Posted on December 10, 2009
Noticeably absent in these negotiations has been water and its impact on climate change. There’s a well-organized constituency inside COP15 that’s trying to change this and hosted a panel discussion titled, “Bridging the Water and Climate Change Agendas.
Their basic premise is this — water and climate change go hand-in-hand. Water impacts both climate change mitigation and adaptation. The latter, climate change adaptation, is probably better understood than water’s impact on reducing the impact of climate change. One of the speakers, Ainun Nishat of the Bangladesh Delegation, provided a case study on the ways in which his country is adapting to climate change as a result of rising sea levels that are washing away coastal areas. One of the impacts of this erosion is creating a forced population migration. Large numbers of people are going to more arid locations, and that is creating a food supply crisis. The ripple effect is also impacting water supply; increasing deforestation; and, impacting energy delivery and consumption.
The second part of the session addressed the link between water and climate change mitigation. While there’s a growing awareness by some NGOs and investors on this link, it’s even less understood than its impact on adaptation. Last May, the United Nations Global Compact issued a report titled, “Climate Change and the Global Water Crisis: What Businesses Need to Know and Do.”
The study does a deep research dive showing quantified links between water and energy use, including:
- Recent research in the USA has found that generating electricity for plug-in hybrid electric or all-electric vehicles requires as much as three times the water per mile as gasoline production given the country’s current power mix.
- An analysis by the California Energy Commission found that water efficiency programs in California could provide 95% of the energy savings of traditional energy efficiency programs at 55% of the cost.
The paper concludes with specific recommendations a business can do to successfully mitigate risks associated with water use, including:
- Align measurement of water and energy use, showing the corresponding impact on carbon.
- Integrate water into a company’s overall energy efficiency efforts.
To this end, the organization that houses the world’s largest repository of greenhouse gas emissions reports, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), recently announced its intention to send a water survey next year to 300 of the world’s largest water consuming companies in an effort to better understand how each manages water use. The CDP is backed by investors that have a combined $55 trillion in assets and it is this group that wants to better understand the link between water, energy use and carbon (We have an interview tomorrow with their CEO, Paul Dickinson, about their water survey efforts and we will uploaded the interview to our blog).
The group hosting this forum, Global Water Partnership, is circulating draft language that would integrate adaptation strategies with water resource management practices. If successful, water won’t be left high and dry in Copenhagen.