From tomorrow, at the United Nations Water Conference in New York from 22 to 24 March, the EU will be confirming its strong engagement for global water security by announcing 33 commitments for action starting now. These commitments will underpin the EU vision that by 2050, the world should be resilient to increasing water stress, providing water security for all.
The world is currently facing a water crisis driven by overdemand, mismanagement and the impacts of the triple crisis of climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution. 40% of the world's population live in areas affected by water stress. Water resilience is key to prevent and address the current and future health, food and energy crises.
The UN 2023 Water Conference is the first of its kind in almost 50 years, aiming to mobilise global action for water resilience and security. The EU delegation, led by Commission Vice-President Dubravka Šuica, will be presenting the EU voluntary commitments to the Water Action Agenda – a platform to accelerate global progress on the water-related sustainable development goals. The EU priorities for the conference include:
- Ensuring access to safe drinking water and sanitation as a human right;
- Protecting and restoring aquatic ecosystems for sustainable development, climate mitigation and adaptation;
- Promoting a more integrated approach to the management of water resources across sectors;
- Promoting circularity in the use of water for industry, energy and agriculture by increasing water efficiency and water reuse;
- Promoting transboundary water cooperation, as a catalyst for peace and security; and
- Mobilising public and private finance, research and innovation, and knowledge sharing.
The EU brings together a range of commitments to the Water Action Agenda. They draw on a number of policy actions and EU laws, leading water technologies, as well as extensive support to partner countries on water and sanitation. The EU contributions include:
- Supporting the improved access to water and sanitation for 70 million people worldwide;
- Securing safe drinking water in the EU and enhancing the availability of tap water in public spaces;
- Contributing to the reduction of water use in the EU by setting water-saving standards for products, and developing non-conventional supplies, such as reuse of treated water for agricultural irrigation or desalinisation;
- Tackling the pollution of our rivers and oceans, by 50% reduction of pesticides, nutrients, antimicrobials and plastic litter at sea as well as 30% reduction in microplastics;
- Increasing research and innovation, citizen engagement and blue investments: the EU as a whole and the EU Member States have committed over € 1.4 billion from 2021-2024 and additional commitments are expected until 2027;
- Increasing the restoration of rivers in the EU;
- Increasing the resilience of society to floods, droughts and sea level rise, by improving risk management, preparedness, and response;
- Reducing greenhouse gas emissions in water management, among others by reducing energy needs of urban wastewater treatment plants;
- Improving transboundary water cooperation, supported by Global Gateway investments: EU and Member States have committed over €1.1 billion for transboundary water management in Africa and Central Asia covering 47 countries and 18 major transboundary water basins.
The full list of commitments can be found here.
Safe water is a precondition for human and environment health, and a human right. Water is an indispensable resource for the economy and plays a fundamental role in the fight against climate change.
Yet this vital natural resource is being depleted, polluted and mismanaged. 2.2 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water worldwide, and more than half of the global population does not have access to safe sanitation. 80% of the world's wastewater is discharged untreated directly into the environment. Pressure on both quality and quantity of water is mounting. Across the globe, extended periods of severe drought and massive flooding affect the availability of water for human consumption as well as productivity in agriculture, industry and the energy sector. Water stress contributes to the increasing risk of conflicts and instability.
In the EU, access to safe drinking water and sanitation is high, and water quality is improving overall. At the same time, with the increasing frequency and intensity of droughts and floods the EU is confronted with many water challenges, which require new solutions. The progress in reducing water pollution from agriculture is stalling and most European water bodies are not yet in good status. The conference offers the opportunity to look for common solutions and best practises.
At the conference, the EU will participate in the five interactive dialogues. Together with China, the EU will co-chair the inter-active dialogue “Water for sustainable development”.
For More Information
Video message by President Ursula von der Leyen addressing the United Nations Water Conference (to be active on 22 March)
"On the path we are on, half of the world’s population will suffer from acute water stress by 2030. The good news is, collectively, we have what it takes to make a difference. We have the scientific, technological, and policy know-how. And most importantly, we have the ability to learn from each other and the will to work together. With Global Gateway, we have committed over €1 billion to water management, working with countries in Africa and Central Asia to support livelihoods, energy, food, and peace." Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission - 21/03/2023
"More than 90% of all natural disasters are water-related, including floods, droughts, and tropical storms. As the IPCC confirmed yesterday, to make our society climate neutral we need bold action and we need it fast. Protecting and restoring nature is key to taking effective action against the climate crisis. Water is at the heart of such action; whether it’s restoring natural river flows, tackling water pollution by reducing our use of pesticides, or ensuring we are prepared for floods and droughts." Frans Timmermans, Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal - 21/03/2023
"Water security is a matter of essential importance for the sustainable development agenda. It is a matter of survival in many countries, and increasingly important also in the EU. We have come with robust commitments to provide the financial support for improved access to water and sanitation for 70 million individuals, to support transboundary cooperation and to strengthen our regulatory framework." Dubravka Šuica, Vice-President for Democracy and Demography - 21/03/2023
"Water is a pre-condition for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and for the health and prosperity of people and planet. Increased competition for dwindling freshwater resources threatens stability among and within nations through conflicts, displacement or migration. With our Global Gateway strategy, we invest in water cooperation as a key driver of sustainable development, supporting a green transition and enabling peace." Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships - 21/03/2023
"The daily needs of people and nature rest on freshwater which amounts to less than 1% of our blue planet. Under the European Green Deal, we are championing new water approaches for agriculture, industry and the energy sector. To make sure this 1% is managed sustainably, for us and future generations, we are keen to exchange on our laws and best practices on water reuse, efficiency and green innovation, and to learn from others." Virginijus Sinkevičius, Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries - 21/03/2023
Sources : European Commission