Ripples and Waves
Ripples & Waves is an online journal of ideas, commentary, and resources for the Swedish Water House community.
The opinions expressed in this blog are entirely those of the authors, and do not represent the views of Swedish Water House or SIWI. Readers are invited to respond to posts, and their comments will be moderated for relevance before posting. Swedish Water House and SIWI reserve the right to refuse publication of any comment containing obscenity, inflammatory language, or illegal content. You can also report such content here.
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An image of a sculpture by a Spanish street artist Isaac Cordal spread across social media last week. The sculpture was interpreted by many as ”Politicians discussing global warming” and is an illustrative picture of the slow progress on the climate negotiations while the impact from climate change such as sea level rise becomes increasingly evident.
At the same time, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) recently celebrated 20 years since entering into force. The cooperative efforts by UNFCCC Parties to limit the emission of greenhouse gases have indeed been slow in many ways and the escalating negative impacts from Climate Change has become increasingly evident. Critical weather events such as Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines, America’s record-breaking freeze, California’s year-long drought, and flooding in Europe have brought the attention of the global community to the need to prepare and respond to the escalating negative impacts from climate change.
The most recent IPCC report (March 2014) further reinforces that climate change extremes such as cyclones, draughts and floods have created huge negative impacts on human well-being. Examples such as damage to infrastructure, food security and water supply are outlined. The report also warns that climate change increases the risk of armed conflict around the world due to its worsening of poverty levels and increase of economic shocks.
The three times Pulitzer prize winning American journalist Thomas Loren Friedman, has written extensively on the strong links between climate change impacts, environmental stress and armed conflicts, focusing especially on the Middle East. According to Friedman one of the key factors for the uprising in Syria was the climate change created Syrian drought.
In the beginning of March, UNFCCC began a long series of negotiations and workshops to prepare for the next Conference of the Parties (COP20) in Lima December 2014. Much of the focus of discussions centre around “Loss and Damage” and is the culmination of several years of policy debate on the need of greater attention on unavoidable fact that climate change impacts are real. Discussions advise that current mitigation ambitions need to be fully prepared for the unavoidable impacts of climate change, such as the critical weather events mentioned above. Under the UNFCCC, the Warsaw International mechanism was also established with the aim of enhancing knowledge on the adverse effects of climate change, strengthening dialogue as well as enhancing action and support.
I took part in the sessions and can convey that the UNFCCC negotiations on Loss and Damage are intense; often heated and ongoing for several days, with discussions continuing until the early hours of the morning. The willingness of the negotiators to reach an agreement and a way forward is undoubtable, yet discussions often became stuck in what can be viewed as tedious details, such as the correct position of a comma. However, it is seemingly small insignificant details like this which are incredibly important as they can determine the clarity and interpretation of the text and obligations by countries.
During the negotiations, the Bolivian negotiator Juan Hoffmaister kept reminding us all about the purpose of the meeting; ‘To find meaningful solutions and support those segments of the global population that is already vulnerable to climate change.'
At the end of the four days of negotiations, some agreements are reached on core areas for further collaboration e.g. the management of risks, the need of sharing information, identification of capacity needs. But a final text and agreement is not in yet place. This discussion is set to continue at another meeting in the hope of agreeing on a final text.
Climate Change and Water
Stockholm International Water Institute
Är det möjligt att producera tillräckligt mycket mat till de 9 miljarder människor som prognostiseras befolka jorden 2050, utan förödande påverkan på världens skogar och kraftigt ökad klimatpåverkan? Vad är drivkrafterna för myndigheter, lokalsamhällen och näringslivet till att ställa om jordbruket och nyttjandet av skogen till långsikt produktivt och lönsamt, i en klimatpåverkad verklighet? De frågorna är centrala i klimattoppmötet som pågår i Warsawa, COP19.
Organisationerna CIFOR och CCAFS menar att om man inkluderar all de sociala, institutionella, ekonomiska och naturliga resurser som finns i ett landskap - hellre än att fokusera enskilt på resurser från skogen, staden, vattnet eller jordbruket - så vidgas perspektiven, komplexiteten blir större och därmed även möjligheten till framgångrikt och uthålligt nyttjande av resurserna.
