Can we afford not to highlight water in climate change discourse at Cancun?
By: Tanveer Arif, SCOPE Pakistan on behalf of Freshwater Action Network South Asia (FANSA)
This morning I had to rush Cancun Messe to catch the meeting of Water and Climate Coalition (WCC), in which members had to update each other about their lobby efforts. WCC which consists on high profile international environmental organizations and networks is busy in lobbying for pushing WATER in the mainstream of the climate negotiations, at CoP-16, here at Cancun. FAN as an active member of WCC, is also part of this campaign here.
Those who don’t follow climate change often have to confront two jargons “mitigation” and “adaptation”. These are two main streams at the climate negotiation. Mitigation primarily deals with matters that can find permanent solution to global warming problem, such as reducing emissions from using fossil fuels, energy production, industrial activities, transportation etc.
Adaptation is about to develop resilience against potential negative impacts of climate change. It is the only response available to face the climate change impact that will occur over the next several decades before mitigation measures can have an effect. Adaptation has to be involved in all sectors including agriculture, tourism, recreation, human health, water resources, economy, urban planning and nature conservation.
This is interesting to see an ideological divide between developed and developing (or least developed) nations in the politics of climate change. Rich would like to talk about mitigation, while poor are stuck to adaptation. The business and multinational corporation see huge investment and profit making opportunities in mitigation measures such as carbon capture technologies, clean energy production, electric cars etc. while developing counties see adaptation as matter of survival in the immediate future, as the global warming which already had taken place and still taking place, is affecting them badly.
Who doesn’t know about recent awful devastation caused by floods in Pakistan, which ransacked the entire country with 2000 people dead, 20 million displaced, $ 43 billion economical loss and inundation of 1/5th of its territory! Such extreme climate events cannot be over ruled in other parts of the world in near future, so climate adaptation such as developing water reservoirs, flood protection structures, refuge and relief infrastructure, water conservation technologies, drought resistant crops etc.
Talking climate is basically talking water as water is the main governing medium of climate phenomena. Drought, flood, irrigation, crops, food, cyclones, carbon sequestration…all involve water. Increased temperatures in the result of global warming will disturb the hydrological balance of the planet. Glaciers will be melted, hurricanes and floods will kill people and pollute water, and droughts will threaten food security and livelihood or people. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that ‘water and its availability and quality, will be the main pressures on, and issues for, societies and the environment under climate change’.
To many humanitarian activists water is not a privilege, it is basic human right. Water is a life medium for human survival, for livelihood, for employment, for industry. Therefore climate adaptation strategies require integrated water resources management at all levels right from ocean and rivers to community water supply systems. Freshwater resources are needed to be protecting from industrial and human waste and dangerous chemicals. Water is too big of an agenda in for climate change context, and deserves a separate treaty under the framework convention of UNFCCC.
I hope that WCC will be successful in its efforts in bringing issue of water in the lime light.