With these agenda priorities and past commitments in mind, the stage is set for COP28 to deliver some genuinely world-shaping outcomes on water security and resilience. Not just for the Middle East, but for the whole world. In terms of concrete progress, when the talking ends there needs to be forward momentum across three key areas.
Responsive water policy: Water is the connector for integrated solutions to global climate challenges ranging from biodiversity to food security. COP28 needs to produce internationally workable guidelines and commitments on smarter water management and conservation. Ideally, water will become a much greater focus of nationally determined contributions (NDCs) for individual nations’ climate policy, with tangible, intelligent provisions to conserve freshwater resources, while reducing consumption and wastage rates.
Easing technology proliferation: A routine criticism of past COP agendas is that they lacked the political will to forge genuine international collaboration on water outcomes. Every month, we report on groundbreaking new technologies that boost water sustainability in their localities, but wider adoption of suitable solutions is frequently slow and piecemeal. COP28 should point towards new political provisions for easing cross-border access to water-based technologies, while also making it easier for governments and private sectors of different nations to collaborate on water projects.
Greater commitments on financial outcomes: The Bonn Climate Change Conference in June pointed out that while plenty of integrated water and climate solutions are readily available, financing remains a critical issue to get these vital measures in place. This applies especially to low-income countries where climate-induced disasters are pushing them into a debt trap, delaying future progress while making their societies even more vulnerable. In short, the money tap needs to be turned on, and nations with water security ambitions must lead by example with significantly greater financial commitments.
As COP28 rapidly approaches, all eyes will be turned towards the host nation for further clues on exactly how – and to what extent – water security can be achieved in the shrinking window of opportunity to stave off global climate disaster.