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UNESCO Water at the UNFCCC COP25 in Madrid, Spain

07 December 2019


At the UNFCCC COP 25 in Madrid, Spain, the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme (IHP), UNESCO Water and its partners organized 9 events to foster water security for climate action and sustainable development. The events contributed to raising awareness for the importance of integrating and exchanging science-based water information for Climate Action towards resilience and adaptation. They also promoted related human and institutional capacity development.

7 December 2019

Local Governments and Cities Day

The session City-level capacity-building for Resilience, organized by the UNESCO Chair on Urban Resilience, Mr Nicola Tollin of the University of Southern Denmark, focused on developing capacities for urban resilience, responding to the call of the conference “CitiesIPCC” (March 2018, Canada) to foster dialogue between practitioners, policy makers and researchers; and on promoting peer-to-peer learning across regions, sectors and disciplines, for climate action at local level, in view of contributing to raising ambitions of national policies. Mr Alexandros Makarigakis, IHP-Theme leader for Water and Human Settlements, highlighted as invited panelist the need for better communication between city level data sets and catchment level approaches for informed, integrated decision-making. 35 people participated, 14 women and 21 men.

The subsequent session City-level capacity-building for climate action, moderated by Mr. Makarigakis, facilitated the exchange of capacity building practices in different scale of cities (small and medium-sized cities, megacities), and integrated the perspectives from community practitioners (FFLA-CDKN[1]), metropolitan policy makers (CONAGUA, Mexico[2]) and researchers (University of South Denmark).  Highlighted water as a key element of climate action for urban resilience, the event stressed the importance of related capacity development activities, to be delivered in a cooperative manner to local communities, metropolitan water management and water research, and the importance of a city-to-city knowledge exchange, which can be facilitated by a cooperation mechanism such as the Megacities Alliance for Water and Climate (MAWAC), as well as by all-level training, data sharing and multi-stakeholder contribution. 21 people participated (8 women and 13 men).

A link to the video summary of the Local Governments and Cities Day can be found to the right/at the end of this article.

9 December 2019

UNESCO, UNECE, WMO and UN-DESA[3] co-organized the side event Water Management within Climate Informed Decision-making to Support UNFCCC and SDGs, in coordination with UN-Water. It explored approaches and methodologies for adaptation strategies addressing climate change impacts on water and water-dependent sectors, and contributing to UNFCCC processes. Risk analysis is found to be particularly important in climate informed decision-making, as it helps developing a shared vision between sectoral stakeholders and decision-makers to define robust and flexible solutions. Climate-informed decisions are of high importance, especially at basin and transboundary level, since climate risks do not recognize borders and require joint actions to avoid maladaptation, and to share costs and benefits in a region.

Interviewed by UN-DESA, Mr. Anil Mishra (IHP), co-coordinator of the UN-Water Expert Group on Water and Climate, presented the key messages of the UN-Water Policy Brief on Climate Change and Water on the link between Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 Climate action and SDG 6 Clean water and sanitation. He highlighted that climate change impacts water availability, water quality and increases the risks of extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.

Centered on Human Settlements the One UN Event City Climate Action! Activating the potential of settlements for low-carbon and resilient nations highlighted, for the first time at a COP, the UNESCO for Cities platform. The event showcased transformative urban climate action — from enabling policies, to new partnerships, finance and business models and up-scaling of innovative solutions within and across levels and sectors, e.g. mobility, buildings and energy. It was jointly organized by the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), UNESCO, United Nations University (UNU) and UN Environment (UNEP). The Executive Directors of UN-Habitat and UNEP, along with the Minister of Antigua/Barbados joined UNESCO’s message on multi- and transdisciplinary platforms for supporting Cities in their efforts to face climatic variability and change. The Paris region’s water treatment operator SIAAP[4], UNESCO’s partner in MAWAC, presented the cooperation between the Grand Metropolitan areas of Paris and Manila under the framework of the Alliance, showcasing concrete results. Close to 100 people attended the meeting, equally balanced between women and men.

10 December 2019

As co-coordinator of the UN-Water Expert Group on Water and Climate, UNESCO led the UN-WATER Side Event Climate-resilient Water Management Approaches. It included Mr. Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Olcay Ünver, Vice-Chair of UN-Water and Mr. Peter Thomson, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy for the Ocean, as well as water experts and professionals from El Salvador, Jordan, Uganda, Niger and Vanuatu. The session launched the UN-Water Policy Brief on Climate Change and Water, prepared by the UN-Water Expert Group and conveyed the following reflections and recommendations:

  • Integrated water resources management is crucial for implementing the 2030 Agenda, the Sendai framework and the Paris Agreement;
  • Intersectoral cooperation is needed;
  • Water should be duly integrated in the new nationally determined contributions (NDCs) of the signatories of the Paris Agreement;
  • Climate adaptation should consider social aspects to make it more useful for local populations and involve all societal groups, with particular emphasis on youth, in waterrelated climate change adaptation and mitigation;
  • The World Water Day 2020 provides an opportunity to call upon everyone to engage;
  • UNWater is fully committed to support countries and basins in their efforts to better integrate water into climate-related plans and programmes.


Shared groundwater

The event of Observatory on the Sahel and Sahara (OSS), with the participation of H.E. Mr Samir Taieb, Minister of Agriculture and Fishing of Tunisia, highlighted the importance of Transboundary Aquifers in Africa and their role in climate change adaptation, including through managed aquifer recharge to enhance the resilience of groundwater bodies, as well as governance mechanisms and hydrodiplomacy. Mr Makarigakis presented UNESCO’s work on the scientific exploration of aquifers, their governance and related legal aspects through initiatives like Internationally Shared Aquifer Resources Management (ISARM), Managed Aquifer Recharge (MAR) and Groundwater Resources Assessment under the Pressures of Humanity and Climate Change (GRAPHIC). More than 60 people attended (27 women and 33 men).

11 December 2019

Aimed at tackling the issue of retreating mountain glaciers and changes, the side event Mountains, Glaciers and Snow, was organized by Iceland and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Mr Mishra (IHP) contributed to the discussion which raised attention for, inter alia, flash flooding patterns and seasonal runoff observed in mountain environments.

The side event Source to Sea and Climate Action, organized and moderated by UNESCO, facilitated that water professionals and experts from Canada, Iceland, Spain, Sweden and Tajikistan formulated recommendations on scientific cooperation and on connecting scientific research and policy development, to enhance interconnections among different actors of the Source-to-Sea flow pathway.

Droughts in the Anthropocene, also a side event organized by UNESCO, raised awareness on the effects of droughts all around the world and presented possible solutions. The session featured the launch of a new publication of case studies, Droughts in the Anthropocene, co-developed by UNESCO and GRID[5] Arendal, and a web-based interactive drought monitoring platform, developed by the University of Southampton. Speakers included representatives of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Programme, Confederacion Hidrografica del Jucar and AGRHYMET[6] Regional Centre.


[1] Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano - Climate and Development Knowledge Network (FFLA-CDKN)

[2] Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA)

[3] The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA)

[4] Syndicat interdépartemental pour l'assainissement de l'agglomération parisienne

[5] Global Resource Information Database

[6] AGRrometeorology, HYdrology, METeorology