Climate change impacts are affecting water availability and are exacerbating the damages floods and drought cause worldwide. Climate related water action is a key for bringing us back on track to deliver Sustainable Development Goal 6, to ensure access to water and sanitation for all and to sustain a healthy environment.
WMO hosted a virtual diplomatic briefing on 2 July on plans for a Water and Climate Coalition aimed at building momentum on water and climate action through implementing concrete activities at the national, regional and global levels. It is intended that the coalition will bring together UN partners and Members, donor governments, private sector, non-governmental organizations and financial institutions.
“The impacts of climate change are felt through water: through floods, drought, coastal inundation, melting of glaciers and forest fires,” WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas told the briefing. “There is a need to invest more in disaster risk reduction, climate adaptation and resilience,” he said.
“Water stress is a global problem,” he said. It has negative impacts on economies, health and well-being and poses a threat to future GDP in large parts of the world. Food insecurity and hunger is once again on the rise. Population growth and climate change will join forces to increase the number of people facing water shortages, especially in parts of the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
WMO is committed to strengthening the flood and drought monitoring systems and to improving the exchange of hydrological data and information which is fundamental to decision-making, he told diplomats.
The briefing was organized with the UN Environment Programme, UNESCO and UN Water, as well as with the permanent missions of Finland, Germany and Tajikistan to the United Nations. It came one week ahead of the launch on 9 July of the UN-Water SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework.
“The world is not on track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on water by 2030,” said Gilbert F. Houngbo, UN-Water Chair and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development. He said that the COVID-19 pandemic had highlighted how many millions of people lacked access to water even to wash their hands.
“Drought appears to be a co-traveller with fragility,” said UNEP Executive Director Inger Anderson. With growing water scarcity, it is projected that in future one in four children under the age of 18 – or 600 million – will be living in areas of extreme water stress.
Water is a central part of all the sustainable development goals, not just SDG 6, said Shamila Nair-Bedouelle, Assistant Director-General for Natural Sciences at UNESCO. The acceleration of SDG6 would therefore yield multiple benefits for all sectors of society.