Climate change is exacerbating both water scarcity and water-related hazards, they said in an urgent call issued at the COP26 UN climate change conference, in Glasgow, Scotland.
Water needs rising
Currently, 3.6 billion people globally, face inadequate access to water at least one month per year, and the number is expected to surpass five billion by 2050, the Water and Climate Coalition (WCC) leaders warned.
They were convened by the heads of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and UN Water, which supports countries in sustainably managing water and sanitation infrastructure.
“Increasing temperatures are resulting in global and regional precipitation changes, leading to shifts in rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, with a major impact on food security and human health and well-being,” said Petteri Taalas, the WMO Secretary-General.
“This past year has seen a continuation of extreme, water-related events, which have killed hundreds, displaced thousands and affected millions,” he added.
Focus on data
The WCC leaders are highlighting the need for integrated water-climate management, with a focus on increased data and information, to help determine when, where and how much water can be supplied today and in the future.
Only 0.5 per cent of water on Earth is usable and available as freshwater. However, terrestrial water storage – a term to describe all water on the land surface and subsurface, including soil moisture, snow and ice – has dropped by one centimetre each year over the past two decades.
“Without good data, climate and water policies are only empty words,” said the President of Hungary, János Áder, a member of the Water and Climate Leaders panel.
“Effective action requires knowledge, knowledge requires information, information requires data.”
Achieve real change
The Water and Climate Coalition (WCC) is spearheaded by WMO and 10 UN agencies. It supports integrating water and climate to speed up progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The coalition is fronted by the Water and Climate Leaders panel, whose 18 members include current and former world leaders, as well as high-level representatives from UN entities, civil society, the private sector, and two youth envoys.
Barbara Visser, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management of the Netherlands, stressed that water is the key to achieving real change and the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“Climate change is happening now and is jeopardizing peace, security, biodiversity and global sustainable development,” she said.
“Let’s scale up and accelerate action in the field of governance, financing, data and information, capacity building and innovation to turn the tide and to secure a sustainable future, leaving no one behind.”