As we recognised World Water Day on 22nd March, the United Nations launched a report which says that reducing the impact of climate change will require major changes in the way we use and reuse the Earth’ limited water resources.  So often was is forgotten in discussions about climate change, but it remains an important factor.

The new report calls for concrete efforts to address rising water stress, and improve efficiency of water use in agriculture and industry, and outlines actions in three areas:

  1. Enabling people to adapt to the impacts of climate change
  2. Improving the resilience of livelihoods
  3. Reducing the drivers of climate change

Tackling water issues and climate change are two of the most critical long-term crises the world will face over the next decades, the World Water Development Report, compiled by UNESCO, states.  The aim is to provide decision-makers with knowledge and the tools to craft sustainable water policies, and to call for an increase in investment in order for policies to be put into practice.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on World Water Day that everyone has a role to play,  and requested that all stakeholders increase climate action and invest in robust adaptation measure for water sustainability.  By limiting global heating to 1.5 degrees Celsius, “the world will be in a much better position to manage and solve the water crisis that we all face.”

Mr Guterres went on to say, “Water is the primary medium through which we perceive the effects of climate disruption, from extreme weather events such as droughts and floods, to glacial melting, saltwater intrusion and sea level rise.”

As well as having a disastrous effect on the global environment, such events will negatively affect health and productivity and act as a catalyst for instability and conflict.  But according to the UN chief the solution is clear.  “We must urgently scale up investments in healthy watersheds and water infrastructure, with dramatic improvements in the efficiency of water use.  The world must anticipate and respond to climate risks at every level of water management.

“Above all, we must use this year and COP26 in Glasgow to bend the emissions curve and create a secure foundation for water sustainability.”

COP26, the UN climate change conference currently scheduled, fingers crossed, for November 2020, will bring together 30,000 people with expertise and interest in the effects of climate change, and will be the largest event to be held in the city since the Commonwealth Games in 2014.  Should the Coronavirus pandemic allow the event to go ahead, it would put the focus of all climate change attention on the city, where there already seems a wide recognition of the disastrous effects of emissions.  And as we have increasingly seen, it is now a critical time to prioritise measures to tackle climate change.

Scotland may be famous for definitely not having a water shortage problem, but this event would bring home the need to safeguard world water supplies, which are unequivocally linked to the ravages of climate change.

27th March 2020

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