De har därför ersatt de traditionella ”Forest Day” och ”Agricultural Day” med ”the Global Landscapes Forum” under det pågående mötet i Warsawa. Under två dagar har forskare, beslutsfattare, ministrar, näringslivet, internationella organisationer och NGO’s delat och diskuterat erfarenheter och resultat. Engagemanget och tron på potentialen i att arbeta i landskap var stor. Många exempel presenterades, där landskapsperspektivet resulterat i både ökade skördar, minskad risk och ökad vinst för företagen, livskraftiga ekosystem och minskad klimatpåverkan.
Men, en central fråga som hänger kvar efter forumets två dagar är hur man ska definiera landskapet. Inga konkreta eller enhälliga slutsatser gjordes. Snarare diskuterades att avgränsningen bör vara flexibel, den kan vara administrativ, ekonomisk, kulturell, etisk, ekologisk eller geopolitisk – beroende på syfte och omständigheter.
I vattenrelaterade projekt är det ofta naturligt att avgränsningen är avrinningsområdet. Vattnets roll för fungerande landskap är fundamental, för både fungerande skogar, jordbruk och civilsamhällen. Ändå saknades vatten som en grundläggande del av landskapet under forumets diskussioner. Jag ser fram emot att pay-offen för nästa omgång av ”Global Landscapes Forum” är ”Shaping the climate, water, and development agenda for forests and agriculture”.
Läs mer om forumet på www.landscapes.org.
Swedish Water House
On Monday 3 December, the Water and Climate Coalition organized a water session at the “Mountain Day” back to back with the COP18. The seminar, which was titled “Building resilience in mountain water resources and closing the gap between policy and implementation”, drew an audience of both observer organisations and party members, and sought to highlight the importance of integrating discussions on climate and water, and to close the gap between policy and implementation.
Karin Lexén of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) and the Water and Climate Coalition Secretariat opened the session by stressing the need for taking local knowledge on water management into account in decision making on climate adaptation and mitigation. She also outlined the Water and Climate Coalition priorities for COP18 which included suggestions on a thematic initiative on water under the Nairobi Work Programme, and a greater emphasis on water resources management under the Loss and Damages Work Programme.
Fred Boltz of Conservation International provided participants with an overview over the challenges which climate change imposes on freshwater ecosystems. Mountain regions, which make up 1/3 of the global surface, hold 2/3 of all freshwater resources. As such they are supporting the world population with water. Considering that climate change brings changes in water availability and variability, preserving freshwater ecosystems is key to climate resilience. In particular, Fred stressed the need for infrastructure to be flexible to climatic variation and to be designed so as not to disrupt ecosystems.
Mats Eriksson, also from SIWI, has previously worked in the Himalaya region. In his presentation he brought up the crucial issue of flood mitigation infrastructure. An often overlooked measure, many of the structures put in place are not adapted to local conditions and are poorly maintained and governed. This can have disastrous consequences – one example is the breach of embankments in Koshi Basin in 2008, an accident which killed 7000 people and displaced another 3,6 million. In order to create infrastructure that better protects lives and livelihoods, Mats highlighted the need to build on local knowledge and to strengthen capacities in order to ensure good and transparent governance.
“If the glaciers disappear, Pakistan is heading for disaster”. Those were the words of Pervaiz Amir of the Global Water Partnership and the Pakistan delegation to the UNFCCC. Pakistan is relying heavily on mountain water resources, and is as such vulnerable to climate change. It is estimated that the country’s water resources will decrease by 40% until 2050/2060 due to climate change. Pervaiz pointed out that there is a small number of countries in the world which are particularly vulnerable and needs support in order to be able to adapt to climate change. This is reflected in the UNFCCC process, which Pervaiz describes as “frustration with hope”.
Bai-Maas Taal of AMCOW warned that this event is speaking to the already converted, and that discussions on science and policy need to move out from side events and back to back seminars and into the UNFCCC process. He urged for the outcomes from today’s seminar to be transmitted to the negotiators at COP18. We cannot work in silos, and science needs to be translated into political language in order to be adopted in decision making.
