Water and climate are inextricably linked. We feel the effects of climate change mostly through water: more floods, more droughts, and more pollution. At the same time, we can tackle climate change through water, according to a joint message issued by Gilbert F. Houngbo, Chair of UN-Water and President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas for World Water Day and World Meteorological Day.
This year, World Water Day (22 March) and World Meteorological Day (23 March) share the same theme: “Water and Climate Change”. By uniting the two international observances, the aim is to raise the profile of water in the climate debate. Given the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, there will be no official joint ceremonies, as originally planned.
UN Water has launched campaigns to mark the day, with an additional focus on Safe Hand, stressing the need for hand washing – and turning off taps at the end – to try to protect ourselves against COVID19 in line with World Health Organization recommendations.
“The UN family has come together to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, with each institution playing its part. It is also our responsibility to highlight the importance of following international and national authorities’ guidelines to prevent the virus from spreading,” said Mr Houngbo and Mr Taalas.
“One of the most effective ways to slow down transmission is to wash or sanitize our hands. However, globally three billion people do not have access to even basic hand washing facilities at home. Lack of access to clean water affects vulnerability to disease and ill health. It is especially acute among those living in extreme poverty in rural areas, as well as in informal urban settlements,” they said.
Access to safe water is an essential component of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, particularly of Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Water and Sanitation.
It is for this reason that UN-Water Members and Partners are committing to the SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework, which will unify the international community and deliver fast results in countries at an increased scale as part of the Decade of Action to deliver the SDGs by 2030. WMO is working to deliver this through a water and climate coalition that focuses on finances, data and information, governance, capacity development, and innovation, according to the joint statement.
“This World Water Day and World Meteorological Day, as we focus on responsibility, safety and solidarity in the light of the pandemic, we want to recognize the countries, people and businesses that are taking action on climate change, water and sanitation. They prove that dramatic gains can be achieved in just a few years. We call on every sector of society to join them. Together, we can accelerate progress in an area that will allow humans and the planet to thrive for many generations to come,” said Mr Houngbo and Taalas.
“We can tackle climate change through water: protecting wetlands reduces greenhouse gas emissions, ensuring small-scale farmers have access to water improves their resilience to climate change, and safe reuse of wastewater reduces demand for more freshwater. As the need for solutions increases, so do the economic opportunities to develop new approaches, technologies and industries,” said the joint statement.
World Water Development Report
Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water needed for basic human needs, thus undermining enjoyment of the basic rights to safe drinking water and sanitation for billions of people, warns the latest UN World Water Development Report. The authors call on States to make more concrete commitments to address the challenge.
An estimated 2.2 billion people currently do not have access to safely managed drinking water, and 4.2 billion, or 55% of the world’s population, are without safely managed sanitation.
Water use has increased sixfold over the past century and is rising by about 1% a year. However, it is estimated that climate change, along with the increasing frequency and intensity of extreme events – storms, floods and droughts, will aggravate the situation in countries already currently experiencing ‘water stress’ and generate similar problems in areas that have not been severely affected. Furthermore, the report highlights the fact that poor water management tends to exacerbate the impacts of climate change, not only on water resources but on society as a whole.
The United Nations World Water Development Report is UN-Water’s flagship report on water and sanitation issues, focusing on a different theme each year. The report is published by UNESCO, on behalf of UN-Water, of which WMO is a member.
The World Water Development Report is available here
World Water Day video message from WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas is available here