Water at the heart of COP22 and actions on climate change

24/11/2016
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An historic first for the Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Agreement on Climate Change (COP), a Water Action Day was the highlight of the third day of COP22 in Marrakech, with November 9, 2016 dedicated to water. Several events were held throughout this Water Action Day, including a high level panel organized by the host country of this global summit on climate change in the United Nations blue zone.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) was represented by its Director for Water Supply and Sanitation, Mohamed El Azizi in the discussions panel. The Moroccan Junior Minister for Water, Charafat Afilal; Water Ministers Barmou Salifou, Niouga Ambroise Ouédraogo and Sidick Abdelkerim Haggar from Niger, Burkina Faso and Chad, respectively, as well as the Director of the Moroccan Office of Electricity and Potable Water (ONEE), Ali Fassi El Fihri, took part in this roundtable's lively discussions.

Water mentioned in 85% of INDCs

Water is at the heart of many challenges posed by climate change, and calls for as many solutions. Even a slight increase in the earth's temperature will have serious consequences: climate variability is increasing and its impacts are more numerous, more serious and longer lasting, particularly extreme climate events (floods and droughts, for example). Such phenomena lead to increased water pollution, higher incidence of malnutrition, more migration and more significant losses, particularly in infrastructure and agricultural production. More than 85% of Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) presented by countries participating in the Paris Agreement cite water as a key adaptation issue, the UNFCCC noted during COP22.

During their presentations, the panellists addressed the entire range of issues and challenges related to water that affect African countries: access to potable water and sanitation services, irrigation, agriculture and food security, health issues, lack of water infrastructure, as well as medium and long term perspectives on climate change.

"Water insecurity leads to heightened conflicts, tension among populations, and causes migrations that threaten global stability," stated Minister Charafat Afilal.

"Africa is the continent that is most vulnerable to climate change," said Mohamed El Azizi, Director of the AfDB's Water Supply and Sanitation Department. He added, "It's about providing justice, in the context of climate financing, to this continent, which has suffered the consequences of climate change without having been responsible for it. African countries are concerned with the complex and difficult access to climate financing, particularly for fragile countries."

Large water adaptation projects financed by AfDB in Morocco

The Bank has financed large projects for climate change adaptation in Morocco. Among these are the water transfer project between the Rabat and Casablanca watersheds that impacts the daily lives of 5 million people, the Marrakech region water supply project, benefitting 2 million people, and the Tétouan region potable water supply security project via the transfer of water from the Tangier Med port facilities to the Moulay El Hassan Bel Mehdi dam. "I would like to congratulate the Bank for its ability to react, responding quickly to our financing needs for this project," stated ONEE Director Ali Fassi Fihri. "[It] has ensured service continuity for potable water in the area, because without supplementary service prior to the end of 2016, the entire Tétouan area would be confronted with a catastrophic water shortage."

On the Water Action Day, Morocco used the opportunity to officially launch a new initiative, "Water for Africa ". This initiative began prior to COP22, in July 2016 in Rabat, during the International Conference on Water and Climate, organized by the country in partnership with the World Water Council. The goal is to mobilise the international community to develop an emergency action plan on water to confront climate change in Africa and thereby mobilise the necessary financial resources. The Blue Book on Water and Climate was also released today, the result of reports and recommendations formulated during the conference held in Rabat last July.