UN water conference draws to close with hopes of spur political momentum

UN water conference draws to close with hopes of spur political momentum

NEW YORK -- The United Nations' first meeting on water in nearly half a century drew near a close on Friday March 24 with hopes it would spur political momentum and fears that too little is being done to address chronic water stress globally.

There is no international binding agreement for water like the one reached in Paris in 2015, or framework like that established to protect nature in Montreal last year despite dire warnings of the risks humanity faces if water is not managed better.

Nearly 700 groups, including state and local governments, non-profit groups and some companies, submitted water-related plans before and during this week's conference in New York. Projects ranged from investing in climate-smart agriculture and wetland restoration in the Niger River basin to mapping the water system in the Hague, the Netherlands.

Dutch special envoy Henk Ovink said that the UN will review these plans ahead of a meeting in July.

Ovink said the conference was co-hosted by Ovink, who said that we have fragmented water governance across the world, fragmented finance and not enough science and data in place. This conference is the beginning of a rippling effect across the world. According to Charles Iceland, global director of water at the World Resources Institute, about 30 per cent of the plans submitted looked to be impactful and indicated funding.

Most of the voluntary commitments have a place where you can talk about how much money is available, and most of them left blank, Iceland said.

Iceland said that water is a main way that climate is going to affect society, and we need to have a yearly discussion of it, including a global binding agreement and national and regional agreements where water basins cross national borders.

CDP, a non-profit environmental reporting group, lamented the low turnout of 12 heads of state and lack of a plan to hold another conference.

The CDP global director for water security, Cate Lamb said that this sends a loud signal to the businesses, cities and investors who have woken up to the water crisis that they are on their own.

During the conference, French waste water and management company Veolia pledged to spend $1.7 billion over the next five years on infrastructure, technology and research and innovation in water and sanitation, and global investor group Ceres said it had added 25 members to the campaign to address financial risks linked to water and protect resources.