If forests are the “lungs” of our planet; absorbing twice as much carbon as they emit each year, we can think of water as the central “nervous system” of our planet – connecting life across landscapes and sustaining agriculture and ecosystems, as well than humanity.
This “nervous system” – already under immense anthropogenic pressure – is highly vulnerable to climate change. Rising temperatures lead to prolonged droughts and floods, while extreme weather causes irreversible changes in the hydrological conditions of the planet – from the melting of glaciers to the flows of rivers and the deterioration of water quality. water around the world).
What is less obvious about the impacts of climate change on the water sector is that it has a ripple effect on many other sectors: crops and land use, livestock, industrial activities, coastal development , health, etc. The disappearance of water sources, for example in landlocked countries such as Uzbekistan, Bhutan and Zambia, will have devastating consequences for sustainable agriculture, food security and energy production.
This is why, through the UNDP Climate Change Adaptation Team, we are working to link countries’ National Adaptation Plan (NAP) processes and their National Climate Plans or Nationally Determined Contributions. (CDN) under the Paris Agreement. An integral part of this link is to ensure that the activities carried out under the NAP feed into and support the deliverables outlined in the country’s NDC.
The NAP is a national process for strengthening a country’s capacity to adapt to the impacts of climate change and is often organized by sector. As water is integral to the functioning of human society and most economic sectors, it serves as a unique connector for cross-sectoral approaches. The examples below show how countries are integrating water considerations into their NAPs and, in doing so, can integrate this work into the adaptation goals set out in their NDCs.
THE ARAL SEA IN UZBEKISTAN
Uzbekistan has already experienced serious problems of water scarcity, soil salinity and erosion. Once home to the fourth largest body of inland water in the world, the Aral Sea continues to disappear at an alarming rate – with an 80% loss in volume and 64% in depth over the past four decades. In December 2020, Uzbekistan received $1.6 million in funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to launch a sector-focused National Adaptation Plan with support from UNDP.
This multi-year initiative aims to help the sectors most affected by the climate to adapt to climate change, such as agriculture, water, health, buildings and emergency management, all in the targeted provinces of the Aral Sea region. Key activities include strengthening multisectoral coordination, consolidating climate data, integrating climate change adaptation into planning and budgeting, and conducting economic assessments of adaptation options.
These activities help to advance the adaptation component of Uzbekistan’s NDC, i.e. to create “adaptation measures for agriculture and water management, the social sector, ecosystems , strategic infrastructure and production systems, as well as actions to mitigate the consequences of the Aral Sea disaster”. ‘
The development of a national strategy for the transition to a green economy, closely linked to the climate response, aims to significantly increase the efficiency of water use in all sectors of the economy, to introduce technologies drip irrigation on up to 1 million hectares of land, and increase the yield of crops grown on these lands by up to 20-40 percent.
GLACIER LAKES IN BHUTAN
Due to rising global temperatures, Bhutan’s glacial lakes are melting and causing flash floods, landslides and erosion due to intense rainfall for Himalayan communities. The country’s economy is highly dependent on two climate-sensitive sectors: agriculture and hydroelectricity. The impact of water shortages on irrigation significantly affects agriculture and leads to delayed harvests as seasons change and yields decrease. For Bhutan, water is considered a national priority.
To support Bhutan’s capacity to adapt to climate change in this region, the GCF approved a readiness grant of USD 3 million to prepare a national adaptation plan focusing on the water sector, with support from the UNDP. One of the ongoing activities in this multi-year initiative is a nationwide water-specific risk assessment to assess and identify hotspots for water adaptation in each of Bhutan’s 20 districts.
For effective medium-term adaptation planning, it is essential that national stakeholders understand how climate variability and change are already causing water problems. The risk assessment looked at how water issues have developed historically and how they are expected to change in the future. This is a key component of climate adaptation planning, as it helps to inform the most appropriate strategies to address climate risks in the water sector in the districts.
In terms of long-term adaptation planning and in partnership with UNDP’s overall climate adaptation work, Bhutan is also implementing a $25.3 million GCF-funded project on agriculture resilient to climate change. The project primarily benefits rural communities by applying sustainable land and water management practices, more climate-resilient irrigation and agriculture, and climate-resilient roads.
Bhutan’s revised NDC plans to increase overall water security through integrated water resources management and notes that water is a priority adaptation need. As part of its NDC implementation, various outcomes of the NAP process (such as the water-specific risk assessment) will contribute to the advancement of Bhutan’s NDC commitments.
LAKE KARIBA IN ZAMBIA
Home to the largest man-made lake in the world, Zambia has seen the water level of Lake Kariba drop six meters in the past three years. About half of Zambia’s total electrical power comes from a dam connected to Lake Kariba, which is an important source of low-carbon energy in the country and region. Climate change is having a double effect in Zambia: months of drought are followed by sporadic torrential rains that destroy crops and infrastructure.
In March 2020, Zambia’s National Adaptation Plan proposal was approved by the GCF for funding of $2.18 million. The NAP project is supported by the Global Water Partnership and is implemented in two phases. The first phase focuses on the development of the country’s overall NAP to strengthen long-term coordination between adaptation planning at the national level, while promoting synergies with subnational and sectoral planning. The second phase is the development of a NAP for the water sector”. Zambia recognizes water as a connector – critical to all sectors and is pioneering a NAP that focuses exclusively on building resilience in water-sensitive sector plans in Zambia, such as energy, health and agriculture.
To help protect Zambian farmers engaged in traditional rain-fed agriculture, the Zambian government has partnered with UNDP, WFP and FAO on a $137.3 million co-funded seven-year conservation agriculture project. dollars with the GCF. To date, the project has established 76 farmer field schools in eight districts and trained 2,300 smallholder farmers in climate-resilient farming techniques. Alongside this locally-led work, the project supports Zambia’s NDC to build resilience in agriculture and food security to reduce poverty.
Through Climate Promise support in 2022 and beyond, UNDP will strategically support countries to achieve their adaptation goals, including those for water security. UNDP aims to do this through cross-sectoral support, including on nature-based solutions, forests, agriculture, energy and water management.
Climate change and its impacts are already affecting everything and everyone – but not in the same way. The cumulative effects of climate change on the water sector are far-reaching because, ultimately, as water resources disappear, drinking water and agricultural production feel the first impacts, causing tensions on global supply chains, forcing rural communities to migrate and leading to greater food insecurity in least developed and developing countries.
Editor’s note: Drawing on experiences and lessons from a portfolio of initiatives in more than 137 countries, UNDP offers a “whole of society” approach to accelerate adaptation and continues to support countries to mobilize public and private finance to implement their adaptation priorities. UNDP is currently helping 50 countries implement adaptation planning programs. These include NAP projects funded under the GCF Readiness Programme, scaling up climate ambition in agriculture and land use from FAO and UNDP through NDC and NAPs (SCALA) supported by BMUV and the EU-UNDP Adaptation Initiative in Africa to improve climate adaptation on the continent.
UNDP Climate promise helped 120 countries improve their NDCs, including on adaptation, with over 90% of improved NDCs submitted in 2020 and 2021 containing adaptation elements. The UNDP Climate Promise and NAP Portfolio helps countries not only improve their high-level climate plans, but also prepare more detailed activities to scale up adaptation implementation.