The climate crisis is also a water crisis
The climate crisis is also a water crisis

We cannot talk about adaptation without addressing water issues

The hype of COP26 is fading and it will be another year’s wait before we can truly comprehend the outcome of the draft. However, let’s address the elephant in the room, the draft that came out on the final days of COP26 is not suitably “balanced” between the interests and positions of the various parties who formulated it — especially the developing countries.

In the era of diluting the conversation to mere “blah, blah, blah” as coined by Greta Thunberg, we need to understand the hype about the draft text that was published — It merely “urged” countries to strengthen their NDCs (nationally determined contributions)  and parked the important meetings of ministers for World Leaders Summit in 2023.

As mentioned by Michael Jacobs from Sheffield University earlier this month, “urged” is the UN-speak for: “You may do this if you wish to, but you don’t have to if you don’t.” It does not “require” the emitting countries to act. The “if you want to” attitude is still prevalent after 26 years of negotiation.

We cannot talk about adaptation without addressing water issues, not for hot topics like nature-based solutions and as you all remember, the president of Tuvalu making headlines standing in the middle of the knee-deep seawater to make his point — Climate Crisis is a water crisis.

In the first week at Glasgow, BBC and Andrew Marr took a personal agenda to scrutinize policy makers and activists. They covered one story in particular, the story of Shorbanu Khatun, a villager from Bangladesh who had travelled to COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. Ms Khatun, an ordinary villager suffering from unfathomable water crisis, travelled to Copenhagen to share her story and was dubbed “hopenhagen” for sharing her hopes and dreams. 12 years on, little has changed in the coastal belt of Bangladesh, for her and her village moreover, the promised pledge to channel $100 billion a year to less wealthy nations by 2020 was shifted to 2023.

The coastal belt of Bangladesh, which is facing the brunt of the climate crisis, has numerous water-related problems. From saline water to frequent cyclones, life of the people residing there is problematic. Too much and too little water is part of their daily struggle.

Her story, and many others like hers, don’t get enough attention, neither does the global water crisis.

glimmer of hope — making every dollar count

Science tells us that the world is already on average 1.1 degree Celsius warmer than in pre-industrial times, and many millions of people are already suffering from the acute effects of a changing climate. The current pledges, however, can cap global warming at 1.8 degree Celsius at best. So, what does it mean for people like Ms Khatun? At 1.8 degrees, according to IPCC, we will see more heat events, acute water losses, and unprecedented hardship for the marginalized. People like her cannot wait around.

This year has been historic for the water sector. Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) has led the effort to mobilize the water community and partners in the global climate action community to debut the first-ever Water and Climate Pavilion at COP26. WaterAid has actively taken part in the pavilion to bring much needed knowledge and the intertwining relationship between climate change and water, sanitation, and hygiene.

The world’s vulnerable need investments and rapid changes. They need it fast. WaterAid has embarked on the journey to promote Resilient Water Accelerator which hopes to bring together several partners along with the British and Bangladesh governments. It aims to target those areas most in need to develop comprehensive water programs.

These programs will be based on the premise that solving problems is not limited to just one thing, however it should be ensured that, in the face of climate impacts, vulnerable communities have clean and sufficient water resources, that those resources are supported by thriving and sustainable ecosystems, and lastly, to ensure that they can access this water.

With that goal in mind, the water sector is hopeful that our collective effort and that of the decision makers can help the most vulnerable and have a positive impact on the system we are trying to change. But it would be impossible if world leaders and parties don’t play their part.

With the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declaring this moment a “red-Alert for humanity,” it’s never been more important for us to work together to take bold action on the climate crisis. We are now living on borrowed time and it is time to make every action count.

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