This day might have been dedicated to mountains, but when it comes to water the world is interconnected. As Bai-Maas tall pointed out: The small island states struggling with rising sea levels might experience climate change very differently to mountain regions. But sea level rise is a consequence of melting glaciers. The world is facing a common challenge, and we should all speak with one voice.
Stockholm International Water Institute
Swedish Water House
This question was posed by Dr Kelly Klima, Center for Clean Air Policy, Washington, in a vivid discussion in the discussion group "Adaptability, Climate Adaptation Network" on the LinkedIn forum. The discussion started a month ago and has attracted 41 comments. The discussion that took its point of departure in the figure below started very broadly although emphasizing on building resilience - more of building environmental resilience for the benefit of human being - but ended in a discussion more focused on adaptation per se.
The discussion was very interesting, a problem was however that it focused more on definitions of the terminology and less on the issue of building resilience, and with a rather developed country perspective.
What is interesting although depressing to see is that this figure that at first sight looks rather comprehensive, including the field where the suggested measures could benefit both mitigation and adaptation, still only takes water aspects into account from a Water and Energy Conservation-perspective. This “northern-biased” perspective lacks much of the integrated approach needed to succeed in implementing adaptation and mitigation.
Maybe the approach represented in this figure is one explanation why the interlinked climate and water still has not gained the full acceptance in the UNFCCC-negotiations. To overcome this lack of acceptance the Water and Climate Coalition has actively worked to achieve an increased interest among the national delegations to bring the issue higher on the official UNFCCC agenda. As a consequence of such an increased understanding the UNFCCC COP at its seventeenth session (Decision 6/CP.17) "requested the secretariat to organize a technical workshop on water, climate change impacts and adaptation strategies, in collaboration with Nairobi work programme partner organizations and other relevant organizations". The workshop, bringing together experts from different organizations, came up with proposals that will be brought back to the next UNFCCC COP-meeting.
One of the interesting activities presented at the workshop held 18-20 July, 2012, in Mexico City, was the "Water Security and Climate Resilient Development; AMCOW Strategic Framework", that has been developed by AMCOW (African Ministers' Council on Water) with the assistance of Global Water Partnership. This Strategic Framework was discussed during the African Water Forum in May, 2012 and was officially launched to the full international audience during the World Water Week in August, 2012. The GWP program that has assisted in developing the Strategic Framework is the "Water, Climate and Development Programme for Africa" with the 'aims to integrate water security and climate resilience in development plans in Africa'. Hence, even though the rather 'northern-biased' discussion on adaptation and climate resilience that has just been ongoing in the LinkedIn adaptation group, the countries most in need for building climate resilience linked to their transboundary waters are increasingly aware of the burning needs and are on their way addressing those needs.
Dr Gunilla Björklund
On the second day of the World Water Week, we brought together NGOs, policymakers and international negotiators to discuss adaptation to climate change at the local level. We wanted to discuss how achievements in the UN climate negotiations can be translated into concrete actions on the local level. But the strongest outcome of the seminar really was that there needs to be an information flow from the ground level and up. It is also vital to exchange good practices between developing countries that are struggling to adapt to and cope with climate change.
David Molden, Director General of the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) showed how people in the Himalayas are trying new crops and approaches to adapt to rising temperatures.
Mohammed Younis Khan from the Aga Khan Rural Support Programme had travelled several days from the Chitral Valley to share his experience on how glacial entrapped valleys in Pakistan manage their water through a community-led governance structure plugging into the region’s customary laws. Roy Anunciacion, Coordinator at the People’s Coalition for Food Sovereignty explained how farmers in Uganda adapt their own practices by improvising local irrigation and planting trees that conserve water. And Joanna Elliott from the African Wildlife Foundation showed how the rapidly disappearing Mau forest in Kenya is now being restored as a result of the involvement of local communities in the reforestation and the government’s firm goal to restore Kenya’s forests.
