Water will be key at UN climate talks: Dutch envoy

The world has lost around 85% of its wetlands over the past 300 years, according to UN figures, and some four billion people globally already face water scarcity for at least one month a year

November 07, 2023 03:58 pm | Updated 03:58 pm IST

Water—coping with rising sea levels, floods and droughts—will be a key issue at the forthcoming United Nations climate summit (COP28)

Water—coping with rising sea levels, floods and droughts—will be a key issue at the forthcoming United Nations climate summit (COP28) | Photo Credit: AP

Water—coping with rising sea levels, floods and droughts—will be a key issue at the forthcoming United Nations climate summit (COP28), the Dutch envoy to the negotiations said on Monday.

The focus on water at the crucial climate talks starting in Dubai on November 30 "is an explicit acknowledgement" that the world is already having to deal with the consequences of climate change, Dutch special envoy Meike van Ginneken told AFP on the sidelines of a water technology conference in Amsterdam.

Tajikistan and The Netherlands—a quarter of which lies below sea level—have been appointed to steer negotiations on water at COP28.

These negotiations will centre on "water risks and opportunities... from agriculture to disaster prevention", according to the summit organisers.

The world has lost around 85% of its wetlands over the past 300 years, according to UN figures, and some four billion people globally already face water scarcity for at least one month a year according to the US-based World Resources Institute.

Humanity cannot adapt to the planet's heating climate without changing how it manages its water resources, Van Ginneken said.

"(This) is an explicit acknowledgement that we are already dealing with the consequences of climate change," she stressed.

In previous years, the annual UN climate negotiations have focussed on preventing the Earth's climate heating up beyond dangerous, unstoppable levels.

In 2015, world leaders pledged, under the Paris climate agreement, to restrict the rise in the planet's average temperature to around 1.5 degrees Celsius.

"We now need to move to 'climate adaptation'," Van Ginneken said, "because we know the temperature is rising and we know that climate change manifests itself through water."

Negotiations on water at COP28 will centre on three topics, the organisers have said.

The first is to conserve and restore freshwater ecosystems; the second to ensure people in cities have access to good quality water and are protected from water hazards; and the third to make food production more resilient to rising seas, floods and droughts.

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