Unpacking freshwater’s role in climate change mitigation

Unpacking freshwater’s role in climate change mitigation

This report prepared by experts at the Stockholm International Water Institute was launched at the COP27 meeting last week to highlight the essential role of freshwater management in climate mitigation actions. It presents why, where and how freshwater should be integrated into climate change mitigation plans and activities.

The IPCC have called for an immediate and complete transformation of every sector of society to attempt to keep global warming within the 1.5°. Emissions must peak by 2025 to achieve the 1.5° target as agreed in the Paris Agreement, and to reach the goal to halve greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 (UNFCCC 2015).

This report states that water is the foundation of successful mitigation action, as Earth’s climate system and water cycle are deeply intertwined. Many of the transformations needed to reach climate emissions neutrality:

  1. Depend upon a reliable access to freshwater.
  2. Will have a significant impact on freshwater resources and/or ecosystems.

Functioning freshwater systems are essential for climate mitigation through measures such as reforestation, restoration of degraded ecosystems, and bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). Some potential climate solutions even risk reducing mitigation outcomes if plans fail to assess and minimize water risks.

The transformations of our food and energy systems must be accompanied by comprehensive analyses of water availability and impacts at local, regional, and global levels. At the same time, the water sector itself offers untapped mitigation potential: climate smart water management, for instance, can significantly avoid and reduce emissions of carbon, methane, and nitrous oxide, emanating from urban water and wastewater management, and mismanaged or drained wetlands.

The report states that a number of actions need to happen to facilitate this:

  • Climate change risks and impacts on water need to be identified and considered
  • Data and knowledge gaps on the interrelationship between freshwater and climate at global, national and local levels need to be addressed
  • Governance, planning and financing of climate action and water management needs to be integrated to create synergies and avoid negative trade-offs.

The findings attest to the urgent need to improve the understanding of the links between the many different climate mitigation measures, freshwater availability, and water management. While reviewing mitigation measures across sectors and biomes, for instance, in natural ecosystems, food production systems, and energy systems, the report provides guidance on how to move forward. It identifies high-potential water-related mitigation opportunities across the sectors and biomes where water management and Nature-based Solutions (NbS) can contribute to reduce GHG emissions and thus global warming.

The report is available here: Unpacking Freshwater’s role in Climate Change Mitigation

The Water Forum have commissioned research on the potential impacts of climate change on water quality and quantity in Ireland. Next week for SFI Science week we are launching a podcast and video panel discussion with the researchers on their findings.  More on this next week.

The Water Forum welcomes a new team member

We are delighted to welcome Dr Aisling Corkery, our new Research and Policy Executive, to the Water Forum team. Aisling has most recently worked as a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow with
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