Climate is water

The World Water Council Secretariat on behalf of the #ClimateIsWater initiative

Climate change manifests itself most powerfully within the water cycle – be it flooding, droughts or extreme weather events. In fact, the latest report of the World Economic Forum ranks water as the first global risk in terms of impact on our societies, regardless of region.

The effects of climate events, combined with the future needs of a growing global population and economic development, require immediate action in order not to threaten the wellbeing of the present and future generations. At a national level, governments already recognise, to some extent, the challenges posed by the effects of climate change on water and have assigned water to the domain of adaptation or 'how to deal with disastrous consequences'. Indeed, systematically addressing water issues is key to adaptation.

But many of the climate discussions today, and since Kyoto, focus on mitigation. Plans to keep global warming below 2°C consist of tackling the main causes of carbon emissions, turning to alternative sources of energy so as to reduce the burning of fossil fuels. However, those plans take for granted that for this new energy production, water availability and quality will remain the same, in the same places, at the same prices.

This is a very big assumption.

It is important to understand that the water cycle is closely linked to climatic variability, and adaption and mitigation are complimentary and that both are required.

And yet, water is still absent within the official UNFCCC negotiation text being discussed at COP21. This is despite the fact that water has been identified as a central issue in approximately 80 per cent of all the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs). Water was included as part of resilience in the official COP21 programme, but it was not identified as one of the 13 focuses of the Lima Paris Action Agenda, even if all of them, from forests to innovation, rely on sufficient and safe water to deliver on their commitments.

Modern society's anxieties around climate change paint water as a problem, whereas embedding water in our sustainable development strategies can make a significant contribution in adapting to climate change. Also, investing in comprehensive water resource management systems and infrastructures makes strong economic sense, since every dollar invested leads to up to 8 dollars in benefits.

Far from being a problem, water is a determining factor in providing solutions to these challenges. Water is a connector – it connects policy areas, economic sectors and societies. Therefore, investment in water infrastructures provides opportunities for growing economies, improved access to energy, increased food availability, increased life expectancy, and decreased child mortality. Future climate variations and their impacts depend on choices we make today about water resources management. Anticipation and planning for water risks are simply responsible, forward-looking management practices.

It is for this very reason that the water community came together on the occasion of the COP21 to deliver the common message: Climate is water. In addition to a great number of collaborative efforts of over a dozen major organisations, a press conference was convened on 2 December with Segolène Royal, Minister of Ecology, Sustainable Development and Energy of France and Charafat Afailal, Minister Delegate in Charge of Water of the Minister of Energy, Mining, Water and Environment of Morocco to underline the importance of placing water at the heart of future climate discussions. To this end, a strong commitment was made to make efforts to include water as a more central priority in the climate agenda, notably at COP22 in Marrakesh.

For this to become a reality, however, civil society needs to continue to work together as it has for COP21 to raise the profile for water, operating in the spaces between government, city and private sector actions and maintaining momentum for change. This connecting role for civil society is even more necessary to meet the climate challenge where we must strengthen multi-stakeholder collaboration across all sectors.

This #ClimateIsWater initiative will maintain the profile and momentum for water long after COP21 closes its doors. The water community stands ready to offer its holistic expertise that can support strategies to tackle climate change. We have no choice but to work together, for a failure to address the relationship between water and climate puts our future in jeopardy.


The #ClimateIsWater initiative is a collective effort from prominent members of the international water community. For more information please see