Ambassador Bo Kjellén pointed out that the UNFCCC climate negotiations is not the real world, but only a projection of it, and that these examples of local struggles are continuously needed for negotiators to hear in order to remember what they are fighting for.
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.
Dr Gunilla Björklund
During the recently concluded UNFCCC COP17 meeting in Durban, water was, partly as a result of intensive and excellent work by the Water and Climate Coalition and several other groups, included as part of the Nairobi Work Programme (NWP). In November 2011, at the request of parties, the UNFCCC Secretariat produced a technical paper on water and climate change impacts and adaptation strategies, to support the integration of water into adaptation action under the NWP. This paper served as a background document to the deliberations. Climate and Water issues were dealt with at two different official sessions: on December 1st at the Joint SBSTA/SBI (the Subsidiary Body for Implementation) workshop to "consider the outcomes of the Nairobi work programme, to highlight the scientific, technical and socio-economic aspects of impacts, vulnerability and adaptation to climate change most relevant to the SBI" (FCCC/SBSTA/2011/CRP.1), and at the SBSTA session December 3rd when the Agenda item3, the Nairobi work programme was deliberated (FCCC/SBSTA/2011/L.26/Add.1).
At the SBSTA/SBI workshop parties highlighted both the importance of focusing on "sectoral approaches" where water, health and food security were specifically mentioned, and also the need for guidance "to consider trade-offs between sectors in the light of scarce resources" where allocation of water was specifically mentioned. The SBSTA, responding to the proposals and contributions made by parties, including written contributions1, requested the secretariat to organize in cooperation with other relevant organizations, a technical workshop, before the thirty-seventh session of SBSTA on water and climate change impacts and adaptation strategies.
Among the most important Side events from a water and climate perspective was of course the Water, Climate and Development Day on December 3rd. The African Ministers Council on Water, AMCOW, in conjunction with the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank, AfDB, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, UNECA, the Department of Water Affairs, DWA South Africa, the Global Water Partnership, GWP, and the Water and Climate Coalition (WCC) organised the Water, Climate and Development Day as well as the High Level session that presented the key findings of the day to ministers and dignitaries to take into the Conference of the Parties’ High-Level segment.
The Water, Climate and Development Day that dealt with issues such as "Global Policy Solutions for Adaptation and Mitigation", "Infrastructure, Technical and Ecosystem Solutions", "Climate Change Information for Water Resources", and "Financial and Institutional Solutions", delivered during the day and at the High Level segment several key messages. Among these are the following action oriented messages of particular importance to the continuous intergovernmental UNFCCC-process:
- "Water knowledge expertise needs to inform the Adaptation Committee to ensure linkages between Nairobi Work Programme and the Cancun Agreement, emphasising importance of water as a key medium for adaptation. Qualified water resource management knowledge should be represented amongst the members of the Adaptation Committee. In addition links should be established between the Adaptation Committee and water institutions and organisation.
- We welcome the SBSTA draft decision to organise a technical workshop on water. This can be further strengthened by establishing a thematic focus under the Nairobi Work Programme, ensuring that climate interventions involving water resources are properly addressed.
- Establish water as a priority under the Green Climate Fund with a sub thematic funding window for water resources management.
- The Africa Green fund should include a dedicated thematic funding window for water resources and to be utilised for projects related to water management and climate change adaptation and mitigation."
1. Such as the "Opinion of Republic of Uzbekistan on the research and systematic observations" in which they mention "assessment of performance of measures of the rational water use in irrigated farming and correction of irrigated norms" as one of the priority-driven tasks for implementation of mitigation and adaptation measures.
Dr Gunilla Björklund
[News Stream] Will the Mountain Day at the UNFCCC COP-meeting in Durban highlight the critical water situation in the world's high mountains resulting from climate change? / Gunilla Björklund
Mountain regions in the world have experienced above-average warming in recent years. More than 50 % of the world’s population depends on water resources from the mountains. The Himalaya- HK-region is currently providing the necessary water for large parts of the population in Asia. But the current pace in glacier melting as an impact of climate change has significant implications for the ecosystem goods and services the mountain regions provide to humanity, which are especially critical for the survival of poor and indigenous communities.
