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Panel session 3

Water and land are assets in confronting climate change: What do negotiators need to know?

Sustainable land and water management are key elements in global efforts to address the effects of climate change, in particular through programmes to sustain ecosystems and people’s livelihoods and well-being Fertile land and adequate water supplies are crucial for the global environment and economy, driving every industry from agriculture through hydropower generation to industrial manufacturing and many kinds of services. This session will tackle sustainable water and land management as priority adaptation measures to address climate variability and climate change.

The focus of this panel is the vulnerability of drylands and of the livelihoods of the 2.3 billion people who live there. Water scarcity and drought risk management have been important topics.


Janos Bogardi, Executive Officer, Global Water System Project, Centre for Development Research

Dr Janos Bogardi introduced the panel session noting that adaptation boils down to land and water, while mitigation concerns carbon and energy. He said climate change accentuates the challenges of addressing current challenges, therefore, the ability to deal effectively with climate change requires addressing all the other societal challenges, such as population growth, land degradation and water scarcity.


Sálvano Briceño, Director, United Nations, secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction

PPT Salvano Briceno.pdf

Mr Sálvano Briceňo, Director, UN Secretariat of the International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UN/ISDR), made a presentation on vulnerability and disaster reduction, and the benefits of disaster reduction. He clarified that hazards arise from natural events, while disaster is the result of human vulnerability to natural hazards. He said disasters are expected to increase and added that inequity in the world was linked to unsustainable consumer behavior, as people increasing aspire for the lifestyles of current over-consumers. Mr Briceňo noted that although countries such as Australia and United States suffer drought, not a single life is lost, whereas in Africa, drought is the top natural hazard killer. Stressing that lives do not have to be lost on account of drought, he said risk reduction is an ecosystem service and outlined ways to reduce vulnerability to drought, including through implementation of the Hyogo Framework for Action and scaling up risk reduction across all sectors. He concluded that risk reduction would enhance the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals and reduce the impact of hazards.

Orlando Rey Santos, Director, Environmental Direction, Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment, Cuba

PPT Orlando Rey Santos.pdf

Mr Orlando Rey Santos briefly noted the water challenges faced in Cuba, where 14% of the land is affected by desertification. He highlighted the provisions, in the Chair’s negotiating text, under which water and land initiatives relating to climate change may be considered, although they are not explicitly mentioned. He said an ambitious long-term goal requires mitigation actions in the forest and agricultural sectors. He stated that NAMAs need not be prescriptive, but must recognize actions that could deliver on mitigation, and that it is not possible to address adaptation without considering land and water. He concluded that the negotiating text is sufficiently open to consider water and land related issues, and said while introducing some specific references may at moments be useful, caution must be exercised as it might be counterproductive, with a long list diluting the importance of land. He underlined that the main challenge is the mobilization of the finance, capacity building and technology transfer needed to implement such initiatives.

Nana Künkel, Climate Protection Programme for Developing Countries, Environment and Climate Change GTZ, Germany

Dr Nana Künkel urged participants to do a reality check of what is contained in the negotiating text and its implications for countries, in order to identify what governments need to know about climate and water. Using the example of Niger, she noted that the three sister Rio Conventions are under the same ministerial portfolio, relevant activities can be traced to the strategies on rural development and poverty reduction (PRSP), and there are strong links between climate change and land degradation.  She said such prioritization through dialogue leads to national ownership, flexibility in mainstreaming and improved monitoring mechanisms. Dr Künkel said what negotiators now need to know are the realities on the ground, how processes unfold at the national level and feedback and lessons from these experiences.

Chris Reij, Fellow Centre for International Cooperation Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

PPT Chris Reij.pdf

Dr Chris Reij, Fellow, Center for International Cooperation, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, made a presentation on the African Green Initiatives, a project that promotes re-greening in Africa’s drylands. He said this story, emphasizing “more people more trees,” highlights the greatest environmental transformation taking place in the Sahel and other parts of Africa. In the Sahel, 5 million hectares of land have been re-greened by local people planting 200 million trees between 1975 and 2003. Similarly, 1million hectares has been re-planted and re-greened in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. On efforts to combat land degradation, he underlined the importance of tree planting and noted that the poor literally survive on trees during periods of drought. He also explained that small water harvesting initiatives are the most effective in drylands, and emphasized that a 10% increase in agricultural production leads to a 6-9% poverty reduction. Dr Reij reported that the re-greening initiatives have reduced conflict between farmers and pastoralists, but success is also contingent upon the elaboration of accompanying domestic policies on, inter alia, on-farm re-greening and the governance of trees. In order to build on these successes for climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, Dr Reij said scaling up of local initiatives is paramount, and requires: building on successful cases; advocacy at the national and international levels; and creating a movement of organizations that are willing to work in the same direction.


During the discussion segment, participants proposed that negotiators bear in mind that:

    *      climate change initiatives must not be treated as a new agenda, but rather, a dimension to be built into national development planning processes
    *      institutional arrangements at national level are among the main constraints
    *      the adaptation dimension of water is a very local issue, and global policy frameworks only facilitate the work of the government and local people
    *      selling success stories that emphasize the potential for change in building on the knowledge that has been gained would lead to more successful resource mobilization
    *      the increase in rainfall varies in the way it gets amplified on the ground, with streams benefiting the most and ground recharge the least
    *      while attention is often directed at big rivers, such rivers tend to have little value for a majority of the people that lives in impoverished regions located long distances from the streams
    *      agriculture has a very short memory, whereas water and rivers have long memories about both water quality and land health, and that
    *      MDGs are fragmented, but there is growing interest to integrate them in the context of Rio+20 in 2012.


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