNFCCC secretariat and the Unit for Adaptation to Climate Change, EC, in a panel discussion convened by Karin Lexén, SIWI, agreed that water expertise needs to be represented where decisions are made. The chairperson to the UNECE Convention on the 'Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes', suggested that as that convention is now open also for partners outside UNECE, its third workshop on "Water and Adaptation to Climate Change in Transboundary Basins: Making adaptation work" to be held in Geneva, 25-26 April 2012 might be a useful opportunity for following-up and intensifying the discussions towards a more pertinent place for water on the UNFCCC agenda.


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Gunilla Bjorklund

Dr Gunilla Björklund
GeWa Consulting