Even in Sweden the glaciers are melting at an unforeseen pace and measurements of the highest peak, the southern peak of Kebnekaise, covered by a small glacier, in September showed that the top now only reaches 2099.7 m a.s.l., which is the very lowest that has ever been measures and is calculated as the lowest level during the last 1000 years! And the melting speed has increased steadily, not only in Sweden and the Himalayas but also at other high mountain regions. Even the glaciers and large ice masses at Greenland, Arctic and Antarctic are currently increasing their melting pace.
This increasing melting is beyond what scientists have calculated and what is shown in different scenarios as we so far have "only" increased the mean temperature by about 1oC. The impact by the glacier melting in the Himalayas, in particularly as Glacier Lake Outburst Floods, GLOFs, was emphasized in an early version of the NAPA-document of the government of Nepal, and is also described as what can cause catastrophes in valleys also in the NAPA of 2010. This of course may cause detrimental effects to the living conditions for the people living in the valleys. The melting of the Himalaya glaciers may result in an early flood situation and, above all, access to water will be very undeterminable.
Scientists also warn for that the rapid melting of the larger ice masses may result in a more rapidly sea level rise which then would threaten a important amount of world’s population living in low-lying areas, close to the sea.
The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, ICIMOD, is arranging a Mountain Day on December 4th, 2011, at the UNFCCC COP-17 in Durban, South Africa. This day will assemble a high-level panel to advocate the value and the critical role of mountains and thereby promote policy actions to ensure the contribution of mountain ecosystem goods and services in particularly the vital access to water.
Dr Gunilla Björklund
Smogen ligger som en tät dimma kring det gigantiska konferenscentrat i Tianjin. Här hålls just nu det sista förhandlingsmötet innan COP16 i Cancun, Mexiko i december. Det är nu förhandlarna skall enas om de sista textändringarna så att beslut om ett bindande avtal kan tas under COP – Conferences of the Parties. Det var åtminstone detta som var målsättningen. Tyvärr verkar det svårare än väntat att komma framåt i processen.
Förhandlingarna förs i två spår. Samtidigt som man arbetar med att formulera en fortsättning på Kyotoprotokollet jobbar man även med ett vidare avtal, AWG-LCA, kring långsiktiga åtaganden inom olika områden. Det stora antalet underområden gör förhandlingsprocessen både svår och långsam. Under veckan har perspektivet förändrats. Man pratar nu inte längre om ett möjligt bindande avtal i Cancun, utan blickar istället framåt mot COP17 i Sydafrika nästa år. Ambitionen blir snarare att i Cancun ta fram en arbetsplan för hur den processen ska se ut.
Mycket uppmärksamhet har under veckan riktats mot USA och Kina, som med sin kompromisslöshet utgör en stor bromskloss i förhandlingarna. ”Vi arbetar alla hårt för att få fram ett avtal”, sade Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary UNFCCC, vid en briefing igår. ”Det tar tid, och tyvärr tar det längre tid för en del. Vi väntar nu alla på att USA och Kina ska avsluta sina egna förhandlingar”.
För vår del har det här varit en vecka full av intressanta möten och diskussioner. Vi är här för att representera Water and Climate Coalition, och under veckan har vi tillbringat hela dagarna med att ha möten med förhandlingsdelegater för att identifiera olika sätt att integrera vattenfrågan i ett framtida klimatavtal. Det är glädjande att se att alla vi pratat med håller med om att vattenförvaltning bör ges större utrymme i förhandlingarna. Däremot skiljer sig åsikterna åt i fråga om vilken strategi som är bäst. Mest engagemang i frågan visar de länder som väntas drabbas hårdast av klimatförändringarna, tex Bangladesh, Indonesien, latinamerikanska och afrikanska länder samt mindre ö-stater.
Imorgon avslutas förhandlingarna här i Tianjin. Då får vi se vad veckans förhandlingar resulterat i. Helt still verkar det trots allt inte stå. Som Jorge Gastelumendi från TNC rapporterade imorse:
”Nu rör det på sig. Bakåt.”
av Lovisa Selander, SIWI