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World Water Day 2020 in Latin America and the Caribbean

Presentation of the World Water Development Report 2020: “Water and climate change”
Activities of the Intergovernmental Hydrological Program in Latin America and the Caribbean

Climate change and water

The scientific evidence is clear: the climate is changing and will continue to change, significantly affecting societies through water. Climate change will affect the availability, quality and quantity of water for basic human needs, threatening the effective enjoyment of human rights of access to water and sanitation for billions of people. Altering the water cycle will also bring risks to energy production, food security, human health, economic development and poverty reduction, seriously jeopardizing the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. For this reason, World Water Day 2020 is dedicated to the interactions of this resource with climate change.

World Water Day, Declared in 1993 by resolution of the United Nations General Assembly will be celebrated following March 23rd. This year, due to the global situation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the UNESCO office in Latin America and the Caribbean based in Montevideo and its Intergovernmental Hydrological Program (PHI-LAC) joins the celebration with the virtual presentation of the Report "World Water Development Report: water and climate change" by the World Water Assessment Programme (UNESCO WWAP). The virtual presentation includes a summary of the activities organized by the IHP-LAC with water experts and decision makers regarding the state of glaciers in Latin American countries, megacities, and water security in the Caribbean.

World Water Development Report for 2020 focuses on the challenges, opportunities and potential responses to climate change, in terms of adaptation, mitigation and resilience improvement that can be achieved by improving water management. Combining adaptation and mitigation of climate change, through water, is a proposal that benefits all, which improves the provision of water supply and sanitation services and combats both the causes and impacts of climate change, including the reduction of disaster risk.

The impact of climate change on Latin America and the Caribbean water

Climate variability and extreme events are already seriously affecting the region. The changes observed in water streams flow and water availability will continue to occur in Central and South America, which will affect the most vulnerable areas.

Rapid urbanization, economic development, and demographic and consumption changes are some of the main socio-economic causes of the pressure being placed on water systems, in addition to the repercussions of climate change. Poverty is a central concern in most countries and increases vulnerability to climate change. Lack of economic resources also translates into unequal access to water and sanitation and vice versa. The increasing risk of contracting waterborne diseases affects mostly the poorest people. Vulnerability is also high in rural areas, climate factors limit economic options and provoke the rural exodus.

For many countries in the region, climate change is set against the backdrop of interaction and sometimes cross-sector competition for water, in which urban areas, the energy and agricultural sectors, and the needs of ecosystems compete.

The fact that development strategies hardly mention explicitly transboundary water-climate problems indicates that there are still some barriers to cooperation on transboundary waters in some parts of the region.

Water experts unite to tackle climate change

Through UNESCO's Intergovernmental Hydrological Program in Latin America and the Caribbean, experts and scientists from the region, make progress in agreeing their observations, promoting and promoting scientific discussion and collaboration.

This time, emphasis is given to the activities carried out by the IHP-LAC Working Group on Snow and Ice, meeting in December 2019 on the Summit of Ministers of Water of the Caribbean organized by the United Nations for Education, the UNESCO Intergovernmental Hydrological Program, and the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association. The experts worked with a focus on the state of glaciers in Latin American countries, where they expressed their concern about the serious consequences of not establishing adequate and rapid measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

In relation to the management of urban waters, the difficulties are also of great magnitude, in a region where more than 80% of the population lives in cities, being the most urbanized continent on the planet. On this regard, water experts met during the Regional Conference of the Alliance of Megacities of Latin America held in 2019, to draw attention to these important challenges.

The Caribbean faces enormous challenges due to the increase in the level of sea water and the intensity of extreme hydroclimatic events. The Ministers responsible for the water resources of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of the Caribbean, met in Saint Kitts and Nevis in October 2019 to exchange their knowledge on water security, where they noted that climate change is worsening severity of these challenges. They also recognized the progress already made within the Caribbean to accelerate efforts to build climate resilience and improve sustainability in the Caribbean water sector.