Blog.Nov 29, 2023

Will COP28 help us advance water and climate policies?

This year’s climate Conference of the Parties (COP) comes at a critical point in time and is expected to present the outcomes of major political processes. Can we expect progress in connecting water and climate policies? Reasons for hope exist.

Jakob Schabus
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Jakob Schabus
Communications Manager,

COP28 is just around the corner. From 30 November till 12 December 2023 the world will gather in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to discuss the increasingly escalating climate crisis. The conference lies at a key point in time as it marks the halfway point between 2015, when the Paris Agreement was adopted as well as the Agenda 2030 finalized, and the target year 2030.

COP28: An important moment for water and climate  

On top of its timing, additional factors make COP28 a special occasion that calls for the water community to be present, vocal, and united. The conference will conclude political processes such as the first Global Stocktake (GST). The GST assesses progress made in climate action in the last seven years towards long-term climate targets.

The conclusion of the GST will be followed by a round of updating of national climate plans including Nationally Determined Contributions. This is a critical point in time as the world, despite having made progress, remains off track in reaching the climate goals set for 2030 and 2050 in the Paris Agreement.

There are positive signs for water and climate policies at COP28. Over the last years, water has risen on the climate agenda.

Within this process, it will be vital to factor in water, for example through accounting for current and future freshwater availability as well as reducing emissions through water and sanitation systems. An updated round of climate plans must further champion solutions that offer co-benefits such as wetlands which enhance water resilience, while effectively sequestering carbon.

The fact that water has risen on the climate agenda is also thanks to the increasing attention to climate adaptation, which will also be an important feature of this year’s climate meeting. Negotiators are expected to deliver an adaptation framework at COP28. The Global Goal on Adaptation (GGA) is envisioned to drive adaptation action and financing around the world. As climate change is primarily felt through water, water-based adaptation targets are essential to help the GGA succeed.

Water high on the agenda at COP28

There are positive signs for water and climate policies at COP28. Over the last years, water has risen on the climate agenda. At COP27 with support of water organizations, the Egyptian Presidency, as well as several other governments, water received wide attention and finally made it into the conference’s cover decision. Now that a precedent has been set, the hope is that this year’s cover decision will go beyond the statements made last year.

This year the COP Presidency elevated water once again as one of the key priority areas for the conference. The UAE announced a broad water agenda at World Water Week 2023. The COP28 Water Agenda has three thematic priority areas which are freshwater ecosystems, urban water resilience, and water-resilient food systems. The UAE has further formed a partnership with the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Tajikistan who will “serve as COP28 Water Champions.”

December 10 will be dedicated to food, agriculture, and water. The day will include a high-level ministerial dialogue with water and agriculture ministers to discuss the interlinkages between food, agriculture, and water systems. The meeting will also serve to launch a two-year cross-sectoral partnership on the subject. This level of attention is more than timely, given that about 70 percent of global freshwater withdrawal go back to agriculture.

Water for Climate – a movement on the rise

Another positive sign for COP28 comes from the Water for Climate Pavilion. This year, the Pavilion unites over 60 organizations, more than ever before. The water for climate movement includes nongovernmental organizations, governments, UN- and multilateral organizations as well as private sector actors.

This year’s climate meeting comes at a critical moment in time. Whether it can be a big leap for water and climate remains to be seen.

Pavilion partners will spread out across the conference to reach different sectors and actors and United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) processes. The programming corresponds with mechanisms within the UNFCCC. The Water for Climate Pavilion contains its own knowledge hub to inform decision makers on the connections between water and climate.

Further, the organizations involved in the Water for Climate Pavilion have agreed upon common messaging to speak with one voice for water. All these factors will help to further elevate water at the climate conference and send the clear message to the climate and other communities that we are here to engage with them, and that water can serve other causes and help agendas such as climate, biodiversity, energy, and public health succeed.

This year’s climate meeting comes at a critical moment in time. Whether it can be a big leap for water and climate remains to be seen. Water organizations must stand ready to support decision makers, political processes like the GST and the GGA, as well as the implementation and updating of national climate plans. Water is the make- or break-factor for climate action and a resilient future. Together we can be a driving force to make climate action more integrated and impactful at COP28 and beyond.

Welcome to the Water for Climate Pavilion

Join 60+ organizations who are mobilizing to put water at the heart of climate action. Check out the full schedule and get updates on what is happening at COP28 for the water community and beyond.

Visit the Water fir Climate website
Water for CLimate Pavilion logo on a blue background with blue and green waves