Water and Climate Change, a UN 2020 Report

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Climate change is affecting all aspects of our existence: societies, ecosystems, and economy but it is through water – a crucial element of life, that climate change impact will be felt.

Increasing variability in the water cycle implies greater water stress.  Water-related impacts also negatively affect food security, human health, energy production, and biodiversity.

There are several international frameworks to address climate change impacts global water resources, its availability, sustainability, and quality.

One of these frameworks is the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 Sustainable Goals (SDGs).

The 2020 UN World Water Development Report addresses the critical links between water sustainability and climate change.

This report is not a purely technical investigation of climate change impacts on the hydrological cycle. Rather it focuses on the challenges, opportunities and potential responses to climate change in the form of climate adaptation, mitigation, and improved resilience through the improvement of water management and sustainability.

When it comes to climate change strategies, the focus is only on water systems adaptation measures such as flooding adaptation and addressing water stress for agricultural needs.

Water management, however, has a very important role in climate mitigation, for example, improved wastewater treatment can help reduce GHG emissions and can supply renewable energy in the form of biogas.

So, it should be both water adaptation and mitigation that is the solution to the water crisis, meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and approach to fully embrace the climate change framework opportunities.

The report contains 14 chapters and a prologue that discuss the state of water resources under climate change and its impacts on the hydrological cycle.

  • Chapter 1 describes the objectives and scope of the report, emphasizes the cross-sectoral nature of the challenges and highlights those that are most vulnerable.
  • Chapter 2 highlights the major international policy frameworks, highlighting gas and opportunities for resilient water management for global action.
  • Chapter 3 discusses climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience-building on water infrastructure and water management systems.
  • Chapter 4 focuses on disaster risk reduction on water-related extremes and building resilience through “hard” and “soft” measures.
  • Chapter 5 discusses human health impacts associated with water quality and quantity, and trends in morbidity and mortality under climate change.
  • Chapter 6 highlights where land-water linkages become apparent in terms of climate impacts, and practical approaches to land and water management for climate adaptation and mitigation through agriculture.
  • Chapter 7 identifies water-related climate adaptation, mitigation, and resilience for energy and industry.
  • Chapter 8 describes the links between water, climate and human settlements highlighting increased resilience in urban planning.
  • Chapter 9 builds on the information and analysis on chapters 3 through 8. It highlights climate change actions on the water to maximize co-benefits and address trade-offs.
  • Chapter 10 describes how the nature and scale of water-related impacts go beyond national borders. Priority challenges and opportunities are drawn from country and region-level.
  • Chapter 11 outlines the legal, institutional, and political means to support climate change adaptation and mitigation to enhance resilience through more inclusive water management.
  • Chapter 12 addresses the current state of water and climate finance, the cost of inaction versus the benefits of inaction.
  • Chapter 13 highlights research, innovation and science to support informed decision-making.
  • Chapter 14 a closing chapter that constitutes an urgent call for action.

To read the entire report, CLICK on the button below:


The United Nations World Water Development Report 2020. Water and Climate Change (2020). The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved from https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000372985.locale=en

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