Speech Mark Harbers, Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management ‘Towards a Climate-Resilient Future: Transforming Water Challenges into Opportunities’ High-level Panel on Water and Climate - COP28 – Dubai
‘Today we will sign a new version of our Memorandum of Understanding on environmental and water cooperation with Singapore, renewing our ambitions and strengthening our cooperation going forward.
Thank you all for your efforts to make water the engine of climate adaptation!’
Said Minister Harbers on Sunday 10th December 2023 at the COP28.
Mariam Almheiri, good to see you again, and Saeed al Tayer, good to meet you too!
Good morning everyone,
It’s a great pleasure to co-host this High-level Panel on Water and Climate. Thank you, Minister Grace Fu, for inviting me to sit next to you today.
We have a big topic to discuss.
For the first time in history, human activity has upset the global water cycle. Rainfall, the source of all freshwater, is becoming more erratic.
Currently 800 million people live in delta regions and that figure is set to rise by fifty per cent by 2050. One in four people worldwide live in areas at risk of flooding.
People are experiencing the impact of climate change through water. Marginalised groups and people living in vulnerable conditions are affected the most.
Droughts create severe food insecurity and trap farmers in poverty, as 80 per cent of cultivated land is rain-fed. Droughts also put the human right to clean water and sanitation at risk.
Floods wreak havoc, while melting glaciers, sea-level rise and saltwater intrusion jeopardise freshwater supplies.
Fertile, but vulnerable deltas – like the Netherlands – are facing serious challenges in the near future to protect the homes of millions.
To cope with this new reality, we need to adapt.
Ninety per cent of all adaptation action is water related. So, national economic plans must not only prioritise energy, but give full weight to water as a scarce resource.
In other words: water is the driver of climate adaptation!
Changing how we value water requires action beyond the water sector. Let me illustrate:
- First, restoring and protecting natural freshwater supplies means we will have water for drier periods and will reduce the impact of flooding. This is at the heart of climate adaptation. Because ninety-nine per cent of freshwater is stored naturally, it’s vital that we stop the depletion of groundwater and the degradation of wetlands and floodplains.
- Second, water and soil need to be leading considerations in our spatial planning and the way we adapt our economies to the changing climate. Different rainfall patterns and reduced freshwater availability require a new vision on where we grow our food, build our cities and plan our industries.
These two conditions are crucial, not only for flood protection and irrigation, but also for climate-resilient infrastructure and early warning systems that can save lives and livelihoods. That’s why we need the best engineering and innovative technology.
For many countries, climate change is a paradigm shift – a new reality. One that demands new ideas and a new approach.
So, the water transition requires political leadership, strong public institutions and massive investment.
To succeed we need to value water for what it is: one of the most basic necessities of life.
As you know, the Netherlands is a low-lying country with a lot of water. For centuries we have fought against water and worked with water. In fact, 25 per cent of our country lies below sea level: land that we reclaimed from the sea.
The Delta Program protects the Netherlands from flooding, safeguards our freshwater supply and contributes to climate-resilient and water-robust spatial planning for our country.
Today our delta is facing a new phenomenon: heat and drought. And yes: Dutch drought is a minor dry spell for some other countries. Bet still. We’re keen to learn from you how to cope with that.
Globally, we can only overcome the challenges ahead by sharing knowledge and working together.
The International Panel on Deltas and Coastal Areas – or IPDC – is one of the platforms being used to facilitate this collaboration. Government leaders, businesses, financial institutions and knowledge organisations launched the panel in New York earlier this year.
It works on a demand-driven basis to provide participating countries with tailormade advice.
Minister Fu, thank you for being an IPDC champion and giving it your support.
And everyone here is welcome to join.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today we will sign a new version of our Memorandum of Understanding on environmental and water cooperation with Singapore, renewing our ambitions and strengthening our cooperation going forward.
Thank you all for your efforts to make water the engine of climate adaptation!