November 22, 2021 Climate changeEnvironmentSDGs

COP26 and the agenda for action on adaptation

The recent COP26 meeting in Glasgow delivered some signs for optimism. In particular, we saw the ground-breaking development of a historic pledge agreed by 105 countries to slash methane emissions. This shows that countries are capable of taking substantial actions on climate. This said, the wider commitments made on cutting greenhouse gas emissions barely keep alive prospects of hitting the goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to 1.5°C.

This means that COP26 leaves the world needing to give yet greater attention to climate change adaptation and to building resilience. Water is the medium through which the impacts of climate change will be felt, so the demands on our sector will be great.

Fortunately, water was more visible than ever in Glasgow compared to previous COPs. The UN-managed area known as the ‘Blue Zone’ featured a dedicated Water Pavilion for the first time. Water was also a central topic at the Resilience Hub. These provided a focus for valuable exchanges and partnership-building activities. And IWA was also more visible than ever. Prominent participation in events at these venues included various chairing and speaking roles for myself and our Climate Smart Utilities team. This did indeed create great opportunities for us to build and strengthen bridges that will help extend the reach and impact of our initiatives.

As we all look to progress from Glasgow, we can expect climate and water to remain high on the global political agenda for the coming period. This is especially so given the need for countries to revisit their commitments next year at COP27.

So now is the moment for the water sector to step in and take the lead. Our industry, which is already feeling the enormous impacts of climate change, is capable of coming up with new solutions and innovations which can inspire leadership through a bottom-up approach. Now more than ever, we need to inspire governments and global institutions to press ahead with technologies and ideas for a better water future, providing them with tools and options to ‘build back better’ in the current window of opportunity to close infrastructure gaps and tackle systemic shortcomings. And our 2022 Congress in Copenhagen, for which the call for papers and content closes at the end of December, will provide an ideal showcase for such innovation and leadership.

Kala Vairavamoorthy, IWA Executive Director

From IWA’s November Newsletter, 22 November 2021