The United Nations urged states to better manage one of humanity’s shared resources on Wednesday during its first meeting on water security in nearly 50 years.
According to the U.N., half of the world’s population lacks access to basic sanitation, and a quarter of them rely on hazardous drinking water. Meanwhile, water has been a factor in about 75 percent of recent tragedies.
“We are draining humanity’s lifeblood through vampiric overconsumption and unsustainable use, and evaporating it through global heating,” said U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
Together with eradicating hunger and poverty, promoting gender equality, combating climate change, and other goals, the U.N. has established a 17-point action plan for sustainable development.
The three-day conference, which starts on Wednesday in New York, is not meant to result in a legally binding agreement like the one that came out of the Paris climate talks in 2015 or a framework like the one planned for nature conservation in Montreal in 2022.
Instead, a “Water Action Agenda” that includes voluntary commitments and builds “political momentum” is the goal.
The United States said that it would spend $49 billion on water and sanitation projects both at home and abroad.
It would “help create jobs, avoid conflicts, defend public health, lower the danger of famine and hunger, and enable us to respond to climate change and natural catastrophes,” according to U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield. She did not provide a schedule for the investments or specifics of where or how much money would be spent.
Before the conference, hundreds of action plans were submitted to the U.N., but the World Resources Institute research group found that while “some commitments offer inspiration, more of them miss the mark” due to various funding or performance target deficiencies or failures to address climate change, it was not uncommon for these plans to fall short of expectations.
Two initiatives received special recognition from WRI: one will invest $21.2 million through 2029 in “climate-smart” agriculture and wetland restoration in the rapidly becoming arid Niger River basin, and the other comes from 1,729 companies that estimate they can make $436 billion in water-related investments.
The Global Commission on the Economics of Water, comprised of scientists, economists, and policy experts, recommended eliminating some $700 billion in agricultural and water subsidies and fostering collaborations between development finance organizations and private investors to upgrade water systems.
(Adapted from Reuters.com)
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