Changing Minds, Not the Climate: UNESCO celebrates Water and Climate Day 2015 at COP21

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UNESCO dedicated an entire day to water and climate change at COP21 on 2 December 2015. On this occasion, eight distinct sessions were organized on water security and climate change at the UNESCO Pavilion in the Climate Generation Area, in Paris-Le Bourget, France.

Water and Climate Day at COP21 convened representatives of UNESCO’s Water Family from the International Hydrological Programme (IHP), World Water Assessment Programme (WWAP), UNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education, water centres, and water chairs to discuss water and climate related issues and solutions. Eight sessions at the UNESCO Pavilion focused on specific water-related themes to address climate change including groundwater, water at schools, data tools and methodologies, water quality, transboundary water governance, capacity development, and cooperation.

A high level panel, with the participation of Mr. Sirodjidin Mukhridinovich Aslov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Tajikistan, marked the release of the anniversary book “Water, People and Cooperation – 50 years of water programmes for sustainable development at UNESCO”, in English, French and Spanish. The panel and the book covered past achievements, current activities, and options for the desired future of IHP. The Government of Mexico provided fundamental support for this special anniversary event.

Other water-related resources launched during the Day’s sessions included the WWAP publication “Transboundary water governance and climate change adaptation: International law, policy guidelines and best practice application”, highlighting the critical role of water governance. In addition, the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) and IHP presented the WGMS Glacier App for mobile phones to provide access to real time glaciers information around the world during the panel session on data tools and methodologies, in cooperation with UNESCO category 2 centres such as ICHARM and CAZALAC.

The Water and Climate Day session allowed the UNESCO Water Family to share its projects for coping with water-related climate change impacts. UNESCO-IHE presented examples of its capacity development activities in the Mekong basin and in Africa to increase disaster preparedness. The IHP organized sessions on water quality degradation as a result of climate change, and on the role of groundwater in meeting the demands for drinking water, agricultural and industrial activities, and sustaining ecosystems.

Mr. Emanuel Antero Garcia da Veiga, Minister of Territorial Development, Housing and Urban Planning from Cabo Verde, and the Brazilian actress Ms Cléo Pires participated in a dedicated IHP session to draw attention to water education. On this occasion, Mr Breno Carone, President of the Intermunicipal Consortium of Paraopeba River Basin (CIBAPAR), awarded the Medal "Waters of Paraopeba" to Ms Blanca Jiménez-Cisneros, Secretary of the IHP, in recognition of her work in water sustainability.

Evidence of the impact of climate change on the earth’s hydrological cycle is mounting in many regions of the world, in the form of increased frequency of floods, droughts and other water hazards and changes in long-term trends in precipitation. UNESCO has been supporting scientific networking in order to contribute to the assessment and monitoring of changes in water resources as a result of climate change. It has been raising the awareness of policy-makers at the national, regional and international level on the predictions and risks related to these changes. The Water and Climate Day at the UNESCO Pavilion is part of the activities by which the Organization participates in COP21, in close synergy with the French authorities, as the host of COP21, and the overall UN system.

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