Schultz in Paris: political will is key in solving global water problems

The battle against global water problems arising from climate change should not be waged using technological solutions alone. Sound management and long-term funding are at least just as important. So said Minister Schultz van Haegen of Infrastructure and the Environment at the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting (MCM) in Paris today.

‘Countries must create an enabling environment. The solution is political. Sustainable solutions demand that politicians be courageous enough to look beyond their term in office in the interests of our economies and societies. It requires credible and responsible management upon which investors can build, with transparent accountability and clear cost-benefit analyses. Only in this way can we attract investment in preventive measures, instead of repeatedly reacting to disasters,’ according to Ms Schultz. 

Doing nothing is not an option

In Paris, Minister Schultz outlined the serious consequences of climate change. The sea level is rising and weather is becoming more extreme. At the same time, the population is rising, urbanisation is moving at a fast pace and economies are growing. ‘Water-related disasters are not only occurring more often, we also have increasingly more to lose. If we do nothing, the losses incurred due to drought, floods and poor sanitation will be immense. According to the University of Oxford, doing nothing will end up costing 500 billion dollars a year.’ Investing in preventive measures is cheaper, especially riding on the back of investments in infrastructure that have to be made in any case.

Delta Programme

Minister Schultz introduced the Dutch Delta Programme as an example for the world. Guaranteed funding and a solid legal basis in law are the basic ingredients of success. ‘We are working together with all stakeholders: all levels of government and civil society, research institutes and the private sector. Water ignores institutional boundaries, collaboration is the key to managing it.’

Public and private capital

The Netherlands welcomed the OECD’s new “Principles of Water Governance”.  We are also a firm supporter of new, broad OECD recommendations regarding water. Ms Schultz: ‘Prevention pays: every dollar you spend, delivers 7 dollars to the economy. Governments play a vital role in linking the public and private capital that are both necessary for the transition to a climate-proof economy.’

Actions rather than words: Delta Coalition

In March this year, the Netherlands took the initiative in the formation of a Delta Coalition: a platform in which low-lying countries work together, and share experiences and expertise. Colombia, the Philippines, France, Japan, Korea and Vietnam have already declared they will participate. In Paris, Minister Schultz invited other countries to take part, in order to arrive at and implement concrete cooperation projects.

Ministerial Council Meeting

Prime Minister Rutte, Minister Ploumen of Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation, Minister Kamp of Economic Affairs and Minister Schultz attended the OECD Ministerial Council Meeting on 3 and 4 June. The Netherlands chaired this year’s meeting in which the major issues on which the OECD is working were discussed at the political level. France, the Czech Republic and South Korea were the Vice Chairs. The theme of this year’s MCM was “Unlocking Investment for Sustainable Growth and Jobs”. Investment in climate adaptation was strongly promoted at the meeting as a means of contributing to the sustainable growth of our economies – with water as the linking factor.