Her Excellency Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment, emphasized the importance of collaboration, data sharing and investment in achieving global solutions for promoting water sustainability in an interactive dialogue and side sessions at the United Nations in New York this week.
The UN 2023 Water Conference, which ran from March 22 to 24, brought together global leaders and experts to identify innovative solutions to water challenges. Speaking to delegates and attendees, HE Mariam Almheiri expressed the urgent need for action to address water scarcity and environmental preservation intensified by climate change.
“The challenges that were once seen as relevant only for desert countries or small island development states are now being experienced by a growing number of countries to the tune of nearly 2 billion people,” said HE Almheiri in the interactive dialogue, ‘Water for Climate, Resilience, and Environment: Source to Sea, Biodiversity, Climate, Resilience and DRR,’ co-chaired by Japan and Egypt.
“There is, thankfully, a flip side to these challenges – investment and action, on water supply ecosystem health and food systems have never had higher returns,” HE Almheiri added.
The UAE is on track to reduce total water consumption by its food sector by more than 15% despite doubling production by 2030. The country also has a national plan, the Water Security Strategy 2036, which ensures that programs are implemented on the supply side demand side, and that water production and distribution are available in emergencies.
Looking ahead, COP28, hosted by the UAE in November 2023, will build on Egypt’s pioneering inclusion of water at COP27.
“The UAE is committed to an inclusive and consultative process that results in enhanced financing policy and technology around water,” Almheiri said, adding COP28 will focus on the actions necessary to keep 1.5 degrees alive and address climate impacts, including water.
The minister shared four initial reflections on potential outcomes from consultations, including implementing the 30 by 30 agreement, investment in vulnerable and fragile countries, early warning and anticipatory action systems, and innovation.
HE Almheiri participated in a side session titled ‘From UN Water Conference to COP28: Accelerating Water and Climate Action’, co-chaired by the Permanent Mission of the UAE to the UN, Netherlands, Tajikistan, and UN Water. HE Almheiri shared the UAE’s experiences in addressing the challenge of water scarcity and climate change.
“What has been remarkable, during the last month of our listening tour for COP28, is how many other sectors raise water as an urgent focus; food producers, humanitarian agencies, environmental health organizations, energy producers, gender equality specialists,” HE Almheiri said.
“All these constituencies are feeling an imminent risk from water scarcity, acidification, extreme weather, and other climate impacts,” she said, adding however, there are remarkable economic, employment, and health opportunities from investing in actions ranging from irrigation innovation to mangrove restoration to early warning and anticipatory action systems.
In a session hosted by Egypt titled ‘From COP27 to the UN 2023 Water Conf: Action on Water Adaptation and Resilience (AWARE)’, HE Almheiri highlighted the UAE’s investments in research and development and innovative water-efficient food production.
“We must collectively rethink the water challenge and recognize the impact of the three macro-trends: population growth, socio-economic development, and climate change, which each put pressure on water supplies,” HE Almheiri said.
“We are investing significant resources into research and development and maintain a portfolio of domestic and international initiatives aimed at addressing the pressing challenge of water scarcity,” she said.
COP28 will focus on responding to the findings of the Global Stocktake, concluding the Global Goal of Adaptation, and emphasizing the importance of water-related adaptation measures. While water scarcity is a principal threat to human life and political stability, the UAE views addressing the global water challenge as an economic opportunity to help communities progress. HE Almheiri encouraged all parties to align their efforts to adapt to and mitigate climate change with water and ecosystem conservation.