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12 April 2023

Stepping up Support for a Water-Climate Nexus Action Agenda


Water management and informed decision-making are critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and achieving ambitious climate action. At the same time, a dependable water supply is vital for various economic sectors, including agriculture. Prioritizing water sector investment as a political and economic choice offers numerous benefits, such as boosting productivity, job creation, and economic growth. It also helps build climate resilience and ensures a sustainable water supply for future generations. Decision-makers' commitment to water-sector investment is key to attracting additional funding from international donors, development banks, and private investors. 

To discuss the importance of the water-food-climate nexus and to develop steps for concrete action moving forward, the NDC Partnership, the Netherlands, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development's (IFAD) co-hosted the United Nations 2023 Water Conference side event "NDC Enhancement Through a Water Nexus Approach" with participation from the Global Water Partnership (GWP)

The event underscored water management's potential as an initiator and catalyst for ambitious climate action and development. It explored the link between water and climate, emphasizing the role of stakeholders, especially finance ministries, in executing well-coordinated, transparent, and sustainable solutions amid water scarcity, delayed actions, insufficient resources, and unequal access. Some of the key issues covered at the side event were: 

  • In a context where planetary boundaries of freshwater use have been breached, addressing water management as a multi-scale and multi-layered issue is crucial for daily life, SDGs, and climate action, requiring interconnected solutions and a nexus approach. Sustainable water management investments are essential to avoid costly future actions, and systemic solutions must replace the failed siloed approaches. As water crises impact various aspects of the economy and communities, a nexus approach that connects water programs, planning, and economic decision-making to other sectors is the way forward. 
  • Water is among the top sectors for Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) support requested by NDC Partnership members, highlighting the need for improved data and information water to ensure accessibility, transparency, and evidence-based decision-making. This empowers stakeholders to better understand the value of solutions for more comprehensive decision-making. 
  • The financial sector at large should recognize that investing in water management is not merely a cost but an opportunity for development and that water-related risks should be fully embedded in the pricing and flow of finance. Countries' NDCs, intricately linked to the SDGs, serve as comprehensive plans to address climate change. By leveraging NDCs as entry points for water action, countries can adopt a holistic approach to climate and development planning.

Recommendations for action 

As part of the event's outcomes, speakers concluded that adopting a nexus approach is key to transitioning from siloed strategies to a comprehensive, interconnected system that addresses the complex challenges our water systems face and the competing claims on water inherent in different development strategies. This includes leveraging NDCs for water-climate to coordinate a nexus approach and engaging stakeholders, advocates, and responsible parties in comprehensive water and climate action. 

Speakers highlighted the opportunity to integrate water into economic policies by fostering collaboration among financial sector stakeholders. This collaboration can help to ensure water is fully incorporated into national economic policies, budgets, and planning, highlighting its critical importance. Financial stakeholders also play a key role in advancing the nexus approach, especially by innovating flexible financing mechanisms. This includes developing and investing in scalable financing solutions for water systems, such as debt-for-water swaps, SDG bonds, and blended finance, to create markets that value and secure our water future. 

Finally, there was an agreed urgency to establish and implement just and transparent governance mechanisms that are critical to promoting trust, preventing inequality, and ensuring equitable water resource distribution and stewardship. This should be accompanied by empowering the local communities most affected by the water crisis and ensuring their voices are heard, and their needs are addressed. 

Concrete steps towards a water action agenda 

As a result of the UN 2023 Water Conference, the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs committed USD 5 million to the NDC Partnership to put water at the heart of economic decision-making plans and the implementation thereof. Through Partnership support, countries are expected to reduce their climate vulnerability related to water and increase public and private investments targeting water-nexus opportunities.  

By leveraging its 200+ member network, the NDC Partnership will promote the water nexus approach's benefits, share best practices, and facilitate financing for NDC and SDG implementation. NDC Partnership support is expected to address existing water-related constraints among members, reduce climate vulnerability related to water, and boost investments in water-nexus opportunities. The support will also help integrate water and the water-nexus approach into countries' NDC formulation, the financing of bankable projects and design and implementation. 


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