Blog.Dec 02, 2019

Why is SIWI at COP25?

The climate crisis is a water crisis. Through floods in Venice, fires in California, and extreme water scarcity in Cape Town, we are already experiencing the impacts of climate change, and we are experiencing them through water or the lack thereof.

After a new UN report showed that the world’s climate ambitions must increase at least threefold, countries are gathering in Madrid between 2-13 December for the COP25 talks. In this blog post, Viktor Sundman explains why SIWI is present and why water is key to meeting the goals.

This means that dealing with climate change means dealing with water. Because we are now facing a crisis of too much, too little, and too dirty water, we need to adjust our behavior and our societies and adapt to changed water availability. When the Paris Agreement was drafted it 2015, it left water out, and this reflects a larger oversight – climate challenges are rarely seen through the water lens. By not acknowledging the central role of water, we are missing important opportunities for climate change adaptation and mitigation that will be crucial for meeting our goals in the Paris Agreement as well as the broader Sustainable Development agenda. Water is part of the problem of climate change, but it is also an essential part of the solution.

SIWI is one of the civil society observer organizations actively engaging with the COP25 in Madrid to amplify this important message and to advocate for the importance of water to be more widely recognized. Water is one of our most undervalued resources. It is the basis for our lives, our societies, our economies, and our ecosystems, but we do not appreciate how central water is to these systems, whether natural or human-created.

In addition to clean drinking water and sanitation being vital for human life and health, water is also an important element for agriculture, energy, industry and our natural ecosystems – meaning it is essential for us having food to eat, electricity to fuel our society, healthy land and marine ecosystems and all the things we use in modern life. Without water, we would not have the planet we have, and it is due time we recognize this importance.

Water is also essential for combatting climate change and to adapt to the changes we have already started to see. Specifically, SIWI is at the COP to share pressing messages with Heads of State, Ministers, negotiators, local officials, financiers and practitioners:

  • Put water on the political agenda: Water must be prioritized much higher by politicians and decision-makers, and its role across our society much more widely recognized. When it comes to the climate negotiations, water has been largely absent; it is not mentioned in the Paris Agreement and its role rarely discussed in connection to climate action. We are working to change this, and at COP25, we will be organizing, supporting, and speaking at a number of events to highlight the water-climate nexus and to encourage ambitious water action to combat climate change.
  • Bridge the knowledge gap: Our planet and societies are complex systems with interlinkages that causes actions in one sector to have effects in another. While we know a lot about these linkages, this knowledge is not always effectively disseminated to decision-makers or the public. We are working to bridge this gap at the COP25, so we are bringing with us a number of policy briefs with recommendations for decision-makers on the linkages between climate and resilient cities, forests and landscapes, and the source-to-sea approach to water management.
  • Water the NDCs: Countries have put forward their national climate goals in the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), which are due to be reviewed and enhanced in the coming year in order to increase ambitions for climate action. While water is mentioned in a majority of the NDCs, its full potential is not realized, and the water-requirements of proposed actions not fully recognized. When the NDCs are being updated, decision-makers must make an effort to include water more systematically, and to be more water-aware in the actions they propose. Revising the NDCs with a water lens will contribute to enhancing ambition in an efficient and sustainable manner. The Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, of which SIWI is co-chair, has produced the guidance and planning document “Watering the NDCs” for decision-makers to do exactly this.
  • Improve water governance for resilient societies: While prioritizing water higher on the political agenda, bridging knowledge gaps in water’s role for climate action, and raising ambitions in the NDCs are all important steps, there is also an urgent need for concrete action. We need to take the step from planning and setting goals to implementation and taking actions to achieve these goals. Actions to improve water governance is a vital part of any response to climate change, and fundamental if we are to create resilient societies that can deal with the known and unknown changes ahead of us. For COP25, we have updated a policy brief specifying water’s role in the Paris Agreement, containing examples and recommendations of water action that can be taken now to improve water governance and management and contribute to climate change adaptation and mitigation.
  • Include all: Efforts to combat climate change, to adapt our societies, and to achieve sustainable development can only be successful if everyone’s voices and knowledge is included in decision-making and implementation. Whether in terms of improving the participation of women, youth, or local and indigenous communities, the inclusion of marginalized voices strengthens our collective climate action on behalf of everyone. We are especially thrilled to have reached out to our Stockholm Junior Water Prize alumni to make sure that youth voices are heard at COP25. You can listen to what they have to say to world leaders and fellow youth around the world in this video, read their call to action in this statement, or tune into their conversation live from Madrid.

We hope to see you in Madrid and hope that you will work together with us to combat climate change and create a water wise world. You can follow our work on twitter at @siwi_water and #SIWIatCOP #Water4Action #ClimateIsWater. A comprehensive list of our activities at the COP25 can be found at SIWI at COP. Below is a list of SIWI staff present in Madrid. If you want to get in touch with us, please contact Jennifer Jun at or Viktor Sundman at

Staff present at COP25:
Viktor Sundman 2-13 Dec
Jennifer Jun 2-13 Dec
Malin Gustafsson 4-9 Dec
Georgette Mrakadeh-Keane 4-11 Dec
Birgitta Liss Lymer 5-12 Dec
Torgny Holmgren 6-8 Dec
Maggie White 8-10 Dec