May 22, 2013 | 04:58 AM (BD Time)
22 May, 2013 Wednesday
Water security for growth, sustainability
Global Water Partnership:
Water security for a green economy: Water is a vital ingredient for the transition to a green economy, for poverty reduction and for sustainable development in all countries. It is crucial that the Conference outcomes include a sustainable development goal for water security as part of an agreed green growth agenda. Continued effort is needed to improve cross-sectoral integration: in particular the linkages between water, food and energy. This task transcends sectors and sectoral interests.
Institutional effectiveness: Coordination between the different layers of authority - international, national and sub-national - are critical for effective decision-making. Institutional reforms and integration must proceed in parallel with, and mutually reinforce, investment in sustainable infrastructure and protection of the environment. To achieve green growth, institutions have to be strengthened and partnerships formed to ensure collaborative solutions. Particular focus is needed on regional cooperation between states on transboundary water resources.
Integrated approaches: The positive response to the call for integrated water resources management and water efficiency plans, as agreed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, needs to be translated into implementation. This includes increased focus on water productivity and climate adaptation to ensure every drop of water contributes as much as possible to inclusive economic growth. Rio+20 should adopt a target (rather than resolution) calling for "each country to develop, by 2015, its specific targets and timeframes for preparing and implementing a programme of action and financing strategy to implement integrated water resources management plans".
Leadership: The Conference must build on and upgrade the conclusions of the 1992 Earth Summit and the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development. It will be a success if a set of Sustainable Development Goals are accepted by governments and other stakeholders under a green growth framework. Political leadership is critical to overcome institutional fragmentation and the lack of focus on water resources. The single most important step is to ensure ownership of the future development agenda by national decision-makers and international organisations.
Future strategy: There is a three-year window from Rio (2012) to the end of the Millennium Development Goals (2015); the Conference should kick-start a process for setting a green growth agenda through to 2030. The agenda must take account of financial and economic realities, climate change and adaptation, demographic shifts, and the impact of emerging economies. Green growth requires ensuring water security for future generations and providing solutions that achieve more growth with less resource use.
The Rio+20 Conference takes place in a period of mounting insecurity due to unprecedented pressures from economic recession, poverty, escalating population growth, rapid urbanisation, climate stresses and other factors. But the Conference should not ignore the considerable progress made since 1992 and should reject any defeatist 'limits to growth': human ingenuity can be harnessed so that sustainable growth and environmental security are not mutually exclusive. The Conference provides an opportunity to advance a sustainable form of economic growth - one that recognises the importance of growth as an engine for poverty reduction and also recognises the finite nature of many natural resources and the need to avoid waste - whether of natural, human or financial resources. This is reflected in the core theme of the Conference: establishing a green economy and appropriate institutional frameworks. Politicians and policy makers must find a way forward that increases well-being for all, now and for the future. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Brazil in June 2012 marks 20 years since the Earth Summit in Rio, and 10 years since the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa. It is an opportunity to reflect on progress and set the future directions for sustainable development. Key to this is achieving water security, a pre-condition for meeting many challenges. Whether it is drinking water supply, sanitation, food, energy, health or industry, freshwater resources are fundamental for helping the poorest people move out of the poverty trap. High-level decision-makers must recognise this, take the necessary tough decisions and follow through with the implementation of water resources management and the financing of appropriate infrastructure development.
Sustainable growth and a green economy
The evolution towards a green economy is a shift that reinforces the sustainable development message from the Earth Summit: indeed, it is an 'upgrade' of the sustainable development paradigm. Significantly, it addresses two legitimate concerns:
1. economic growth is driving an unsustainable degradation of resources
2. economic growth may be hampered by excessive concern for the environment.
Green growth is thus a means for countries to achieve green economies that provide well-being for present and future generations. This means that we all have to manage our economies differently, in a way that shows we know the future matters: inter-generational economic equity rather than short-termism. Most people intuitively understand that what we decide to do now directly affects the lives of future generations. Decision-makers at the Conference should avoid wasting time in rhetorical debates and do their utmost to focus on practical actions and sustainable development goals. Managing our natural resources for future generations, while harnessing them for necessary use now, is a balancing act that is increasingly recognised as fundamental for sustainability. Climate change has made even the highly industrialised countries (those responsible for the problem) realise that their economies are not sustainable and they now have to rethink the way they work. The increasing frequency and severity of extreme climate events (droughts and floods) is now bringing home to many governments the need for proactive management of water resources to cope with these threats.
Water security: We read a lot about how the financial crisis is due to the irresponsible use of finance; the irresponsible use/misuse of natural resources, especially water, is in many ways far worse.
Mismanagement and waste of natural resources has long-term impacts on the economy and unemployment, and can also reverse poverty gains made under the Millennium Development Goals. Paying off any 'natural-resource debt' is much harder than financial debt, and affects everyone everywhere. Innovative solutions for overcoming the financial crisis are highlighted every day; likewise, we need smart solutions to avoid
natural-resource debt and thereby build a green economy. The need to manage energy consumption and reduce carbon emissions is now unquestioned by most policy makers - energy impacts are easily understood, immediate and visible. Water resources problems on the other hand are complex, silent and often invisible, and thus easily shelved. This complexity must not become an excuse for inaction.
Furthermore, poor water resources management is a classic example of a negative externality that is disowned by those who cause the problem, leaving others to pick up the cost. Everyone must take responsibility for achieving water security. No country can meet its development objectives without improving the way its water resources are managed. Water flows through the veins of the whole economy and society. The major users of the resource (energy, agriculture and industry) have to become much more water-efficient, adopting new technologi
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