News.Dec 20, 2019

New year’s greetings from SIWI!

Happy New Year! We all know that 2020 will be a decisive and at times challenging year, but we must not forget to focus also on more encouraging trends, writes SIWI’s Executive Director Torgny Holmgren in this New Year’s message.

Looking back at 2019, we remember a year of many dramatic events and changes. There were new scientific reports about the perilous state of the world’s climate and ecosystems, as well as a steadily growing number of citizens demanding action.

Not surprisingly, most chronicles of the past year are rather somber, describing record floods and droughts, cities at acute risk of water shortages and farmers suffering from crop failures. The response from the international community is so far insufficient, as evidenced by the limited progress at the recently concluded climate meeting COP25.

Yet, on closer inspection, there are also some more promising, underlying trends. In 2020, we need to start focusing on them to break the current stalemate. Consider for example the following:

More citizens, cities and companies take action. The climate concerned movement is bigger and broader than ever. According to a United Nations press release, there are now 14 regions, 398 cities, 786 businesses and 16 investors working towards achieving net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050. Not least among companies, numbers are rising fast.

A breakthrough for water. At COP25, it became apparent how more people are starting to comprehend that the climate crisis is in fact a water crisis. There was great interest in the many events, many organized by SIWI, that demonstrated water-related solutions.

Renewed focus on ecosystems and nature-based solutions. As highlighted in the two most recent reports from the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), resilient landscapes and healthy oceans are important both as carbon sinks and to help societies cope with the consequences of a warmer world. Ahead of World Conservation Congress in June and the 2020 Biodiversity Congress in September, this perspective will be even more highlighted.

Indigenous knowledge increasingly recognized. Both the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the COP25 meeting on climate emphasized the importance of indigenous knowledge. This is key to preserved ecosystems and just societies.

A growing number of countries promise to ratchet up their climate ambitions. Despite the weak overall performance of the global leadership at COP25, the pressure on countries will be rising in 2020. Under the Paris agreement, this is the first year that countries should show how they are implementing and upscaling their Nationally Determined Contributions.

To summarize, 2020 will be all about finding the smartest solutions, to make humans, societies and the environment more resilient. The common thread will often be water.

The New Year’s resolution from us at SIWI is to do everything we can to contribute to this process and its outcomes, as partners, experts and facilitators. We will provide policy advise as well as platforms for dialogue and collaboration. World Water Week at the end of August will of course play a key role, with its 2020 theme Water and Climate – Accelerating Action.

We hope to work with many of you to make 2020 a year of real progress.  Happy New Year!

Torgny Holmgren