Water needs to be put on the global climate finance agenda

Maika Müller, Global Water Partnership (GWP)

Water is the common medium through which a changing climate impacts us, but it is also the bloodstream of our universal wellbeing. The impacts of climate change through water are revealed in extreme weather events expressed by more floods, more droughts, and more storms. Notably, the world’s most vulnerable people, including women, children, and Indigenous populations are worst hit by such climate events.

Water is a big player to create a more climate resilient world. It is widely demonstrated that countries with robust water management systems, institutions, and water infrastructure are better prepared to cope with climate change impacts.

Sufficient financial resources and innovative approaches to financing are required to support developing countries in undertaking adaptation activities to effectively adapt to climate change. This means to assist countries to investigate water infrastructure options in advance, in strengthening ‘no/low regret’ investments, and in developing institutional capacity.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF), which is expected to be operationalised by 2015, will take on an important role in handling billions of dollars in climate finance in the coming years. With its paradigm shift towards a low-emission and climate-resilient development pathway, the GCF plans to channel a greater share of new multilateral funding for adaptation projects, which are currently underfunded in the evolving global climate finance landscape.

Global Water Partnership (GWP) welcomes the GCF’s emphasis on allocating a ‘50:50 balance’ for adaptation and mitigation activities, and the increased pledges to the Fund. We propose that the GCF should create a “water window” to close the financial gap for adaptation activities implemented by countries towards holistic and solid water resources management.

When United States President, Barack Obama, announced a $3 billion pledge to the GCF, he stressed that this “gives us the opportunity to help vulnerable communities with an early warning system, with stronger defences against storm surge, climate resilient infrastructure, to help farmers plant more durable crops.” Now the question is raised: how can these ambitions be achieved?

GWP is responding to the emerging challenge of climate finance through ongoing projects and activities under the Global Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP), which supports countries in climate finance readiness. A portfolio of projects and programmes aim to support countries worldwide to integrate water security and climate resilience in development planning and decision-making processes. From 2011 to 2016, WACDEP has operated in, and targeted, 60 countries from Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Europe, and Latin America.

To support countries in leveraging efficient financing for climate resilient adaptation projects in water resources management, we must, among other actions:

  • Enhance knowledge and capacities of partnerships, institutions and stakeholders to integrate water security and climate resilience in development planning and decision-making processes;
  • Support countries in preparing climate resilient, bankable and tangible projects to leverage investments for water resources management;
  • Develop the capacity of planners and decision-makers to identify, develop and appraise ‘no/low regrets’ investment plans – such as early warning systems and more resilient crops – to improve the resilience of natural resources in a sustainable way under future climate scenarios;
  • Support countries and enable governments to unlock financial sources from new and emerging climate funds and other sources, such as development banks;
  • Contribute to the development of national adaptation plans (NAPs) and the formulation of projects and programmes to support water security and climate resilient development; and
  • Strengthen the design of national drought and flood management policies through improved knowledge and access to scientific understanding of drought and floods, risk assessment, monitoring, prediction and early warning.