Policy Brief.2017

Freshwater and oceans: Working together to face climate change

This policy brief, prepared by SIWI and Alliance for Global Water Adaptation (AGWA), is a contribution to the discussions and activities at UNFCCC meetings in order to improve understanding and application of gender and water knowledge in the climate arena.

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The interface between freshwater and oceans captures the vital development and environmental challenges of our time.  Coastal communities and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face increasing socio-economic and environmental risks as a result of climate change. These risks significantly constrain their ability to achieve a sustainable development; and for some, threaten their territorial integrity, economic viability, and survival at large.


  • Policy responses need to recognize the interdependencies between SDG 6, 11, 13 and 14. For instance, water use efficiency and minimized water pollution are necessary to achieve healthy oceans and a progress towards a sustainable development in a climate changing future. Approaching the whole SDG framework with a holistic, hydro-lens would allow for reinforced action, and build capacity to identify and allocate funding to balance trade-offs between different priorities.
  • Integrated basin-scale management from source waters to coastal and estuarine and marine systems is essential to ensure that a full range of fresh and saltwater resources are provisioned and sustained. Agriculture, energy, fisheries, cities, infrastructure, and water abstraction and treatment must all be engaged as stakeholders in planning, operations, and management.
  • In many cases, these sectors and basins will also span political boundaries within and between countries; integrated management should also operate to share data and decision making across these governance levels. Investments in governance processes and institutional capacity is therefore crucial to ensure informed, transparent, equitable and sustainable resource allocation decisions under critical scenarios.
  • Since many aspects of climate impacts are uncertain, integrated freshwater-marine solutions should be robust (spanning a wide range of potential futures) and flexible (capable to responding to unexpected or alternative futures). Financing, engineering, science, and governance perspectives all have critical perspectives and must be engaged in long-term decision making processes.
  • Marine, riparian, and aquatic ecosystems provision critical adaptation and ecosystem services for communities and economies. Thus, these ecosystems should also be represented as stakeholders with explicit water allocations, such as environmental flows.
August 2017
East Asia and the Pacific, Europe