The effects of climate change on water supply and sea level rise were among the water issues that preoccupied delegations and organisations at the COP27 climate summit in Egypt’s Sharm El-Sheikh.
To try to combat the effects of climate change on water supply, Egypt, the COP27 presidency, launched the Action for Water Adaptation and Resilience (AWARe) initiative, in cooperation with the World Meteorological Organisation.
Hani Sewilam, Egypt’s minister of water resources and irrigation, announced the initiative on November 14, a thematic day focusing on water at the climate summit. Sewilam described the initiative as “a quantum leap in the field of adapting to climate change and enhancing water security.”
Adapting to Climate Change
The AWARe initiative has three main objectives: decreasing water loss and improving supply, promoting mutually agreed action on water adaptation, and linking and coordinating policies internationally on water supply and climate change.
About 2.2 billion people globally lack access to safe drinking water, according to a 2019 United Nations report.
Under the AWARe initiative, countries will try to improve early warning systems for extreme weather events, such as prolonged droughts and torrential rains; cooperate on strategies to reduce waste emissions into water supplies; sustainably manage drinking water and sanitation; and develop the use of “green water,” using rainwater for agricultural purposes.
Ayman Tharwat, deputy director of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Climate, Environment, and Sustainable Development, said that the initiative should help countries confront climate change and its negative effects faster.
“Egypt has great experience in water recycling. Through this initiative (AWARe), it will share its experience with other countries. It will also benefit from the experiences of other countries in the areas of water adaptation.”Ayman Tharwat, deputy director of the Egyptian Foreign Ministry’s Department of Climate, Environment and Sustainable Development.
“Egypt has great experience in water recycling,” Tharwat said. “Through this initiative, it will share its experience with other countries. It will also benefit from the experiences of other countries in the areas of water adaptation.”
Grace Fu, Singapore’s minister of sustainability and the environment, said that told the session her country supported the initiative and was ready to cooperate with participating countries.
She said that in Singapore, “water posed a national security problem with lack of rain in some areas and torrential rains in others, which negatively affected agriculture. We did not have enough drinking water, and we were importing water from abroad.”
Singapore decided to look for new sources of water, Fu said. “We started investing in cleaning our rivers and setting up wastewater desalination plants. We conducted many studies to make sure that this treated water was safe to drink, and free of viruses and bacteria. I can say that we are now recycling every drop of water.”
She added that Singapore uses solar panels in water desalination plants to ensure the lowest possible carbon emissions.
Torgny Holmgren, executive director of the Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI), said it was important to link science to policy-making that could be applied on the ground.
Farmers in many countries had been affected by climate change, Holmgren said. His organisation is involved in many projects to help them adapt and build climate resilience through scientific methods that increase soil moisture by retaining water, reducing the need for irrigation.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, about 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawals globally—up to 95 percent in some developing countries—are used for irrigation.
While international officials are working on projects to help farmers cope with floods and droughts, Holmgren said more funding is needed for carrying out these projects.
A Dutch Initiative
Also at the summit , Mark Harbers, the Netherlands’ minister of infrastructure and water management, announced that his country has set up a “Group of Champions for Deltas and Coastal Areas.”
The “champions” are a group of countries threatened by flooding from sea water rise and other water-related challenges. The initiative aims to share the knowledge of the countries involved to adapt better and faster.
The champions group will be a pillar of the International Panel on Deltas and Coastal Regions (IPDC) that the Netherlands will launch at the United Nations Water Conference in March 2023. The IPDC is a collaboration between think tanks, financial institutions, and national governments. The Netherlands is investing two million euros in the initiative.
Other countries that have joined the champions group include Bangladesh, Colombia, Egypt, India and Vietnam.
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Read more about the COP27 climate summit and global climate concerns in Climate and Environment, an archive of Al-Fanar Media’s reporting on these topics.